A majority of our practice members are actually children. Often times people are confused by this. Why would you adjust a newborn? What does an adjustment on a baby or child look like? Babies don't have back pain, why would they go to a chiropractor?
TRACTIONAL FORCES TO THE NECK DURING BIRTH
A common misconception is that babies are born as healthy as they will ever be: a blank slate. But this is not the case. The birthing process is very traumatic. A scientific study was completed to see how much trauma a baby went through in a routine vaginal birth. What they found was astonishing! They found that during the process of birth, the babies neck will undergo anywhere from 20-60 pounds of tractional force. As the babies head crowns and is exposed, the head is put into rotation and laterally flexed before applying a "pulling" force to expose the shoulder. This amount of force is more than enough to cause severe subluxations. The most common subluxation during the birthing process is a misalignment of the top bone in the neck, called the atlas.
When I first saw this study, the amount of force was hard for me to grasp. What I did was compare the amount of force on the babies neck to that of an average adult. If this amount of force was applied, proportionally, to a 160 pound adult, it would be equivalent to 1,200 pounds of tractional force!
WHAT DOES AN ADJUSTMENT ON A BABY LOOK LIKE?
An adjustment on a baby or child is very different than an adjustment on an adult. When adjusting a baby we do not thrust to make the adjustment. We instead use something called sustained contact. After identifying the areas of the spine that need to be adjusted a sustained force is applied to the vertebra in the direction of correction. The amount of force used is comparable to the amount of force you would use to check a fruit for ripeness or the amount of force you would feel comfortable placing on your eyelid. These adjustments are so gentle, often times babies sleep through them.
WHAT CONDITIONS HAVE YOU HELPED WITH?
When I talk about adjusting newborns and children, people almost always ask, "what have you been able to help with?" A few common things that we have seen in newborns over and over again in this office are breast feeding issues, colic, and ear infections.
Breast feeding issues are very common. Often times we see a child that can easily feed on one side, but has problems when switching to the other side. The reason for this is very simple: the baby cannot easily rotate their head in both directions. This is because the atlas is responsible for 80% of the rotation of the cervical spine. The atlas also happens to be the most common misalignment during the birthing process. Once the proper biomechanics of the atlas vertebra are restored, the baby can then rotate their head in both directions and feed on both sides.
Colic is an interesting term used for newborns. It is most commonly used to describe a baby that is generally irritable and fussy. In fact, most issues with colic are due to digestive issues including constipation or gas. Again, we look to the nervous system to find the cause of these issues and again we come to the atlas vertebra. There is a very important nerve in our body called the vagus nerve. This nerve wanders through the body from vital organ to vital organ including the digestive organs. The vagus nerve travels through a structure called the carotid sheath which passes just in front of the atlas. When the atlas misaligns, it puts pressure on this structure and can cause a number of issues including colic. And for all of us that have had children, colic sucks. Colic leads to the baby being uncomfortable and not sleeping which leads to the parents not sleeping. Often times people get upset when I tell them about this because, "no one ever told me that a chiropractor could help with colic! We just suffered through it!"
In an earlier post I covered the issue of ear infections in great detail. Again, we look to the atlas as the cause of the problem. Children already have Eustachian tubes that are oriented in a more horizontal position than adults. This leads to the ears not draining efficiently. In addition, the misaligned atlas causes issues with a muscle that controls the draining of the ears called the tensor veli palatini. These two factors together create the perfect conditions for an infection of the ear to take place. As a child that suffered from chronic ear infections, this is a topic that I am very passionate about. Every child should be checked and adjusted to reduce the chances of getting an ear infection.
TAKE ACTION AND SHARE THIS INFORMATION
In our office we have a saying, "as the twig bends, the tree grows." This means that healthy kids grow into healthy adults and vice versa. We take our children to the primary care physician for "wellness checks", and we take them to the dentist to get their teeth checked, why not take them to the chiropractor to have the most important structure, the nervous system, checked?
Give your children the best start in life and set the example of proactive health by taking them to the chiropractor. Don't wait until something is wrong to go to your chiropractor. Prevent these things from ever happening by being proactive!