Children develop 65% of their nervous system within the first year of life and 80% by the time they are two years old.
A very common question I receive fairly often is “Can chiropractic help my child with this?” My response is typically yes – chiropractic care can likely help with a number of childhood concerns. More and more parents are asking about chiropractic care for their children, as they hear anecdotal stories and read research of how chiropractic care helps with the symptoms of colic, reflux, allergies, ear infections, etc. As I talk with parents about how adjustments help common concerns, many parents are still surprised to hear the many benefits of chiropractic care for newborns and wellness care for children. I’ve found that a quick explanation of how chiropractic works helps families understand why regular adjustments are important for developing children and for taking a wellness approach to the family’s health.
Chiropractors are doctors that work to optimize the health and function of the nervous system. They achieve this by performing an adjustment to restore motion and balance to the spine, which frees the nervous system from interference. “Interference” is what we call it when nerves restricted or otherwise negatively affected by misalignment or subluxation – this disrupts the signal the body receives and sends via those nerves. When the nervous system is free of interference then many of the symptoms of disease dissipate because the body is able to heal itself and function properly. The adjustment delivered by the chiropractor can come in many forms. There are many techniques that can be utilized to restore optimal health to the nervous system. Many chiropractors will cater to each patient in order to give them the type of adjustment that will best suit them and help achieve optimal function. This is true in the case of adjusting children, infants and newborns. The same force that a chiropractor may utilize to adjust an adult patient is not the same force they will use to adjust your newborn baby. Chiropractors trained through the ICPA (International Chiropractic Pediatric Association) have been trained on how to properly and safely adjust a newborn, infant and older child. Chiropractors normally will use just the tip of their finger to place light pressure on the vertebrae of a newborn (typically as little pressure as you can place on your eye comfortably). These 6-8 ounces of pressure is enough to realign an infant’s spine and restore optimal nervous system health. There is never any rotating or twisting of the baby’s neck or back. It is a very gentle and safe process. There have been studies performed that have proven the safety of chiropractic care for children. The most recent published study stated the following in the discussion:
“Of 1161 clinical cases presenting the gamut of both non-musculoskeletal and musculoskeletal complaints, less than one percent reported minor adverse events spanning 10, 249 office visits. Sixty-six percent reported improvements in their presenting complaints while another 8% reported improvements unrelated to their presenting complaints.”1
But why would a newborn need chiropractic care? Well, just like any other person, newborns and children experience a variety of stress on their bodies and nervous system. Initially, babies can experience physical stress in utero from obtaining a less than optimal position (transverse, breech, asynclitic, ect.). They also experience the pressure and force of contractions and the trauma of the birth process. Many babies have their head pulled during a Cesarean section or a vacuum or forceps extraction. But even a completely natural birth with no interventions is a very stressful event for an infant with an immature nervous system. One study by G. Gutmann stated that 80 % of newborns, out of one thousand examined, had nervous system dysfunction. Another by V. Fryman, which examined 1,250 five-day-old babies, showed that 95% had misalignments in their neck. Children develop 65% of their nervous system within the first year of life and 80% by the time they are two years old. It is important to have a newborn checked by a chiropractor to ensure that their nervous system is free of interference and can develop and grow in an optimal state. When the nervous system is functioning optimally, children are able to focus and learn better, digest and absorb nutrients from food better, and they spend less time expressing illness because of a fully functioning immune system. The nervous system controls the function of every cell, tissue and organ in the body. Therefore, if a child has interference that is not detected and corrected by a chiropractor, they may develop symptoms later in childhood such as colic, reflux, allergies, ear infections, fussiness during tummy time, breastfeeding difficulties, sleeping difficulties, and many others.
As children grow and get older it is a good idea to have them checked at milestones or after any experienced trauma or accident. When a baby learns to sit up, crawl and walk, there are different stresses place on the spine, which could lead interference to develop in the nervous system. Many children have falls on the playground or are in the car during a motor vehicle accident and should be checked to make sure that they are functioning properly and their nervous system is working optimally. Children today are eating a lot more processed foods that lack nutrition. This exposure to the different chemicals in their food can lead to imbalance in the body and interference in the nervous system. Chiropractors can help remove the imbalance in the body and also guide parents to help them make healthier decisions for their children. Many Chiropractors who work with children and families are more holistically inclined and can help improve the overall health of the family children. Families that are visiting the chiropractor regularly benefit from his or her expertise in wellness – chiropractors take numerous courses in nutrition and healthy living.
The immediate result of chiropractic is to remove interference to the nervous system through use of the chiropractic adjustment and allow the body to function better, but the long-term effects and goal is to help adults, children and families live healthier, happier lives.
1) Alcantara, Joel BSc, DC, Kunz, Derek BS Ohm, Jeanne, DC. (2009, September). The Safety and Effectiveness of Pediatric Chiropractic: A Survey of Chiropractors and Parents in a Practice-Based Research Network Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.http://www.explorejournal.com/article/S1550-8307(09)00207-9/fulltext
2) Siddle, Belinda D.C. (2008, June). Chiropractic Care for Children. Pathways to Family Wellness. http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/component/option,com_crossjoomlaarticlemanager/Itemid,271/aid,1461/view,crossjoomlaarticlemanager/
3) (2009, Winter). Adjusting to a New Life. Pathways to Family Wellness.http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/component/option,com_crossjoomlaarticlemanager/Itemid,164/aid,1824/view,crossjoomlaarticlemanager/
*While most chiropractors are taught how to adjust children in the standard doctorate program, the International Pediatric Chiropractic Association offers an extensive diplomate training and certification program. To ensure that your choice of chiropractor is optimally prepared to adjust each member of your family, ask if they are ICPA trained or certified, or check out icpa4kids.org’s directory.