Raising children is one of life’s most challenging and rewarding jobs. Children need us in so many ways throughout their lives. One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is that of caring for their health. Kids are exposed to their share of bumps, bruises, and illnesses, and as a parent we want to ensure their continued health and well-being with the proper medical care. One avenue to good health that is often overlooked is pediatric chiropractic care.
There are three main reasons to bring your child to a chiropractor. The first is for treatment relating to symptoms. Adults often visit a chiropractor because they are experiencing pain. But children usually do not complain of pain, but rather they develop other symptoms that indicate that their bodies are not working right. A baby may be fussy, colicky, or have trouble sleeping. She may not be able to latch on properly for nursing. Or she may have chronic colds, ear infections, or constipation. Other symptoms that chiropractors see children for are bedwetting, asthma, allergies, growing pains, hyperactivity, headaches, and back pain.
The second reason to bring your child to a chiropractor is for preventative wellness checkups, similar to dental checkups for cavities. These checkups focus on the structure and function of the spine and cranium. A child’s spine grows 50% in the first year of life, therefore any structural problem in the spine is magnified when you think of all the growth that occurs. Wellness checks are a great way to ensure proper growth and development for your child.
The third reason to bring your child to a chiropractor is for a newborn structural evaluation following the birth process. Most babies come through the process of labor and delivery without problems, yet some babies suffer from mechanical issues. The forces of the labor and delivery process can affect the baby’s spine and cranium in ways that are unhealthy. The joints can get locked up and interfere with the baby’s nervous system which can lead to symptoms.
Chiropractors are trained to find and adjust problems in the spine, cranium or other joints of the body known as subluxations. A subluxation is when a joint between two bones is either not moving properly or one of the bones is not in the right place relative to the other bone. A child’s body is run by her nervous system which is housed within her spine and cranium. Improper movement of her spine or cranium can interfere with the function of her nervous system. Subluxations affect kids in two different ways, either structurally, for example by inhibiting bone growth resulting in a scoliosis, or functionally, resulting in interference with the body’s function. A subluxation can interfere with the function of a nerve in that area of the body. If the nerve goes to a pain receptor, the child will experience pain. If the nerve goes to a muscle, the subluxation can cause a muscle spasm. If the nerve goes to an organ such as the lungs, stomach, or bladder, we can see dysfunction in that organ. To remove subluxations, chiropractors use a technique called adjustments. In bedwetting, a lumbar subluxation in the low back can interfere with the nerves going to the bladder. The child can’t feel the bladder properly so he wets the bed because he can’t feel the need to go to the bathroom. When the child is adjusted, the subluxation goes away and the nerves to the bladder work properly so now the child can feel the bladder again and he stops wetting the bed. Chiropractic care can also be very helpful if a baby is having nursing difficulties following birth. Twisting motions and pulling forces that occur normally at birth can cause subluxation in a cranial bone in the head. If a cranial bone is not working properly, it can cause interference with the nerve that goes to the tongue called the hypoglossal nerve. This can cause part of the tongue to go into a spasm and then it won’t work right. When the baby tries to suck, she can’t use the proper tongue motion. The chiropractor gives a very gentle adjustment to the cranial bone which removes the interference to the nerve and the tongue works right again and now the baby can suck.
Some parents and pediatricians have expressed concern over the safety of adjusting children. The chiropractic profession’s safety record is excellent; in over 120 years since chiropractic was founded, there has never been a malpractice case against a chiropractor for hurting a child with adjusting. Chiropractors have the lowest malpractice insurance rates of all health care providers because the risk of their care is so low. Chiropractors have a 4-year degree with over 4500 hours of training in subjects including anatomy, physiology, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics and nutrition. Chiropractic adjustments are so gentle that infants often fall sleep during their visit!
I have been practicing in Bremerton for nearly 25 years and my best days in the office are the ones where I see a lot of kids and help them lead healthier lives. Going to a pediatric chiropractor’s office is usually a lot of fun. In our office we have toys and books for the kids to play with and they generally love coming in. We make a connection with each one of them and create a comfortable positive experience. In my initial examinations, I perform many of the things a pediatrician would do. I listen to the child’s heart and lungs and look in their ears and mouth. But as a chiropractor, I pay special attention to the child’s structure. I evaluate their posture, their spinal alignment, as well as the health of their soft tissues. Ideally, a child should have both a pediatrician and a pediatric chiropractor. The pediatrician is there for checkups, medications if needed, and crisis care such as serious illness or injury. A pediatric chiropractor focuses on prevention and maintenance of structure and ensures that a child has a healthy spine and nervous system. The two aspects of care are complementary.
The stresses placed on a baby’s delicate spine and nervous system during the birth process often cause the first subluxations. The busy job of growth and development inevitably includes many falls, jolts, bumps, and slips, all of which may result in subluxations. The pain associated with these events is soon forgotten but the spinal movement problems and the nerve interference remain. It is my opinion that the frequent spinal degeneration seen in adults may begin in childhood. Having your child checked and adjusted by a pediatric chiropractor soon after birth, during any illness, and after any trauma will help keep their nervous system free of interference. This will allow them to adapt to the stresses of daily life, perform at their best, resist disease, and minimize spinal degeneration later in life. As parents, we all want to see our kids grow up happy and healthy. Seeing a pediatric chiropractor is an essential component for children’s health and well-being.