Over the years of my Chiropractic profession and pediatric specialty, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with hundreds of healthcare professionals, parents and parents-to-be, grandparents, teachers, etc. Everyone is connected with a child in some way and carries a soft spot in their heart. I have been asked probably a million times…
“Why in the world would a child need to be adjusted?”
A dear friend of mine and awesome natural birth activist once cautioned me concerning the word adjustment. Many people associate this term with the traditional “crack” of the neck or low back of an adult as treatment for trauma, pain, disc herniation, etc. In light of this common association, a more appropriate question to address is:
“Why would a child need to be evaluated by a Chiropractor?”
Whether they are in the healthcare profession or not, most people accept wholeheartedly that the birth process can be a very traumatic event. Under the very best of circumstances in a “non-invasive” birth, the baby’s delicate nervous system, which is protected only by cartilage until the vertebrae ossify later in childhood, is subject to extreme pressures while passing through the birth canal. Sometimes complications arise during the birth process such as induced or prolonged labor, misalignments of Mom’s pelvic outlet causing baby to get stuck on internal structures, positional abnormalities of the baby (such as a transverse, frontal, or breech presentation), etc… This necessitates a longer, more forceful delivery; traction of the baby’s head and upper body and possible use of forceps, vacuum extraction and/or Cesarean section. These interventions obviously place excessive strain on the infant.
The most common injury during birth, which can bring the most serious and varied consequences, is to the cranium and upper cervical spine (neck) which protects the brain and brainstem. This area coordinates all life-sustaining functions such as respiration, cardiac rhythm, immunity, muscular control, and neurological development. Another area frequently injured is the thoracic spine (mid-back) which innervates the main muscles of breathing such as the diaphragm. This is most likely to occur during a Cesarean section as the baby is pulled via the arms/shoulders through the small incision. Babies delivered via C-section have a alarmingly high rate of developing asthma later in life.
As our delicate newborn embarks on the magical process of development; holding up her head, rolling over (occasionally off of the bed!), pulling herself up, falling on her bottom, getting back up again and moving around her big, new world; the spine is again susceptible to stress and strain. What better time to make sure that our child’s spine is aligned properly and the nervous system is free from interference than before the vertebrae ossify (become mature bone)? Unlike her baby teeth which will eventually be replaced with a brand new adult set, we only have one spine for life. Prevention is the focus of Pediatric Chiropractic care and is what keeps me enthusiastically on my “soap box”.
Another important question to answer is, “How do I know if this has happened to my child?” Birth trauma and/or nerve interference presents itself in many different ways. Obvious effects can be paralysis, cerebral palsy, muscle rigidity (torticollis), etc… More subtle (and too often misdiagnosed) presentations are respiratory distress, chronic infections, colic, inability to nurse (suck), indigestion, asthma, allergies, bed-wetting, speech difficulties, lack of coordination, headaches, etc… the list goes on. Without care, the “disconnection” of the body with the brain often leads to frustrating emotional and learning disorders in the older child. Studies have shown these conditions to respond successfully to gentle Chiropractic care.
Now that we have a basic understanding about what might cause a spinal misalignment in a child, let’s talk about that dreaded word… adjustment. The care given to an infant or child is very different from that of an adult. Using extremely gentle or non-force techniques, a pediatric Chiropractor can release tension in the muscles and fascia surrounding them, correct spinal or pelvis misalignments if they are present, and work with the pliable cranial bones which often become compressed during birth. It is important to understand that Chiropractic care is not a treatment for disease and is for the sole purpose of removing interference to the nervous system… thus allowing the innate healing ability of the body to maintain our ideal state of health and vitality.