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Children and Chiropractic
Adapted from "Chiropractic Care for the Pediatric Patient," by Peter N. Fysh, DC, FICCP
What training does a chiropractor have in pediatrics?
All chiropractic schools have required courses in pediatrics. Doctors are trained to recognize and diagnose most childhood conditions whether these involve spinal problems or otherwise. Dr. Deanna has taken courses towards a Diplomate in Chiropractic Pediatrics. She is certified in HypnoBirthing as an instructor and Labor Companion, HypnoFertility and Perinatal Fitness. She is also trained as a doula by DONA International.
Is it safe for children and infants to have their vertebrae adjusted by a chiropractor?
Absolutely safe. Of all the forms of children’s health care, chiropractic is one of the safest. It’s painless and safe, and it may make the difference between a child being healthy and being regularly sick.
Can children get spinal subluxations?
Subluxation: When a vertebra is out of alignment with the rest of the vertebrae in the spine and is locked or jammed in a position which is not normal resting position, it is said to be subluxated.
Absolutely! Research into spinal trauma caused by the birth process has identified that at least 12 babies out of 100 will have subluxations in the upper cervical spine at birth. The cause of these subluxations is almost certainly the trauma of the birth process. One research group that studied this subluxation phenomenon examined a group of newborn babies that had difficulty sleeping and feeding or that had a head that turned or tilted to one side. Their research identified that 89 percent of these babies had spinal subluxations at the top of the neck. Since children suffer a lot of trauma in the process of growing up it is recommended that they regularly have their spines checked for the damaging and sometimes debilitating effects of these subluxations.
How do subluxations occur in a child’s spine?
The trip down the birth canal has been said to be the most difficult and dangerous trip one can ever make during life.
Other potential causes of spinal subluxations may include:
- The sudden starts, stops and turns which a baby experiences while traveling in a car, even while strapped in a car seat.
- The falls encountered while learning to crawl and walk.
- Slips and falls while playing, jumping and running.
- Traumas of sporting activities.
- Heavy backpacks.
With so many possible causes of spinal subluxations during the growing years, it is no wonder that doctors of chiropractic will encourage patients to have their children’s spine checked.
How can the spine being out of alignment cause a child to get sick?
The normal functions or physiology of the body are all controlled by the nervous system. When the bones of the spine (i.e., vertebra) are out of alignment, this can cause interference with the nervous system which can affect the way the body functions. For example, tight muscles in the neck—caused by malfunctioning spinal nerves—can block the flow of fluid from the middle ear, resulting in persistent earaches.
How would a parent know if their child had a subluxated vertebra?
Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell. Occasionally, a child may complain of pain from around the region of the spine. But most commonly, it takes the training and skill of a chiropractor to find subluxations, especially in the small spine of a child. In children, most subluxations do not cause spinal pain, somewhat like a small cavity in a tooth which has not yet started to ache.
What childhood conditions can be caused by subluxations?
Many people think of chiropractors as low back pain doctors. Surprisingly, low back pain is not a common reason that children visit the chiropractor. The most common conditions for which children visit the chiropractor have little to do with spinal pain. Most childhood problems treated by chiropractors are common conditions which appear to have nothing to do with the spine.
Some examples of such conditions are...
ear infections, fever, croup, colic, bed wetting, torticollis, poor posture, constipation, weakness or fatigue, loss of hearing, arthritis, irritability, neckaches, sore throat, cough, skin disorders, bronchitis, poor coordination, extremity pain (shoulders, arms, hands, hips, knees, feet), hypertension, nervousness, stomachaches, numbness, headaches, backaches, eye problems, sinus problems and allergies, asthma, frequent colds, poor concentration, painful joints, scoliosis, hyperactivity, nursing/feeding difficulties, disturbed sleeping patterns, restricted head motion, "growing pains".
What risks are involved in children being treated by chiropractors?
Virtually none. Chiropractors have been adjusting children for more than 100 years without any incident which has harmed even one child. Surveys of malpractice insurers revealed not one claim filed against a chiropractor in the past twenty years for harming a child with a spinal adjustment. This is a record that the chiropractic profession is very proud of and one that should give parents comfort in making the decision to choose chiropractic care.
How are subluxations corrected?
Subluxations are corrected by a procedure known as a spinal adjustment. A spinal adjustment gently moves the spinal vertebrae back into place. For children, generally just finger-tip pressure is required followed by a light, gentle push and the vertebrae will pop back into place.
Does a spinal adjustment hurt?
A spinal adjustment delivered skillfully by a chiropractor is in most cases completely painless. Sometimes there is an audible “pop” which accompanies the slight separation of the joint surfaces between the vertebrae (the “pop” is just the release of gas bubbles in the joint fluid). But this occurrence is completely safe and most children find the process of having their spine adjusted to be fun.
How are children’s spinal problems corrected?
The first thing your chiropractor will do is conduct a careful and thorough evaluation of your child’s spine. Chiropractors are trained to evaluate pediatric spinal problems and will use gentle, specific skills to identify, evaluate and treat any involved spinal areas. Spinal adjustments for infants and young children involve very light finger-tip adjustments to correct malfunctioning spinal structures. A light thrust-type spinal adjustment is usually sufficient to restore mobility to spinal joints which have become locked and are causing interference with the normal function of the nervous system. Most adjustments make a “popping” sound when the spinal joints are moved; however, this sound is not always heard when children’s spines are adjusted.
How many adjustments does it take to fix a subluxation?
Most children require only a few adjustments to restore proper alignment and function to the spine. Because children’s spines are so flexible, they actually respond quicker to chiropractic care than adults. The actual number of adjustments needed varies and can depend on the length of time the condition has been present. It is always a good idea however, to have a child’s spine checked at least several times per year to correct any possible spinal subluxations that have occurred. Uncorrected subluxations can lead to later spinal degeneration.
How can parents recognize childhood spinal problems?
Recognizing vertebral subluxations in a child’s spine is not an easy task for parents and usually requires a skillful evaluation by a chiropractor. There are some indications however, which should make a parent suspicious that a child has a spinal problem. A child who complains of back pain or neck pain, of course, should always be checked. If a spinal curvature, such as scoliosis, is becoming apparent in a child or teenager, then that should be checked as soon as possible. Other conditions may not always be so obvious. Chronic recurrent earaches in children very frequently resolve after a short course of spinal adjustments. Headaches in children frequently can be caused by a spinal problem. Of course, if the cause of the headache is something more serious, the chiropractor is well trained to recognize this.
Why do children go to the chiropractor?
One study conducted in the USA identified the most common reasons why children visited a chiropractor to be the following:
- Neck pain……………………..10.6%
- Upper respiratory….…….….….7.1%
- Low back pain…………………..6.3%
- Enuresis (bedwetting)……...….3.3%
- Mid-back pain…………………..3.2%
These top 10 conditions account for almost 70% of the reasons why children make visits to the chiropractor. There are also many other reasons why children visit the chiropractor. Among the other reasons which have been reported in scientific journals are: colic, torticollis, insomnia, growing pains and persistent crying in young infants.
What age should a child be before they can be treated by a chiropractor?
A child is never too young to have their spine checked. Many newborn infants are checked when they are just a few days old. A large survey of children being treated by chiropractors in the USA indicated an even distribution of children in all age groups from birth to 15 years of age. The youngest patient that Dr. Deanna has treated was just 10 days old!
Are x-rays necessary?
Sometimes it is necessary to have a child’s spine x-rayed. X-rays—more correctly called radiographs—are most commonly taken to identify if there are any reasons why the spine should not be adjusted. An extensive part of the training of chiropractors is the ability not only to interpret radiographs, but more importantly to recognize when they are needed to identify the condition of a child’s spine. In those instances when radiographs are necessary, Dr. Deanna and the chiropractic radiologist will carefully examine the films for signs of degeneration, diseases of the bones and soft tissues, abnormal development of the structures of the spine, for the effects of trauma such as fractured bones or dislocated joints, and then for subluxations.
What if you just leave the subluxation there?
A subluxation which goes uncorrected for many years can cause health problems and serious degeneration to the spinal structures. Many times when chiropractors are examining adult patient’s spines, they find that the condition which is causing the patient’s pain is associated with spinal degeneration which could have been prevented if the subluxation had been removed many years earlier.
Is chiropractic pediatrics and infant/child massage a new trend?
Although pediatric patients have been treated by chiropractors and massage therapists for many years, recently, interest in this option of care for children has increased. This is mainly due to greater public awareness of the conditions which can be helped by having the spine function properly.
How can a young infant’s spine be traumatized?
Trauma to the young spine can occur during the pregnancy, during the birth, and during the developing years. Spinal segments can be pushed out of place or jammed by the position of the baby’s womb, or can suffer similar problems during a difficult labor, from the trip through the birth canal or from the birthing process itself. Medical research has identified the fact that many problems early in a child’s life can come from birth trauma. It’s what happens around the time of birth and in the months thereafter which can sometimes upset the normal functioning of the spine.
Spinal problems can occur as a result of the frequent falls suffered by young infants in the first months of life. A fall from a bed, a sudden stop in the car, or any significant unsupported movement of the head and neck in an infant can induce excessive movement in the spine causing vertebral subluxations. The process of learning to walk and the number of falls encountered in this way can also cause trauma to the lower spinal segments.
How can parents know if a child needs chiropractic care?
Unless a child has an obvious symptom, it can be difficult for parents to recognize when a child has spinal subluxations. It is not always easy for someone other than a chiropractor, highly trained in evaluating the spine, to determine if the child has a problem; just as it is difficult for someone other than a dentist to determine if a child has any developing cavities. Both cases take the skills of a trained specialist to perform a thorough evaluation.
There are some signs however, which parents may look for that can be an indicator of a child with a spinal problem. Common signs of spinal problems may include:
- The baby’s head consistently being tilted to one side.
- Restricted head or neck motion to one side.
- Disturbed sleeping patterns where an infant sleeps for only an hour or two at a time.
- Feeding difficulties in the very young infant.
- Difficulty nursing at the breast, especially on one particular side.
Can my child’s pediatrician find these problems?
This is a reasonable question for parents to ask, since the community at large has for many years considered the medical profession to have solutions to all health concerns. Unfortunately, when it comes to subtle spinal problems, your child’s pediatrician is not a trained specialist. Medical pediatricians generally are not trained to identify the subtle spinal problems which can cause ill health in children, and therefore may miss the true cause of your child’s problem.
How do I know if my child would benefit from massage?
Massage is a great compliment to chiropractic and can be used to help restore health in many of the same conditions that the chiropractor sees. These include...
colic, bed wetting, torticollis, poor posture, constipation, weakness or fatigue, arthritis, irritability, neckaches, sore throat, cough, skin disorders, bronchitis, poor coordination, extremity pain (shoulders, arms, hands, hips, knees, feet), hypertension, nervousness, stomachaches, numbness, headaches, backaches, sinus problems and allergies, asthma, poor concentration, painful joints, scoliosis, hyperactivity, nursing/feeding difficulties, disturbed sleeping patterns, restricted head motion, "growing pains".
Massage has benefits during pregnancy, as well as infant and child issues. It is particularly important for those children and teens that are active in sports in order to provide injury-free participation. Massage not only feels good, but has been scientifically proven to decrease stress hormones. Massage helps relax the muscles and normalize muscle tone and it results in children who are calmer, less aggressive and healthier. It also aids children in having an increased sense of well being, increased body awareness, and increased self confidence and self esteem.
Practioner Rachel Schafer is specially trained and certified in infant and children’s massage.
Surprisingly, low back pain is not a common
that children visit the chiropractor. The
common conditions for which children visit
chiropractor have little to do with spinal pain.
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