Tag Archives: myofascial

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.

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.