Pediatric Chiropractic Care
On the surface, it may seem that chiropractic is limited to helping the spine, muscles, and joints, however, this is not always the full case. It must be remembered that the spine's function is to provide protection to the spinal cord, which is a direct extension of the brain. When people think of the brain, they picture only part of the brain. They only picture the part that is contained within the skull forgetting to include the spinal cord. The brain and spinal cord are complex, delicate and responsible for running and maintaining all the systems and functions of the body. Some functions include the ability to use your:
perception of pain
perception of temperature
the flow of blood through the blood vessels
control of proper digestion
elimination and controlling the body's immune system
You can think of the spinal cord as the wires that enable the brain to communicate
with all parts of the body but this is only the partial picture. The spinal cord has
certain functions within itself that does not rely on the brain, reflexes are an example
of a function that occurs entirely in the spinal cord and does not involve the brain
itself. While the brain is encased in the skull, the spinal cord has a "casing" too.
Nature's answer to this challenge is the 24 movable bones called the vertebrae.
The vertebrae afford protection to the delicate spinal cord, while allowing for a full
range of motion. The spine is made up of several joints, each one of these joints must
be moving entirely and properly in all of its ranges of motion. If even one of the joints
is not moving properly, it disturbs the balance and alignment to some degree. The
lack of proper movement of these vertebral joints is called spinal fixation.
When a vertebral joint is not moving properly and this imbalance disturbs the nervous
system, this is called a subluxation. Both a subluxation and/or spinal fixation can result
in other joints having to move more excessively to pick up the slack, which causes
irritation and can also result in pain. Pain is often a result of disturbed spinal balance
and it is usually the last thing to come and the first thing to go with the onset of
subluxation or spinal fixations. It is not necessary to get to the point where your body
is in pain. If the spinal motion and balance is restored and then maintained, pain can
be avoided altogether. A chiropractor is trained to correct subluxations or fixations of
the spine through a process known as the chiropractic adjustment. After an
adjustment, immediate relief can be experienced. If the underlying imbalance has
been there for quite some time, it can sometimes take longer to achieve complete recovery. The question arises, "Why, once I'm adjusted do I have to keep getting adjusted?” To answer this, here is an analogy: When a person's teeth are crooked they get braces. After the teeth have straightened out, the orthodontist puts in a retainer. The reason that the retainer is used when the teeth are already straight is because the canals that surround the teeth are still crooked. It takes time for these retaining elements (the tooth canals) to straighten out. The spine also has retaining elements. In the spine, however, these are not canals but are muscles, ligaments, and tendons. When proper mobility and balance is restored to the vertebrae, the correction must now be maintained so that the muscles, ligaments and tendons can compensate themselves back to normal.
How can I tell if my child
has spinal problems?
Unless a child has an obvious problem or complaint it can be difficult for a parent to recognize when a child’s spine is not working correctly. There are some signs that can indicate spinal problems. These include:
Disturbed sleeping patterns
One shoulder higher than the other
Restricted head or neck movement to one side or both
Why do kids need Chiropractic?
A child encounters many physical and biomechanical stresses during their growing years. The resulting problems in children’s spines can occur at almost any point in their development and growth. The earliest challenge a growing spine faces is the position it is forced into to adapt in utero. Many women will have heard of the fetal positions that can cause problems with labor (brow, transverse, posterior, asynclitic, etc).
What is less well known is that these fetal positions can also cause problems in the baby’s spine. Spinal segments can be pushed out of place or jammed by the position of the baby in the womb. If this position is less than optimal, it can result in a longer and more difficult trip through the birth canal, which can compound the spinal problems. In this way, even natural birthing methods can stress an infant’s spine and nervous system, not to mention interventions such as induction, forceps, vacuum suction, or cesarean section.
The cause of many newborn health complaints such as colic, reflux, breastfeeding difficulties, sleep disturbances, allergic reactions, constipation, failure to thrive and chronic infections can often be in part traced to nervous system irritation caused by spinal and/or cranial misalignment. Since significant spinal trauma can occur at, or prior to birth, many parents elect to have their newborn’s spine checked right after birth. Many developmental milestones such as learning to hold up the head, sitting upright, crawling and walking are all activities that are affected by spinal alignment and are important times to have your child checked by Dr. Brooks, DC, MSN, CACCP, NCIP, RN or another qualified provider. Additionally, falls, sports injuries, playground bumps, heavy school bags and sitting all day in the classroom are all physical stresses to the growing child’s spine and nervous system.
What does chiropractic care involve?The first thing Dr. Amber Brooks,DC, MSN, CACCP, BCIP, RN will do is to conduct a thorough history of your child’s health and any complaints. This is followed by a complete physical examination of the child’s spine. She will use gentle, specific skills to find and adjust any involved spinal areas as well as providing nutritional and lifestyle advice. When people are told Dr. Brooks,DC, MSN, CACCP, BCIP, RN treats children and babies, their initial reaction is often one of surprise, as they assume that she uses the same techniques on children as she does on adults. Dr. Brooks,DC, MSN, CACCP, BCIP, RN truly tailors to the individual and their particular spine, and children are no exception. She offers specific, gentle adjustments appropriate to the infant/child’s spine and craniosacral therapy (see craniosacral section for more info). Spinal adjustments for infants and young children involve very light fingertip pressure to correct spinal misalignments. This amount of “force” is often not more than a finger touch. This is usually sufficient to restore mobility to spinal joints, which have become locked and are causing interference to the normal nervous system function. Occasionally, the adjustments will make a ‘popping’ sound when the spinal joints are moved, fondly referred to “popcorn” in the office. However, this is not always heard when children’s spines are adjusted.
Does chiropractic care hurt?In general, chiropractic care for children is painless, except in cases where the child has an actual injury. In these areas, the child may be sensitive to touch; however, once the adjustment has been made and the area can heal more effectively, the sensitivity is alleviated. Overall, parents report that their children enjoy their spinal adjustments and look forward to their next visit.
How long does a chiropractic adjustment take?A child’s spine will generally respond much faster than an adult’s spine to chiropractic adjustments and will often require only a few adjustments to restore normal function. The actual number of adjustments varies depending on many factors such as the type of trauma involved and history of condition.
Are chiropractic adjustents safe?The risks of a child suffering notable injury from a spinal adjustment are extremely minimal. Chiropractors have been adjusting children for more than 100 years and have an excellent safety record. A recent study done by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) in the US, Canada and Europe showed that only a few children (out of more than 10,000 visits) experienced minor discomfort and fussiness. The remaining children in the study had no adverse reactions to the adjustment. This data tells us that chiropractic care for children may be one of the safest forms of health care available.
Common childhood issues/symptoms that can also be linked with
spinal dysfunction, these include:
Acid reflux (GERD)
Bedwetting and/or constipation
Persistent sore throat, coughs, or colds
Recurrent ear infections
One of the reasons parents bring their children to see Dr. Brooks, DC, MSN, CACCP, BCIP, RN is due to physical trauma from an injury of some sort. The spinal misalignments that may occur at the same time of the injury will not necessarily result in immediate pain or symptoms. In addition to physical stress, parents should be aware that emotional and chemical stress affect the child’s nervous system and may also warrant a spinal check-up. Regular chiropractic checkups can identify potential spinal dysfunction resulting from these stresses and chiropractic adjustments may help to enhance future function and well-being.
Please read the research on the benefits of chiropractic care for children here.
You may want to consult with your primary care provider and discuss these factors.