Many people assume chiropractic care is just for adults who have suffered injuries, have chronic pain, or simply have gone through the wear and tear of living. On the contrary, chiropractic assessment and care is helpful to people of any age, including children and even newborns.
Children naturally encounter physical stresses as they grow, and spinal problems can occur at any time. Chiropractic care for infants and children makes a difference because it aims at maintaining a healthy brain and nervous system—the ultimate controller of every cell and body function—and helps the child reach proper milestones, grow, and have a healthy immune system.
Just the process of being born presents enough physical trauma to warrant a chiropractic assessment. Even before birth, the growing spine can face challenges. Fetal positions (e.g., brow, breech, transverse, posterior) that make labor more difficult also can cause problems in the baby’s spine. In utero, segments of the spine can get misaligned or jammed, resulting in a more challenging trip through the birth canal that may compound spinal problems.
While natural birthing alone can stress an infant’s spine and nervous system, interventions (e.g., induction, forceps, cesarean section) also can create trauma and compromise the infant’s health and well-being. Because significant spinal trauma can occur at, or even prior to, birth, many parents elect to have their newborn’s spine checked by a chiropractor immediately.
Several newborn health complaints, such as sleep disturbances, colic, breastfeeding difficulties, reflux, allergic reactions, and chronic infections, stem from irritations caused by a misaligned spine or cranium. Spinal alignment also affects developmental milestones, such as holding up the head, sitting upright, crawling, and walking. Delays in any of these justify having a child checked by a chiropractor.
In addition, as the child grows, falls, acquires sports injuries or playground bumps, carries heavy school bags, and sits all day in the classroom, physical stress sets in on a growing child’s spine and nervous system.
Parents most commonly seek chiropractic care for children after physical trauma from an injury, but parents also should be aware that emotional and chemical stresses affect the child’s nervous system and may warrant a spinal checkup as well.
Regular chiropractic checkups identify potential spinal dysfunction resulting from the various stresses, and chiropractic adjustments can help enhance future function.
Sometimes it’s obvious, but if not, it can be difficult for parents to recognize problems with a child’s spine. Some common signs include disturbed sleeping patterns, breastfeeding difficulties, restricted head or neck movements, or misaligned shoulders.
Spinal dysfunction also has been linked to some common childhood disorders, including recurrent ear infections, persistent sore throats and colds, colic or reflux, asthma, scoliosis, headaches, bedwetting and/or constipation, growing pains, and even ADHD.
One common assumption is that the techniques used on adults also are used on children and babies. In all cases, chiropractic care is “tailored” to an individual’s particular spine, and children are no exception. Children receive specific, gentle adjustments appropriate for the juvenile spine and cranium.
Before any treatment, chiropractors conduct a thorough history of the child’s health and complaints as well as a complete physical spinal exam. Chiropractors use gentle, specific skills to find and adjust any affected spinal areas.
Spinal adjustments for infants and young children involve very light fingertip pressure to correct spinal misalignments. The amount of “force” often is not more than a finger touch, which is usually sufficient to restore mobility to spinal joints causing interference in normal nervous system function.
Occasionally, adjustments will make a popping sound when spinal joints move; however, this is not always the case. Other techniques involve the use of handheld instruments for specific and gentle correction.
In general, chiropractic care for children is painless unless the child has an acute injury. In that instance, the child may be sensitive to touch, but after the adjustment, which allows the area to heal more effectively, the sensitivity goes away.
“We make sure our adjustments are very comfortable for kids,” offers Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic. “If the children or their parents have any issues with the way an adjustment looks or feels, we change it. No one should dread getting adjusted or have to brace themselves for it.”
Dr. Gross adds, “We notice that once kids get adjusted, they really look forward to coming into the office for regular, monthly spinal adjustments. They get so excited that they jump up onto the adjusting table and enjoy the whole experience.”
A child’s spine generally responds to chiropractic adjustment much faster than an adult’s, so only a few adjustments are needed to restore normal function. Of course, this varies among patients and the how long a problem has been present.
“The medical literature reports chiropractic care for kids is safe, and 85% of parents report improvement in the initial condition,” explains Dr. Gross.
Only a few children experience minor discomfort, muscle soreness, and fussiness, but not for any significant length of time, and most have no adverse reactions to adjustments. As such, chiropractic care for children may be one of the safest forms of health care available.
In one study, a 1-year-old child had recurrent, bilateral ear infections. Antibiotics caused problems with the patient’s sleep. When the child saw a chiropractor for six weeks (1–2 treatments per week), the ear infections stopped.
In another study, an 11-year-old with headaches, ADHD, autism, behavior issues, and OCD was treated with a combination of chiropractic techniques. The patient’s headache symptoms improved as did many of his behavioral problems, which improved his quality of life.
A 2-year-old experiencing both severe acid reflux and constipation since birth was helped with chiropractic treatment. After just 12 visits in six weeks with “touch and hold” spinal adjustments and an activator instrument, the patient’s complaints were resolved.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about chiropractic care for children, contact Quality Care Chiropractic at (630) 499-2225.