5 Reasons Your Child Needs a Chiropractor Too
Kids love chiropractic, and having your child checked by a chiropractor is important. Just like your dentist and pediatrician performs wellness exams to make sure your child is growing, developing properly and thriving, so do chiropractors!
Chiropractors examine your child’s musculoskeletal and nervous system. So, why is this important? In addition to the physical stress of the birth process, your child endures many falls and knocks as they grow and develop, which usually result in spinal misalignments. The spine houses the spinal cord, which can be thought of as an “information highway” that relays all information between the brain and the body. This communication is key for balance and coordination, along with the self-regulating and healing mechanisms. When there are misalignments in the spine, the brain cannot communicate as clearly with the rest of the body. Chiropractors identify and correct these spinal misalignments. This in turn may help to prevent or resolve problems like nursing difficulties, irritability and poor balance.
An adjustment doesn’t look the same with a child as it does an adult. With babies, there is no sound, and we use the same pressure as squeezing a ripe tomato. Children respond very quickly to chiropractic care, and once they warm up to the office, they love coming in for their adjustment. We recommend bringing your child in for an assessment and adjustment within the first 1-2 weeks after they are born, and then once every 1-3 months. Bring them in sooner, however, if they are experiencing any of the following:
1. Infants with reflux, troubles sleeping, torticollis, irritability, constipation or suspicion of colic.
So often, we have exhausted families walk into the office, at their wit’s end trying to figure out why their baby has been so irritable. It’s so tough when baby can't tell you what’s up! So what could it be?
Osteopathic studies have shown that the majority of newborn babies have strain patterns in the cranial mechanism following birth. This means that the babies showed misalignment in their neck and skull, or had abnormal movement patterns when turning their head.
What causes this “birth trauma”??
A very short labor
A very long labor
The use of Pitocin to strengthen / induce uterine contractions
Restricted maternal birthing positions
Pulling or twisting the baby’s head to deliver the infant’s body
The use of forceps or vacuum extraction
Left unresolved after birth, the strain patterns that develop after birth may develop to musculoskeletal pain, and may impact a baby’s growth and development. Ultimately, it may result in issues such as reflux, troubles sleeping, nursing difficulties, torticollis, irritability, constipation etc. Chiropractors have many gentle, safe and effective techniques for helping to resolve these issues, along with a host of other pediatric specialists to refer you to, if needed.
Whether your child is considered ahead, behind or right on time with their milestones, these represent the perfect time to have them checked by a chiropractor.
There are 4 kinds of milestones that children achieve throughout their development. These include cognitive milestones such as a preschooler learning the alphabet; social and emotional milestones such as learning how to interact or share with other people; communication milestones such as learning words, or pointing at objects; and finally physical milestones such as tummy time, rolling over, sitting up, pulling up, crawling, walking, etc. As chiropractors, we love to see our little patients when they hit their physical milestones.
Milestones are important because they represent new connections being paved in the brain. Milestones tend to build on each other. If one milestone isn’t being achieved, it may slow down the timing for when they will achieve their next milestone.
Why isn’t my child hitting their milestones at the recommended time?
Kids develop at different rates, and that’s okay. You may find that your child is ahead of the curve when one milestone is concerned, but behind the curve for another. We can’t expect our children to develop according to a textbook.
When a baby is born, they are prepared with a set of “primitive reflexes” that help to protect them from basic things like falling and to help them orient towards their mother's nipple to eat. These reflexes include the Moro reflex, Rooting reflex and Landau’s reflex, to name a few. While these reflexes are important as a newborn, they become unnecessary as the baby grows and is better able to interact with their environment. If these reflexes are retained for too long, you can think of them as taking up precious space and real estate in your baby’s brain. That means they may have less capacity to move on to their next milestone.
During your child’s exam with a trained pediatric chiropractor, they will check your child’s primitive reflexes to ensure they are demonstrating the reflexes that are appropriate for their age. If they have retained primitive reflexes, we will work on extinguishing them to free up that precious real estate in your baby’s brain, in order to move on to their next milestone. With gentle adjustments, we also ensure they have the proper biomechanics, and the most optimal brain-body communication to set them up for success for working on their next milestone.
3. You notice your child is crawling, walking or running unconventionally
Proprioception is often considered “the sixth sense” - the sense of “where we are in space”. It is essential to balance and movement. Studies such as this one demonstrate how adjusting the spine improves proprioception.
Proprioception is imperative for movement. If the brain does not have an accurate idea of where it is in space, it may compensate by developing abnormal movement patterns. In the first year of life, this may include bum scooting, looking down when crawling, or skipping crawling and moving to bear-walking to name a few. As stated in this scholarly article by Heiner Biedermann, MD “The importance of this transition from the 2- dimensional way of life into the third dimension is still widely underestimated”. Verticalization (learning to stand on 2 feet) is one of the most important things that happens in the first year of your baby’s life. During this time, the curve in the lower spine develops. If poor movement patterns develop in this key time, the child may be more prone to developing scoliosis or other abnormal patterns such as toe-walking or running asymmetrically.
A chiropractor will work on rehabilitating the abnormal movement pattern (for example: helping a child who toe walks to learn to heel strike), will look up and down the chain to determine if there is a structural cause for the abnormal pattern, and will adjust the spine to make sure the body has a better understanding where it is in space, so it may interact with its environment better.
4. Sports, Trampolines, Falls, Injuries
Just like a dental cavity might not hurt immediately, falling off a bike or trampoline may not hurt immediately. Kids are resilient! Left untreated however, may lead to more detrimental effects. When your child experiences any kind of physical trauma, it is important to have them checked by a musculoskeletal professional.
Sports performance: One of my favorite parts of chiropractic has to be its ability to enhance sports performance. Chiropractic has been shown to improve an athlete's balance, hand-eye coordination, reaction time and ability to recover after workouts. If your child is playing sports, getting them checked by a chiropractor can help them recover, prevent injuries, and enhance their performance
5. Any pain! Growing pains, headaches etc - children should NEVER be in pain!
Kids should not be in pain! Asides from teething and losing teeth, there is no reason that a child must experience pain as a consequence of growing.
Pain with an unknown cause can be a cause of worry. It is very important to have your child evaluated by a healthcare professional if they complain of pains such as unpredictable headaches, back pain or even growing pains.
Growing pains: There are a handful of theories why children experience “growing pains”. No singular cause has ever been determined! This is both good and bad news. The bad news: we do not have a single “growing pains cure” that will work for every kid. The good news: we have a multitude of treatments we can provide to reduce these pains. These include: adjustments to correct improper biomechanics which may be contributing to their pain, a home exercise program to improve their bone density, and nutritional interventions which often include calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.
Back pain and headaches: When a child experiences back pain or headaches, a chiropractor will evaluate their spine to look for any misalignment. We look from the top down and bottom up: assessing their neck, shoulders, mid back, low back, pelvis, hips and feet. Often if there are faulty biomechanics in one area lower or higher in the chain, we will see back pain as a symptom. Headaches may be caused by restrictions in the neck and upper spine or from muscles referring pain to the head.
The most common cause of back pain in children, however, is scoliosis. Early detection of scoliosis is imperative to preventing the curve from progressing. Often, with a suspicion of scoliosis, your chiropractor will refer you for X-Rays to determine the measurement of the curve and to see how close your child’s spine is to maturity. The more time we have until spinal maturity, the better the prognosis for minimizing the scoliosis. A chiropractor may treat scoliosis with adjustments, muscle release therapy, traction, among other tools, or refer to an orthopedist for a brace to be fitted.
Have any other questions about chiropractic works for kids, or whether it can benefit your child? Call, text or email and we will schedule your complimentary consultation.
Dr. Shantai Watson DC, BSc