Background: This systematic review evaluates the use of manual therapy for clinical conditions in the pediatric population, assesses the methodological quality of the studies found, and synthesizes findings based on health condition. We also assessed the reporting of adverse events within the included studies and compared our conclusions to those of the UK Update report.
Methods: Six databases were searched using the following inclusion criteria: children under the age of 18 years old; treatment using manual therapy; any type of healthcare profession; published between 2001 and March 31, 2018; and English. Case reports were excluded from our study. Reference tracking was performed on six published relevant systematic reviews to find any missed article. Each study that met the inclusion criteria was screened by two authors to: (i) determine its suitability for inclusion, (ii) extract data, and (iii) assess quality of study.
Results: Of the 3563 articles identified, 165 full articles were screened, and 50 studies met the inclusion criteria. Twenty-six articles were included in prior reviews with 24 new studies identified. Eighteen studies were judged to be of high quality. Conditions evaluated were: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, asthma, cerebral palsy, clubfoot, constipation, cranial asymmetry, cuboid syndrome, headache, infantile colic, low back pain, obstructive apnea, otitis media, pediatric dysfunctional voiding, pediatric nocturnal enuresis, postural asymmetry, preterm infants, pulled elbow, suboptimal infant breastfeeding, scoliosis, suboptimal infant breastfeeding, temporomandibular dysfunction, torticollis, and upper cervical dysfunction. Musculoskeletal conditions, including low back pain and headache, were evaluated in seven studies. Twenty studies reported adverse events, which were transient and mild to moderate in severity.
Conclusions: Fifty studies investigated the clinical effects of manual therapies for a wide variety of pediatric conditions. Moderate-positive overall assessment was found for 3 conditions: low back pain, pulled elbow, and premature infants. Inconclusive unfavorable outcomes were found for 2 conditions: scoliosis (OMT) and torticollis (MT). All other condition's overall assessments were either inconclusive favorable or unclear. Adverse events were uncommonly reported. More robust clinical trials in this area of healthcare are needed.
Trial registration: PROSPERA registration number: CRD42018091835.
Keywords: Chiropractic; Manual therapy; Osteopathic; Pediatric; Systematic review.