Author Archives: Daniel Dodge

Now That Baby is Here

Now That Baby is Here:

Basics of Postpartum Care to Feel and Function Better

So now that your baby is here you probably feel like you can finally have your body back and start feeling fit and energetic again. Well, sometimes it is not that easy. For a lot of women, the next year can be a struggle. Not only figuring out how to care for another tiny human, but also in figuring out how to feel healthy again. This article will give you some advice to help you feel the way you want to feel, faster.  Pregnancy, labor, and delivery can put your body through a lot of stress, physically, emotionally, and chemically.  Now that you can hold your beautiful new baby, all of your attention is now focused on what he or she needs at every moment. However, some attention should be placed back on you and how you can heal and function your best in this fourth trimester.

Physical

Immediately after giving birth should be a time of rest and cuddles with baby. For the first few weeks after birth the wound from your placenta detaching is still healing (up to 4-6 weeks) and your organs are figuring out how to position themselves properly in your abdominal cavity again. Your body needs rest, hydration and nutrients for this to occur optimally. However, there are things you can do while you are allowing yourself to heal.

  • Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic adjustments are the best way to get your body back in balance and help improve function quickly. You still have the hormone relaxin in your system for about nine months to one-year postpartum. This hormone is what allowed your ligaments to loosen in preparation for birth so your pelvis and sacrum could open up during delivery. Therefore, your ligaments and joints are not as stable for about a year after giving birth. This makes it easier to become misaligned. These misalignments then interfere with your nervous system function so you are not able to function optimally. You may develop symptoms like pain, muscle tightness or weakness or a number of other things. Getting your body aligned with regular chiropractic adjustments will help your body to function better, and will prevent or relieve common pain in the neck, upper back, and shoulders that develops from nursing and carrying around a baby all day. Your muscles will also be able to engage properly so you can begin to rehabilitate your core and pelvic floor muscles.

  • Muscle Rehabilitation

Muscle imbalance and weakness after birth is present in all women. At some point during the third trimester of pregnancy all women develop some degree of diastasis recti. This is a separation in the abdominal tissue that weakens the core and causes pelvic floor dysfunction along with a number of other symptoms such as low back and pelvic pain and possibly digestive issues. I have a previous blog post just on diastasis recti if you would like more information on this (here).  Exercise to heal your diastasis can begin as early as one to three weeks postpartum. I talk about some of these exercises in my previous blog post (active sitting, active standing, squats, bridge, etc). Healing your diastasis and reestablishing proper core function will help reestablish proper pelvic floor function as well. You can not have proper pelvic floor function without a properly functioning core. That is why it is so important to focus on only performing tummy safe activities to heal your diastasis quickly.

However, just healing your core may not be all you need for proper pelvic floor function. Often times scar tissue develops, especially if there was a tear during delivery. There could be damage to the musculature or nervous system so the musculature does not engage or activate the way that it should, which may result in prolapse or incontinence. Again, it is important to have your pelvis aligned by a chiropractic adjustment. During labor your pelvis opens and the ischium (your sit bones) separate and open up to allow for the baby to descend through the pelvis. Sometimes they do not come back together the way they should. This position can put an abnormal stretch on the pelvic floor muscles so that they have difficulty activating and maintaining proper tone. Once the pelvis is properly aligned, it is a good idea to see a female pelvic floor physical therapist. She can help release any scar tissue and relieve any tightness or muscle imbalance. She will also be able to work with you to reactivate all of your pelvic floor muscles and give you exercises to build back strength and proper function.

Nutritional

Just like during your pregnancy, the nutrition you provide your body is extremely important. Make sure that you are following your provider’s recommendation for supplements based on your specific needs. There are, however, general supplements that everyone should consider including in their regimen.

  • Collagen Peptides

Collagen Peptides are a good way to get a full spectrum of amino acids that will help heal tissue and support joints, muscles, skin, digestion. Collagen Peptides are a bit more convenient than gelatin because they can be mixed in to any drink at room temperature and does not require hot liquid like gelatin. Vital Proteins is a good brand that is now sold at Sprouts, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers.

  • Probiotics

Probiotics are important to help break down foods. Taking probiotics not only improves your digestive health but will help establish good digestive health for your baby. Probiotics help brain function, immune function and can help decrease inflammation. I recommend to my clients that they take a supplement with at least five different strains of bacteria and at least 15 billion active populations.

  • Digestive Enzymes

Along with this I also recommend a digestive enzymes supplement to help break down foods more completely which may help prevent your newborn form developing colic or gassiness. If you are not breaking down your food, those larger food molecules are then ending up in your milk supply and make it harder for your baby to digest.

  • Fish Oil (omega-3)

Your baby is also still forming most of his or her nervous system (80% is created in the first two years of life). So it is important that you take a fish oil or omega-3 supplement to provide enough good fats to promote optimal nervous system development. Fish oil will also help your brain and nervous system function as well as decreasing overall inflammation levels.

Emotional

Many women have difficulty emotionally after giving birth. Whether it is the baby blues or depression or anxiety, many women need support. It is important for you, your friends, and family to be able to spot signs that you need support or help. It can be hard while you are in a certain mental state to identify what is happening, but even just having enough awareness that something is not right can lead to you reaching out for the help that you need and deserve. There are professionals that can help such as a postpartum doula or a counselor or therapist that specializes in postpartum anxiety and depression. Medications are an available option that should not be looked down upon or judged. Sometimes those temporary solutions are necessary.

There are supplements and natural means to help improve postpartum anxiety or depression. GLA is a supplement that I have seen help in a lot of cases for anxiety and depression. Fish oil and probiotics have been shown to help as well. Essential oils can boost mood and help emotional health. Young Living has a wide range of essential oil blends such as Joy or Stress Away that help support emotional health. Frankincense is a single oil that works directly on the brain and can have an uplifting and calming effect. CBD oil has also been shown to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise, sunlight, and fresh air also can have a big positive impact on mood and emotional health.

Newborns require a lot of attention and are completely dependent on you to provide for every need. However, it is vital to make sure that your physical, nutritional, and emotional needs are being met as well.

How Chiropractic Care Helps Improve Breastfeeding

You have probably heard that Chiropractic care can help with breastfeeding issues. However, you probably have not been told how specifically this can help. There are a wide variety of things that can impact how well a baby is able to breastfeed. Cranial alignment, spinal alignment, TMJ (temporomandibular joint) alignment, fascial restriction, dural restriction, tongue tie, lip tie, cranial nerve function, etc. There are clearly more things that can impact breastfeeding, but these are the major ones in which chiropractors can help. This article will go over each of these aspects and explain how and why they can affect nursing.

Spinal Alignment

Let’s start with spinal alignment. It was found in a study many years ago that up to 95 percent of babies born had some degree of upper cervical misalignment. The Upper cervical consists of the C1 or atlas and the C2 or axis vertebrae. The occiput sits right on the Atlas and closely affects upper cervical alignment as well. Babies go through a traumatic experience being born and most develop some type of misalignment. This upper cervical alignment is very important for several reasons. One is that this is the area of the brain stem. The brain stem is home to many of the vital centers of breathing heart rate blood pressure as well as the origin of many of the cranial nerves that innervate the head, neck, tongue and throat. If there is a misalignment in the upper cervical spine around these areas, then it can lead to inflammation that affects the brain stem function and the cranial nerve function. Altered cranial nerve function can cause an abnormal suck/swallow/breath pattern or affect how the tongue and jaw move to latch and suckle. Upper cervical misalignment can also lead to tight musculature and fascia in the upper neck. This can cause the baby not to be able to open their mouth as wide or hold a latch through the whole suck swallow breath rhythm.

Cranial Alignment

Cranial alignment and movement is very important as well. Proper occipital movement on the atlas allows for the baby to be able to tip and rotate his head optimally to find the nipple and latch. Proper temporal bone motion affects the range of motion of the jaw. The Jaw attaches into the temporal bone so if the temporal bone is not moving the way it is supposed to or it is stuck in an abnormal position it affects how the mandible is able to move in the TMJ and it may get stuck or tight while trying to open in order to latch. Altered temporal motion or positioning can lead to tight fascia or muscles that cross the TMJ. This again can pull the mandible to one side or pull the mandible into the joint too much so it can’t rotate and pivot the way it needs to in order to open fully. Altered maxillary shape and movement can affect how well the baby is able to latch or maintain a latch. The bottom of the maxilla forms the hard palate. If the palate is too high or too flat, it can make it harder for the baby to maintain a proper seal when trying to latch and suckle. The Maxilla should be a smooth semicircle from one side of the gum line to the other. Often times one side will be flat or there will be a ridge or a peak in the center of the palate which will all indicate that the maxilla is not shaped properly or moving properly.

Connective Tissue

One aspect that will affect all the cranial bones as well as whole body movement and flexibility is the dural tightness. The dura is the connective tissue that attaches from the surface of the nervous system to the surface of the skull, sacrum, and vertebrae. Most times tightness in this system is associated with the findings of a tongue and lip tie. This tightness will present as a very stiff baby. He won’t want to flex forward or droop his head toward his chest. He often is stiff and straight through the mid and upper back and down through the sacrum. He often times has shrugged shoulders and can have a tendency to arch his back often. If a child is stiff and inflexible, this is going to make it more difficult for them to relax their jaw and open wide enough for a proper deep latch. If a baby is tight and stiff and anxious trying to nurse, then typically it makes the experience quite a bit harder. Babies who are stiff like this also usually have fascial restrictions through their neck, upper back, shoulders, often down through their sacrum and hips. Again, a baby who is tight and ridged is not going to move comfortably to get in an optimal position to open their mouth wide and achieve a proper latch and suck swallow pattern.

Lip and Tongue Tie

One of the biggest issues that is more and more prevalent today is newborns with a lip and tongue tie. I have done a whole blog post on just this topic if you want more information (here). But here is some basics. With a tongue tie there is extra tissue or tighter tissue underneath the tongue that is restricting the upward motion of the tongue. It affects other movements as well but mainly the upward motion of the back of the tongue. This means that they can’t bring the back of the tongue up to form a seal on the breast. This leads to the baby needing to alter his tongue movement to try to transfer milk. This altered movement is linked with altered throat movement during swallowing, so the suck swallow breath pattern is altered. This can lead to babies clicking while nursing, scraping the nipple with their tongue, swallowing air leading to reflux and colic. Tongue ties also cause restriction in the connective tissue throughout the jaw, throat and neck which affects how they open, latch, suck, swallow, etc.

Lip ties are additional tight tissue that connects the lip to the upper gum line. This will affect maxillary movement and shape as well as affecting how wide the baby can open his mouth to latch. Often you will notice you have to flip his upper lip up or there will be a blister that starts to form at the middle of his lip.

Chiropractic Care

All of these issues can be helped by a chiropractor. Chiropractors can help align the upper cervical spine and cranial bones. A chiropractor proficient in craniosacral therapy can help stretch the dural tissue and establish proper cranial movement. Chiropractors that utilize CST usually know how to do myofascial release or bodywork to help loosen the tissue restrictions throughout the head, neck, jaw, throat, shoulders, upper back, rib cage, sacrum, and hips. They can also release and loosen the tight tissue of a tongue and lip tie to help improve tongue movement. Chiropractors can also align the TMJ itself and make sure that the surrounding soft tissue and muscles are released and relaxed so that the baby can open his mouth wide and have a better latch. Chiropractic care is essential to help babies have optimal spinal, cranial, TMJ and whole-body motion. Chiropractic care allows the baby to be as relaxed and loose as possible to be able to move his head neck and tongue as freely as possible to achieve a proper latch and breastfeed affectively.

Anatomy of an Ear Infection

An ear infection is one of the most common childhood conditions. Many of those children who develop an ear infection typically end up developing many more subsequent infections. The mainstream medical treatment for an ear infection is a round of antibiotics. Unfortunately, when a child continues to develop ear infections, the treatment does not change. The only change comes in the strength of the antibiotic. It can be frustrating to put your child through one round of antibiotics after another in hopes that they will somehow stop developing ear infections. The good news is that there is another approach that can have amazing results without the use of medications. This article will explore the anatomy of an ear infection and how chiropractic can help end the cycle of infections and antibiotics.

Anatomy

Here is a picture that shows the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The external auditory meatus, or ear canal is part of your outer ear. This is the canal where you develop ear wax. Ear wax is part of the immune system. It is a good thing. You will find more when your immune system is active and trying to protect the body. When the immune system fights off the threat and is less active then the wax is resorbed without any problems.  Next, there is the tympanic membrane, or the eardrum. This is a thin membrane that vibrates when sound enters the ear. The vibration then causes three little bones in your middle ear to vibrate and transmit this vibration to the cochlear nerve so you hear sound. The middle ear also has the semicircular canals that are part of your vestibular system. These canals are filled with fluid and the shifting of this fluid helps you to sense where you are in space. Proper stimulation of these canals allows you to have good balance. While abnormal stimulation of the canals can lead to vertigo. The middle ear then drops into the eustachian tube. This cartilaginous tube opens to your pharynx, right behind your soft palate. The eustachian tubes help you equalize pressure within your ear so you can hear properly and the fluid in your semicircular canals can move and function properly. The outer ear and middle ear are mostly surrounded by bone and fascia. As you move further inward towards the inner ear and the eustachian tube there is more soft tissue and fascia as well as several muscles that attach to and surround the eustachian tube. There are four muscles that attach to the eustachian tube, but two are mostly responsible for opening the eustachian tube during swallowing. These muscles of the soft palate are the tensor veli palatini and the levator veli palatini. The former is innervated by cranial nerve 5 and the later cranial nerve 10, the vagus nerve.

Infection

Most ear infections that you are going to have are in the middle ear, behind the eardrum. You can see in the first picture that there is a little pocket behind the eardrum where fluid can build up and provide an environment for bacteria, virus or fungus to grow. (It is important to note that most ear infections have a viral and bacterial component.) Typically the middle ear does not have fluid in it. Any fluid would drain down the eustachian tube into the throat so there would not be any environment for an infection to occur. However sometimes the eustachian tube can not equalize pressure effectively and fluid builds up. This occurs more often in the early years of childhood because the eustachian tubes start out more horizontal as infants and become more vertical as you grow.

There are several things that can lead to this build up of fluid. One is a misalignment in the upper cervical spine. Misalignment causes inflammation in the joints of the spine as well as in the muscles and soft tissue that attach to the bones that are misaligned and not moving properly. This inflammation can press in on the eustachian tubes making it harder for them to drain fluid from the middle ear. Another cause can be a lack of proper motion in the cranial bones. Cranial bones surround the ear canal and eustachian tube. The cranial bones move in a rhythmic motion along with the soft tissue that attaches to them. If the cranial bones are not moving, the soft tissue and fascia attached to them lack motion. Therefore fluid is allowed to build up and not drain with the movement of the soft tissue. A more and more prevalent cause for the eustachian tube not being able to drain properly is a tongue tie. Tongue ties affect the soft tissue within the mouth and throat. Tongue ties affect the natural resting position of the tongue as well as the fascial tension within the mouth and throat. This altered tongue position and the increased tension in the soft tissue of the throat make it harder for the eustachian tubes to equalize pressure in the middle ear and drain any fluid that may develop there. Cranial nerve dysfunction that typically accompanies a tongue tie also causes soft palate dysfunction as well as dysfunction within the muscular function of the muscles of the pharynx and larynx which includes the muscles that attach to the eustachian tube.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic adjustments can help with all of these things. A spinal adjustment helps align the upper cervical spine and balance the musculature. Cranial work and myofascial release helps improve cranial motion and reduces soft tissue tension allowing for better drainage of the middle ear. Upper cervical adjustments and cranial adjustments also help to stimulate the vagus nerve and improve cranial nerve function so that the musculature of the pharynx, including those that attach to the eustachian tubes, as well as the soft palate can function properly and therefore help the eustachian tube to open, equalize pressure, and drain any fluid from the middle ear. Regular chiropractic adjustments allow the body to function optimally and prevent the development of fluid in the middle ear. Therefore preventing the environment for bacterial, viral, or fungal growth and infection.

Ruptured Eardrum and Tubes

Sometimes when the pressure produced by an infection in the middle ear is too much, the eardrum ruptures. This is ok. There is no cause for alarm. Typically your child will be crying and screaming about how much pain they are in, then all of a sudden they feel fine. This is usually an indication that the eardrum has ruptured. You can look and see if there is fluid or pus coming out of the ear. This is normal. Don’t put anything into the ear, you want to avoid anything that may lead to further infection. Usually I recommend essential oils around the ear or a cotton ball with essential oils placed or taped right on the outside of the ear canal. Usually if the eardrum has ruptured the fluid is not draining down the eustachian tube properly so avoid liquids or oils in the ear. It usually takes a few weeks to fully heal, but when it does you will not even notice that it happened. There is usually not even a scar on the eardrum.

Ear tubes are typically the last resort of typical medical treatment for recurrent ear infections. A small slit is put in the eardrum where a plastic tube is placed. The eardrum then heals around the tube. This allows for air to flow from the outer ear to the middle ear. This allows for better equalization of pressure as well as a possible route for fluid to flow out if it begins to build up. However, unlike the eustachian tube which slants downward to allow gravity to pull fluid down from the middle ear, the outer ear is higher than the middle ear and fluid would have to flow upward to drain out of the middle ear. Therefore, if the eustachian tubes are still blocked or not draining, fluid can still pool in the middle ear and provide the environment for infection. Tubes are also foreign plastic to the body. This means that eventually the body will reject the tubes and they will fall out. Typically tubes last only a few years at best before the body pushes them back out. Therefore, even with tubes, chiropractic care is still necessary to allow for proper function of the eustachian tube, pharynx and all the surrounding soft tissue, connective tissue and bone.

Torticollis

Torticollis is a fairly common condition that babies, toddlers, even adults can get. This condition is characterized by tightening of the musculature of the neck to cause the head to rotate one direction and tilt slightly to the opposite direction. All children that present with this condition do not all present identical.  In some children the head is very restricted in rotation and will only look one direction. In other children the head prefers one rotation but can more easily be rotated the other way. These variations have to do with the degree of spinal misalignment, cranial misalignment and muscular and fascial tension.

Standard medical treatment usually consists of simply stretching the muscles and forcing the head the opposite direction. While this can help to loosen some of the muscles in the neck, it is not an optimal treatment and can lead to a lot of distress for you and your child. Torticollis is not just tight muscles on one side of the neck.  There are always spinal misalignments in the upper cervical spine along with altered cranial bone movement and fascial tightness. These things cannot be stretched away. A chiropractor needs to perform an adjustment to mobilize the upper cervical spine and do cranial adjusting and myofascial release to loosen the connective tissue and muscles while establishing proper cranial movement and position. Bodywork and fascial release is an important part of therapy that is not the same as stretching. The connective tissue in the body is not released by stretching. It is released by a light touch that helps to unwind the connective tissue to loosen it. Adults need the same care as well, if they develop torticollis. Stretching may help it feel better or a little looser for a little while, but the root of the problem is not being addressed.

Some children have this issue resolve in one or two visits to the chiropractor, some need more regular treatment to resolve all of the underlying issues. Often times there are complicating issues such as a tongue and lip tie or plagiocephaly that will require a longer duration of care. Torticollis can lead to altered head shape or plagiocephaly, difficulty nursing, digestive issues, reflux, irritability, colic, etc. It is important to correct torticollis as soon as you realize that your baby is looking toward one side more often. The longer it goes on, the longer it may take to correct all of the additional issues that arise.

Torticollis is a serious condition that needs to be addressed. However, it is a condition that can easily be corrected if you visit a good pediatric chiropractor. Certified pediatric chirorpactors look at the whole picture and address all the issues associated with the torticollis; the spinal misalignments, cranial misalignments, and muscular and fascial restrictions.