The Perrymount Clinic in breach of advertising guidelines for osteopathy for babies and children

Rulings - ASA I CAP_ Perrymount Clinic - Perrymount Clinic offers a range of different therapies including osteopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy and many others. The “treatments” they offer are mostly pseudoscientific nonsense but that hasn’t stopped them building a business on the back of them. Their website is chock-a-block full of misleading claims in an attempt to lure members of the public into taking the “treatments” they provide. Worryingly, they have a big focus on babies and children.

I complained about the clinic to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which has resulted in an “Informally resolved” complaint. There are plenty of misleading claims on their website that could be raised with the ASA. In this initial complaint, I opted to focus primarily on their claims relating to osteopathy for babies and children as this seems to be the “treatment” that they promote the most. The Perrymount Clinic promotes osteopathy as a treatment for a whole range of conditions in babies and children including:

  • Colic
  • Sleep problems in babies and toddlers
  • Breast feeding / feeding problems
  • Learning difficulties
  • Ear infections
  • Behaviour problems
  • Constipation
  • Other common baby problems

There is no evidence that osteopathy can help with any of these conditions and such claims are misleading and in breach of advertising regulations. The main “treatment” that they use is cranial osteopathy, which as I’ve said previously is pure quackery.

The Perrymount Clinic also suggests that birth is traumatic for babies and that the clinic can provide baby “checkups”. Although this is not an uncommon claim from osteopaths and chiropractors, the reality is that childbirth is not inherently traumatic for babies and does not require “treatment” to “correct” the problems it “causes”. As osteopaths are NOT medically qualified it is completely inappropriate for them to carry out “checkups” on babies. That should instead be left to someone who is medically qualified, such as a paediatrician.

Complaint Outcome

Although my complaint to the ASA has been informally resolved, it’s quite clear that the Perrymount Clinic have not addressed the issues and are continuing to make misleading claims. They seem to have made minimal changes in response to the complaint and have try to excuse their misleading advertising with a disclaimer:

Disclaimer - http___www.theperrymount.com_toddlerhelp.html

This is simply not acceptable and is not a way to get around the advertising regulations.

I can understand why this business are unwilling to modify their advertising as the way that they make money is by misleading the public. If their misleading advertising was removed they wouldn’t have much of a business left at all.

Social Media

Within my complaint I also highlighted the fact that The Perrymount Clinic make misleading claims via social media, as this also falls under ASA’s remit. This includes two Twitter accounts (@theperrymount and @calmingcolic) and on Facebook. See below for an example:

Christian Bates (@calmingcolic) Twitter 11 reasons cranial osteopathy - https___twitter.com_calmingcolic

The misleading claims on social media have also continued in spite of my complaint to the ASA.

Other Issues

Besides their claims relating to osteopathy, The Perrymount Clinic makes numerous other misleading claims. For instance, they say this:

“C-Section and antibiotic use are two of the main causes of an upset, colicky, crying baby. But perhaps more importantly they can both detrimentally affect the FUTURE health of your baby, being a trigger for eczema, asthma, food allergies and even obesity.”

What parent reading this wouldn’t feel scared about the future of their child and contact the clinic for an appointment? The reality is that these claims are pure fantasy. There is simply no evidence that C-Section or antibiotics cause any of these conditions.

Next Steps

Misleading claims in osteopathy are a widespread problem with even the professional body, The Institute of Osteopathy being found in breach of advertising guidelines. The Perrymount Clinic is one of the worst examples I’ve seen of misleading information combined with pseudoscience. It’s quite clear that they do not intend to bring their advertising in line with the guidelines so further action will be required. Watch this space!


Welsh Institute of Chiropractic: Training Chiropractors to Treat Newborn Babies. Yes, really.

On 14th and 15th October 2017 the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic are providing a 1 ½ day seminar on an “Introduction to Chiropractic Neonatal Examination and Treatment”. If the suggestion of chiropractors treating newborn babies doesn’t immediately set alarm bells ringing, wait until you read more about will be taught at this seminar. This is what the advertisement says:

“This one and half day weekend seminar will mix interactive and lecture sessions and will focus on:

  • Eliciting and interpreting findings from history and clinical examination to construct a reasonable differential diagnosis.
  • Preparation of a management plan, with consideration of adequate communication to children and their parents.
  • Neonatal orthopaedic and neurological examination, looking at normal and abnormal findings, including Red Flags
  • Conditions commonly seen in Chiropractic Practice
    There will be a practical session covering chiropractic and cranio-sacral techniques suitable for newborns.”

Let’s look at each of the bullet points above in more detail.

  • Eliciting and interpreting findings from history and clinical examination to construct a reasonable differential diagnosis.” It’s important to remember that chiropractors are NOT doctors and have no medical qualification. To suggest that they can carry out a “clinical examination” and reach a “differential diagnosis” is therefore frankly ludicrous. This should only be done by a real doctor.
  • Preparation of a management plan, with consideration of adequate communication to children and their parents.” Treatments by chiropractors have not been shown to be effective for babies and children for any condition. There is also a lack of data on the safety of chiropractic treatments for babies and children. It’s therefore impossible for a chiropractor to come up with a “management plan” for this patient group.
  • “Neonatal orthopaedic and neurological examination, looking at normal and abnormal findings, including Red Flags”. Now things have become really scary! Carrying out a “neonatal orthopaedic and neurological examination” requires specialist knowledge. Chiropractors are completely unqualified to do this and should leave it a real doctor instead.
  • “Conditions commonly seen in Chiropractic Practice”. In babies and children there should be NO “conditions commonly seen in Chiropractic Practice”. Chiropractors lack the skills and knowledge to assess or safely treat babies and children. Any baby or child who is taken to a chiropractor should be immediately referred to a doctor instead.

The advert then says “There will be a practical session covering chiropractic and cranio-sacral techniques suitable for newborns.” Craniosacral (and the closely related cranial osteopathy) is a “treatment” technique for which there is no scientific basis and has never been shown to be effective for any health condition. There is an excellent description of it on Science-Based Medicine.

It’s quite that all of what’s being taught in this seminar is pseudoscientific nonsense. Others have written about the lies that chiropractors use to try to get paediatric patients. No chiropractor should be treating babies or children because none of their techniques are effective and there is a lack of safety data for their treatments. I wonder if the University of South Wales fully appreciate the dangerous quackery that they promote within the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic clinic?

Institute of Osteopathy in breach of advertising guidelines

Rulings - ASA I CAP_ - Institute of Osteopathy Institute of Osteopathy promotes itself as “the UK’s leading professional membership organisation for registered Osteopaths.” As a professional membership organisation you would expect the Institute of Osteopathy to set an example to their member osteopaths. Unfortunately, they don’t. The Good Thinking Society has conducted a long campaign to try to tackle the many misleading claims in osteopathy. Rather than setting a good example about the promotion of osteopathy, the Institute of Osteopathy’s website was clearly in breach of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines. This has resulted in a recent “Informally resolved” complaint to the ASA. Specific issues raised in the complaint include claims about treating “unsettled children” and the use of osteopathy to improve immune function and for sleep problems. Osteopathy is not effective for any of these things and the Institute of Osteopathy should have known better than to make such misleading claims. Things get worse for the Institute of Osteopathy, however. Rather than undertaking a review of their entire site and ensuring that it complies with the guidelines, they instead just corrected the specific items raised in the complaint. There are other areas of their site that don’t comply with the guidelines and they also make unsubstantiated claims on social media. They are therefore at risk of further complaints. Like much of the osteopathic profession they represent, they clearly think it’s perfectly okay to mislead patients into undertaking unsuitable treatments. It isn’t.

It’s also interesting that the Institute of Osteopathy provides guidance on their website that conflicts with that provided by the regulator (the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC)). The GOsC have made it clear to osteopaths that they need to be able to substantiate any claims they make both in their advertising and when discussing treatment options with patients. The Institute of Osteopathy have taken a different approach and state on their website that the guidance “does not restrict your clinical practice or verbal communication with your patients.” They seem to be suggesting that osteopaths can continue to mislead patients when they speak to them outside of advertising. This is clearly unacceptable and it’s not smart of the iO to provide advice that conflicts with guidance from the GOsC. The Institute of Osteopathy goes on to say “It is only by collating the experiences of osteopaths’ targeted that we are able to determine how best to defend the profession from this campaign.” It should be noted that the iO are very clearly focused on the benefit of osteopaths here. They haven’t given any consideration to patients at all, which is what this “campaign” is really all about: protecting patients from misleading treatment claims by osteopaths.


Making a complaint to the ASA

It is relatively straightforward to make a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Just fill out the form on their website: The Nightingale Collaboration also have an excellent guide on how to find and challenge misleading claims: They also have specific guidance on making a complaint to the ASA:

UK Health Centre: Misleading information about osteopathy – an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) complaint

Core Health Rulings - ASA I CAP_ - have previously highlighted the many misleading claims about complementary and alternative medicine on the UK Health Centre website. The website is owned by Core Health Ltd and they provide misleading information about osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy and herbal remedies. The information they provide is misleading the general public and has the potential to cause people to take unsuitable treatments. In the interest of public safety I therefore reported UK Health Centre to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In this initial complaint I focused on their claims relating to osteopathy. The complaint was “informally resolved” because Core Health Ltd provided the ASA with assurance that they would “remove claims that osteopathy can treat conditions outside of those the ASA has seen evidence it can assist with”. Regardless of the assurances they may have given the ASA, Core Health Ltd have definitely NOT brought their site in line with the guidelines. The UK Health Centre website continues to promote osteopathy as a treatment for a wide range of medical conditions including:

  • Whiplash
  • Asthma and chest problems
  • Diabetes
  • Long term illness
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Tiredness
  • Osteoporosis
  • IBS
  • Glue ear
  • Infections and illness
  • Improving the immune system
  • Increasing the efficiency of nerve supply
  • Insomnia
  • Low energy
  • Growing pains
  • Dysmenorrhoea (period pains)
  • Recovery from childbirth
  • Common infant problems (including colic, sleep problems)
  • Monitoring baby’s growth and development
  • Improving cognitive function
  • Visual and hearing impairment

If you compare this list with the one from my previous article you can see that rather than removing the conditions that osteopaths may not advertise to treat they have actually added more!

Osteopathy as a “Preventative Treatment”

They also continue to recommend osteopathy as a “preventative treatment”. Preventative treatment is very attractive to osteopaths because it provides a way to keep patients coming back over a long period of time even if they have no current medical problems. This issue is highlighted by other authors such as Edzard Ernst . From a patient perspective, there is no reason why they should attend for preventative treatments and osteopaths are misleading them by suggesting otherwise. Let’s be really clear about this: there is ZERO evidence that osteopathy prevents anything and the only person who benefits from preventative treatments is the osteopath (and their bank balance).

Systemic Problems in UK Osteopathy

Core Health Ltd are clearly reluctant to remove their misleading advertising claims. This actually gives us an insight into the behaviour of UK osteopaths. Osteopaths should not be treating any of the conditions highlighted above because osteopathy has not been shown to be effective. If all osteopaths were complying with the regulations then there would be no incentive for Core Health Ltd to keep advertising these treatments. The fact that they are so keen to keep this misleading information on their site indicates that there must be osteopaths who are willing to carry out these treatments. Yet again this highlights the serious problems with the UK osteopathic profession. They are continuing to “treat” patients when it is entirely inappropriate for them to do so.

There is clearly a lot more for Core Health Ltd to do to bring their site in line with advertising standards for osteopathy. As I highlighted in my previous article osteopathy is only one of several areas of complementary and alternative medicine where their site makes misleading claims. Watch this space for more updates over the coming months!

Misleading the public into fundraising for evidence free osteopathic treatments

fundraisingMany members of the public give up their time to undertake fundraising activities for the benefit of others. Indeed many charities are heavily reliant on the generous work of their fundraisers in order to carry out their charitable activities. Sometimes individuals or organisations ask people to carry out fundraising in order that they can provide healthcare. For instance, the Alder Hey Children’s Charity raises funds to carry out research, innovation and education in medical care for children. A very worthwhile cause. What about when an individual or organisation raises funds for treatments that have not been shown to be effective? That seems rather less worthwhile and potentially involves misleading the fundraisers in order to persuade them to help the cause. That seems to be the case with CORE of Clapton and their osteopathic treatments.

On the face of it, the CORE of Clapton website gives the impression of trying to benefit the community. They state “We believe everybody has the right to a pain-free life and our aim is to make osteopathy accessible to all.” Wanting to make people more pain-free can only be a good thing. However, suggesting osteopathy as the solution seems to be misguided. Osteopathy is a treatment for which there is very little evidence of effectiveness. In the case of low back pain, the “home ground” of most osteopaths, osteopathy is no longer recommended as a first-line treatment. When it comes to treatment of other conditions, the evidence for osteopathy is even weaker or in many cases non-existent. Unfortunately, the treatments being offered at CORE of Clapton don’t even align with this weak evidence base but instead use approaches that are outdated and have been shown to be ineffective.

Treatments at CORE of Clapton

There has been coverage of the types of treatments being offered at CORE of Clapton in the news recently. The treatments described in that article are far from evidence based. For instance, the NICE guidelines for low back pain and sciatica make it clear that exercise is the first line treatment and that things like osteopathy should only be offered in addition to exercise. Is there any mention of exercise in this treatment program? No. It therefore doesn’t comply with the guidelines and is not evidence based. Things get far worse than this, however. In the sixth and final session, acupuncture is used as a treatment. Now, acupuncture has been removed entirely from the latest NICE guidelines due to lack of evidence of effectiveness. The treatment being offered by CORE of Clapton clearly does not follow relevant guidelines or recent research and this can’t be in the best interest of patients.

At this point you may be wondering whether fundraising for CORE of Clapton is such a good idea after all, but there is more. The treatment approach being used came in for stiff criticism from within the osteopathic profession on twitter. There were a large number of comments including “Focusing on fixing posture and mechanical dysfunction reinforces negative beliefs and from a pain science perspective clinically ineffective” and “In some case more than clinically ineffective, but potentially harmful”. So, here is an organisation that’s asking members of the public to donate or fundraise and yet the treatments they’re offering are “clinically ineffective” or even “potentially harmful”.

As an aside, it’s good to see that some osteopaths are trying to bring about change in a profession that is closely associated with quackery. They are few in number but it’s good that they are willing to challenge the many osteopaths who are using outdated, non-evidence based treatments and frequently misleading the public into taking these inappropriate treatments.

Research at CORE of Clapton

CORE of Clapton are keen to carry out research in osteopathy. When planning to carry out research it’s important to have a good understanding of all relevant existing research so that the new research is relevant and appropriate. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case at CORE of Clapton. First of all, the treatments described above are clearly not based on a good understanding of the latest research. The “Research” section of the website makes this lack of understanding even more obvious. For instance, it says that “NICE recommends osteopathy for sub-acute and chronic low back pain” and provides a reference to the NICE guidelines from 2009. Now, these guidelines were superseded by the version published in November 2016 which downgraded the role of osteopathy in the treatment of low back pain. So, here is an organisation that is keen to carry out “research” yet still refers to NICE guidelines that were superseded nearly 6 months ago.

Another thing that’s absolutely key when carrying out research is to minimise the risk of bias. When research is carried out it should be to test IF something works rather than to deliberately try and search for evidence that it does. The latter would be a clear case of bias and is unfortunately what happens far too frequently in most research in complementary and alternative medicine, such as osteopathy. The Research page on their website lists a number of “further positive trials”. Unfortunately, this appears to be a cherry-picked list of studies that apparently show the benefits of osteopathy. There are no trials listed that showed a negative outcome for osteopathy and the list of trials presented are far from a complete list of all research in any of the areas mentioned. There is clearly a very strong bias here towards trying to show that osteopathy works rather than genuinely researching to see IF it works.

What’s worse is that the interpretation of the trials themselves is actually incorrect and clearly suffers from further bias. For instance, CORE of Clapton say that “In elderly patients hospitalised with pneumonia, treatment significantly reduced the duration of intravenous antibiotic use and length of hospital stay compared to a sham treatment.” The trial they reference doesn’t say that at all! It’s actually a negative trial and shows that osteopathy was NOT beneficial for this patient group. In the results section it clearly states “Intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis (n = 387) found no significant differences between groups”. In other words osteopathy was NOT effective. On the basis of this study, further research in this area is not warranted.

What is the chance of the “research” that’s going to be carried out at CORE of Clapton resulting in an accurate unbiased assessment of the effectiveness of osteopathy? Based on the extremely biased view presented on their website I would say “zero”. Whatever “research” does get carried out is therefore unlikely to add anything at all to our understanding of what osteopathy can and cannot treat. Any public money spent on such “research” is being wasted and could be spent better elsewhere.


A Community Interest Company (CIC) like CORE is supposed to be of benefit to the community. CORE are asking the general public to donate to them or fundraise for them because they want to improve access to osteopathy for the public and to carry out research into osteopathy. These are goals that, on the face of it, appear to be in the public interest. However, once you look more closely it’s very clear that this is not the case. The treatments offered are not evidence based and in some cases potentially harmful. The “research” that they plan to carry out is likely to be so biased as to provide no useful information on the effectiveness of osteopathy. It’s hard to imagine how this venture can benefit the community at all given the types of treatments and research being offered. Misleading the public to fundraise for something that isn’t actually going to benefit the community is unethical. Public time and money should instead be given to other organisations that provide a genuine benefit.

Cranial osteopathy: What is it and what can it treat?

craniumWhat is cranial osteopathy?

Cranial osteopathy was proposed in the 1930s by William Sutherland who believed that the bones in the skull move in a “cranial rhythm”. By manipulating this “rhythm” osteopaths believe that they can treat a range of different conditions. However, since the 1930s we have learnt a lot more about how the body works. We now know that the bones in the skull don’t move and the “cranial rhythms” proposed by William Sutherland don’t actually exist at all. Cranial osteopathy is therefore a fanciful concept based on something that doesn’t exist.

What can cranial osteopathy treat?

Some osteopaths claim to be able to treat a whole range of different conditions with cranial osteopathy. The most commonly targeted patient group is babies with osteopaths claiming to be able to treat colic, sickness, irritability, feeding difficulties, misshapen head, reflux, cerebral palsy and many others. However, there isn’t any evidence that cranial osteopathy is effective for any of these conditions. One thing that’s common to these conditions, with the exception of cerebral palsy, is that they often get better on their own. When parents take their baby to a cranial osteopath for treatment of, for example, colic and within a few days or weeks their baby has improved they assume that it is down to the osteopathic treatment. However, we know that babies outgrow colic at around 4-6 months of age. If their baby is having osteopathic treatment at this time it’s natural for the parents to assume that the colic improved due to the treatment. In reality, as cranial osteopathy is entirely fanciful, it’s much more likely that the baby simply outgrew the colic and the treatment didn’t have any effect at all.

What does the research tell us?

Most research on cranial osteopathy is of a very poor quality and tells us nothing about whether it’s effective as a treatment or not. There is one good quality trial that looked at the use of cranial osteopathy for children with cerebral palsy. The authors concluded “This trial found no statistically significant evidence that cranial osteopathy leads to sustained improvement in motor function, pain, sleep or quality of life in children aged 5-12 years with cerebral palsy nor in quality of life of their carers.” In other words, cranial osteopathy didn’t work.

The reality is that there is no evidence that cranial osteopathy is effective for ANY condition.

Is it safe?

Nobody really knows if cranial osteopathy is safe because it hasn’t been adequately studied to test its safety. The biggest risk from this kind of “treatment” is probably not the treatment itself but the potential for someone to use this when proper medical care should have been undertaken instead.


Let’s return to the questions posed in the title of this post:

Question: What is cranial osteopathy?

Short answer: Quackery

Long answer: It’s a fanciful “treatment” based on theories that are completely at odds with our understanding of the way the human body actually works.

Question: What can cranial osteopathy treat?

Short answer: Nothing

Long answer: Nothing. At all. Ever. As it’s based on theories that are unfounded it’s unreasonable to expect it to provide any benefit to any health condition. There is also no scientific evidence to show that it works for any condition.

It’s quite surprising that more osteopaths don’t speak out against the use of cranial osteopathy. Osteopaths like to promote themselves as “healthcare professionals” but it’s going to be very hard for them to be accepted as such when they continue to allow quackery like cranial osteopathy. Cranial osteopathy is based on something that doesn’t exist, has never been shown to be effective for any condition and it’s high time it ceased to be offered as a “treatment” option.

Useful Links

If you’d like to learn more about cranial osteopathy, here are some links you might find useful:

Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy Conference 2017: Osteopaths embracing quackery

quackeryThis weekend (8th and 9th April 2017) it’s the Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy Conference. The osteopathy profession in the UK currently has major issues with many osteopaths making misleading claims about what they can treat in order to lure patients into their practices. I have previously highlighted that this problem also exists with some of the training being offered to osteopaths. The Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy Conference seems to be taking this misleading training information to a whole new level. Talks at the conference include:

  • “Osteopathic Support of the Immune System in Infancy and Childhood”
  • “Special Aspects of Treating Unborn Babies”
  • “Vaccination – the Science”
  • “The Immunity Spiral – How being ill can make kids better”

You will notice that there is a focus in the above talks on medical care and treatments. In the UK, osteopaths are not licensed to practice medicine so they have no business doing anything to do with the immune system, vaccination decisions or, heaven forbid, treating unborn babies! All of these are things that should be handled by medical professionals and osteopaths shouldn’t be learning about them. With regards to the immune system, there is no evidence that any osteopathic treatment can help the immune system. “Osteopathic Support of the Immune System” is therefore a fallacy.

The talk about “Vaccination – the Science” is particularly interesting. It’s being given by Dr Jayne Donegan who, from her website, appears to be anti-vaccination. She is also a homeopath and recommends it for a range of different conditions including bruising and shock, burns and scalds and fever management. Homeopathy isn’t effective for any of these conditions, or anything else for that matter. She supports disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield who wrongly claimed that the MMR vaccine can cause autism. Oh dear. It is well known that some alternative medicine practitioners recommend against vaccination. Might this talk result in more osteopaths becoming anti-vaccination? That can’t be a good thing for the health of their patients or the public as a whole. After the talk, the Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy posted this on twitter “Dr Jayne Donegan inspired us about how to treat acutely ill children, and boost immunity naturally”. It’s quite incredible that osteopaths are being offered training in treating acutely ill children. Acutely ill children need proper MEDICAL help from a DOCTOR not quackery from an osteopath. They certainly don’t need their immune system “boosting naturally”.

The Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy has recently been the subject of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority due to making unsubstantiated claims about the effectiveness of osteopathic treatment for babies, children and pregnant mothers. This complaint was informally resolved after they updated their website. However, they still do not comply with the guidance and continue to make misleading claims. This includes suggesting that osteopathy can help babies “recover from delivery” and treat indigestion and heart-burn in pregnant mothers. There is simply no evidence to support osteopathic treatment in these situations. They also suggest that babies would benefit from an “osteopathic check-up”. Babies receive perfectly adequate checks in the hospital after they are born and are subsequently monitored by health visitors. Osteopathy has no place in this and osteopaths are not the right people to be carrying out checks on newborn babies. By suggesting otherwise, osteopaths are blatantly misleading parents. Through their conference, the Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy are now providing training to other osteopaths in the very things that they shouldn’t be treating and therefore spreading this misleading information more widely. Other authors have written about how osteopathy is closely linked with pseudoscience. Conferences like this suggest that osteopathy is fully embracing quackery.

Osteopaths seem to be continuously trying to widen their scope of practice, presumably to increase their income. However, by trying to move into areas that they have no skills and for which their treatments are not effective they are putting their own income ahead of the needs of patients. This is a dangerous game and in the long-term can only be harmful to the reputation of the profession.