Is Chiropractic Care Appropriate for Children?
When most people think of a typical chiropractic patient they imagine an adult grimacing in pain and holding on to their neck or back. Infants and children are not the first to come to mind yet more and more parents are seeking chiropractic care for their children.
Many common health challenges of infancy and early childhood such as colic, reflux, ear infections or torticollis respond well to chiropractic care. Why is that? First, it’s important to understand what chiropractic is, what it is not and what chiropractors do.
Chiropractic is a unique approach to health. It is natural healing art that is based on the premise that good health depends primarily on a properly functioning nervous system. Everything in your body; every cell, tissue, muscle and organ gets its function from nerve supply. The nervous system is the body’s information super highway, controlling and coordinating every aspect of your body.
The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and a vast network of nerves that go to all parts of the body. The spinal cord runs through the moving bones (vertebrae) known as the spinal column. Improper positioning or alignment of the vertebrae can interfere with the flow of vital communication between your brain and body, resulting in diminished function and ill health. This common source of interference is called a vertebral subluxation. Chiropractors locate and correct these vertebral subluxations in order to restore the integrity of the nervous system. By removing the interference, the body can once again function properly, leading to true health.
What causes subluxations? Vertebral subluxations have many different causes all of which the average individual is exposed to daily. These causes can be described in terms of physical, chemical, and emotional stresses.
Physical stresses can be from slips, falls, minor car accidents, repetitive motions affecting the spine, bad postural habits, improper workstation habits and design, and weak or imbalanced spinal musculature. For babies, toddlers and children the list is longer. The birth process itself can be quite physically stressful or traumatic, learning to crawl and walk, playground mishaps, sports and other activities.
Chemical stresses include poor dietary and nutritional practices, prescription drugs, alcohol use and abuse, and the ingestion of chemical additives and toxins in the foods we eat, air we breathe, and water we drink. Chemicals which are harmful to the body decrease the body's ability to function optimally and reduce the ability to successfully adapt to and withstand internal and external stresses - making us more susceptible to spinal subluxations and the consequences of these subluxations.
Emotional stresses include those of everyday life. Excessive stress or inadequate stress management skills can deplete the body of the ability to sustain normal functions. The impact of emotional stress on physical health is well documented in the medical research and can have devastating effects on the immune system, making the body susceptible to injury, disease and vertebral subluxations.
How can you tell if you or your child has a Vertebral Subluxation?
The only accurate way to determine if you suffer from subluxations is to receive a chiropractic evaluation. However, a number of signs and symptoms are commonly associated with the vertebral subluxation and include:
For babies and toddlers:
Chronic ear infections
For older children and adults:
Neck pain or stiffness
Back pain or stiffness
Dizziness or balance problems
Spinal muscle spasm, tightness or weakness
Reduced spinal mobility
Pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities
Joint pain and stiffness
Poor overall state of health
Poor tissue healing
Individuals who are not currently experiencing pain or other discomforts are not necessarily "subluxation free". Pain is a very poor indicator of disease processes, including the presence of subluxations. Subluxations are similar to cavities in that many times a significant amount of damage is present before symptoms such as pain are felt. This is why we recommend, like your dentist, that individuals seek periodic spinal evaluations to check for the presence of subluxations and other spinal abnormalities, even in the absence of pain.
It is important to realize that chiropractic is not the treatment of any condition. The purpose of chiropractic is to find and reduce stress and interference to the nerve system caused by vertebral subluxation. The human body is a self-healing, self-organizing and self-regulating organism that is constantly adapting and appropriately responding to its environment through the nervous system. Correcting interferences to that process with chiropractic care allows the person to experience greater function and an overall improved quality of life.
Ear infections (otitis media) are the most common illness affecting babies and children and the number one reason for visits to the pediatrician.
What causes ear infections? The Eustachian tube normally drains fluids from the middle ear to the back of the throat. There are 4 tiny muscles that control the ability of the tube to open and close. Malfunction of these muscles may cause pain or affect the normal drainage of the tubes. Fluid back up in the middle ear allows bacteria or viruses to grow and multiply.
How does chiropractic help? A chiropractic examination can identify misaligned vertebrae in the upper neck and base of the skull which can be stressing the nerves that control the muscles of the Eustachian tube. A gentle adjustment can be made which relieves the pressure on the nerve. Normal tone is restored allowing for drainage and avoiding antibiotics or ear tubes.
The cause of bed wetting is not really known or well understood. There are many ideas about possible or likely causes.
The child cannot yet hold urine for the entire night.
The child sleeps so soundly that they don’t wake when bladder is full.
The child produces a large amount of urine during the evening and night hours.
The child has poor daytime toilet habits. Many children habitually ignore the urge to urinate and put off urinating as long as they possibly can.
Structural or anatomical abnormality: An abnormality in the organs, muscles, or nerves involved in urination can cause incontinence or other urinary problems that could show up as bedwetting.
Emotional problems: A stressful home life, as in a home where the parents are in conflict, sometimes causes children to wet the bed. Major changes, such as starting school, a new baby, or moving to a new home, are other stresses that can also cause bedwetting.
Neurological problems: Abnormalities in the nervous system, or injury or disease of the nervous system, can upset the delicate neurological balance that controls urination.
Children with a spinal or neurological cause respond well to chiropractic while those with other causes of bed-wetting don’t always.
To understand this, let’s take a look at the anatomy and physiology. Emptying of the urinary bladder is controlled by the detrusor and trigone muscles. The nerve supply to these muscles is via the sacral parasympathetic nerves from S2 to S4 which exit the cord at the level of the sacrum.
Another nerve reflex called the phrenic reflex may also be involved in bedwetting. As we sleep, our respiration slows down gradually such that we get less oxygen and more carbon dioxide building up in our blood stream. When this level reaches a threshold, our brain activates the phrenic nerve, which goes to the diaphragm and causes you to take a sigh or deep breath. This phenomenon is often observed in people during a deep sleep. In children this reflex is not as well developed (particularly in boys) and so there can be a greater delay in its activation. The increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood causes smooth muscles (such as the muscles that are found in organs and blood vessels) to relax which can lead to a relaxation of the bladder sphincter resulting in bedwetting. This higher level of carbon dioxide in the blood also causes a very deep and heavy sleep state, which parents often find frustrating as they cannot wake the child to go to the bathroom.
The phrenic nerve exits the spine in the neck at the levels of C3, C4 and C5 and passes down the thorax into the diaphragm.
Subluxations/spinal misalignments, at any of these spinal or sacral levels will irritate the nerves interfering with the transmission of signals or nerve impulses to these structures which can lead to dysfunction.
It is worth it for a child with bed-wetting to have their spine evaluated by a chiropractor to determine if spinal problems are the underlying cause
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