Chiropractic Care for Babies
Can Visiting a Chiropractor Benefit Small Children?
by Lisa A. Goldstein
When Christine Anthony’s chiropractor clinic learned that she had a daughter, they wanted her to bring her in to be checked. Anthony, an Evanston, Ill., resident, wanted to believe that the clinic was good intentioned and not just trying to get business since they seemed on the level. She resisted a while, but eventually gave in.
Her daughter’s X-rays came back showing a slight curve in her spine – Anthony could actually see it. The clinic’s recommendation was that her daughter get adjustments once a week. “I don’t know how realistic and beneficial chiropractic care is for babies, toddlers and kids,” Anthony says. “Is it better to wait until they are full grown or is there really good evidence out there that early chiropractic care can really help kids be healthier?”
Based on an American Chiropractic Association Report, there were an estimated 20 million pediatric visits in the 1980s. In 1998, there were an estimated 30 million pediatric visits annually. Last year, utilizing these estimates and based on a study by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), Dr. Joel Alcantara, ICPA research director, estimated approximately 68 million pediatric visits annually. Since this was derived from a study done by ICPA members, there is some bias, admits Jeanne Ohm, ICPA executive coordinator, because they know their members see a greater amount of children annually than the average chiropractor.
Still, these results clearly show that it is common for children to receive chiropractic care. Furthermore, this care is safe. The ICPA presented preliminary results of their Practiced Based Research Network, listing three improvements with care noted by both doctors and parents involved in the survey:
Attitudes and behavior
Immune system function
“Starting care at the beginning of pregnancy is the best way to assure an optimal growth environment with optimal neurological supply and nutritional exchange,” says Dr. Gregg Stern, a national board certified diplomate at Chiropractic Pediatric Maternity & Family Wellness Care in Buffalo Grove, Ill. In other words, there’s no such thing as being too young.
Dr. Stern says an immediate nervous system exam after birth or within the first few days is optimal, as labor and delivery can be traumatic, even more so when interventions are used and even more with a Cesarean section. He has a schedule of periodic checkups that correlate with the child’s development and changes in the spinal development:
Stage I: Within 48 hours of the birth process
Stage II: 2-month exam – child is lifting head up
Stage III: 6-month exam – child is sitting on his/her own
Stage IV: 8-month exam – child is crawling
Stage V: 11-month exam – child is starting to walk
The nerve system is the master control system of the body, says Dr. Stern, and a well-functioning one combined with good lifestyle habits can handle stressors. But for most people their nerve system becomes overwhelmed, causing subluxation, dysfunction in the spinal joints causing pressure onto the nerves and interfering with proper information flow along the nerves.
“Kids not only have their own stressors, but they also experience the stressors in the home and the poor lifestyle habits of the parents,” Dr. Stern says. “When a child starts getting adjusted, their nerve system gets cleared of the interference and starts to function properly again, passing the appropriate messages for proper immune responses, healing, growth and development, mental acuity, physical performance…”
“I can tell you, in my expert opinion, that every single child that has entered my office with asthma, ear infections, eczema, digestive problems, bed wetting, sleep problems, among many others, has seen a tremendous response to chiropractic care,” says Dr. Marc Gottlieb, a chiropractor in San Diego, Calif. “It is simple neurology.”
Addressing the issue of ear infections, every child that Dr. Gottlieb has checked with ear infections has had Vertebral Subluxation Complex in the upper part of their neck – this is when one or more vertebrae shift out of their normal position due to physical, chemical or emotional stress and pressure is created on the corresponding nerve root. Depending on where the nerve is in their spinal column, it creates a disturbance to the central nervous system and the corresponding cells, tissues and organs that nerve innervates. By adjusting the upper cervical spine in children, it allows proper flow of the lymph system and muscles relax, allowing the fluid to drain normally, stopping the infections.
“Another huge benefit to receiving care early in life is that their spinal condition has not been there as long as an adult, thus allowing children to respond much faster to care,” Dr. Gottlieb says.
In the case of Anthony’s daughter, it would make sense to fix the curve early on, because like a tree growing crookedly, “It is much easier to ‘retrain’ its growth as a sapling rather than waiting until it becomes larger and more firmly set in its deviation” says Dr. Jeanne Ohm, a chiropractor in Philadelphia, Pa.
Shellie Ver Meer of Laguna Hills, Calif., used chiropractic care early on in her sons’ lives. If either of her sons had a fever, she would take them right to the chiropractor. “I could absolutely time it,” she says. “Within 20 minutes of their adjustment, usually the time it took to drive home, their fever would be gone. After we got back home, I retook their temperature, and it was gone. They got over their colds and flu in at least half the time as normal, and ridding them of their fever was the beginning to healthier boys.”
Minor aches and pains can be experienced at first when lactic acid is released and as the old dysfunctional body patterns start to change into more functional patterns, Dr. Stern says.
“The amount of force used to adjust an infant and child is nothing compared to that used on an adult,” Dr. Ohm says. “For infants, picture the amount of pressure it would take to touch a ripe tomato before it would go through the skin of the tomato. Very often, infants will peacefully sleep through their adjustments.”
Dr. Gerry Clum, president of Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, Calif., and spokesperson for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, says his favorite method of adjusting a child is to have Mom lie on an adjusting table on her back and place her baby or small child on her chest. The child is happy and comfortable, and Mom has a direct sense and awareness of the amount of force that is being applied to the child’s spine. “It [is] a win-win-win situation!” he says.
Dan Thompson has had his 9 1/2-month-old son adjusted since birth – not because he had subluxations or curvature in his neck or spine – but rather as an agent for healthy growth and development. At this point, the Bradford, N.H., resident is planning to continue Caleb’s chiropractic care throughout his childhood, though it will eventually be his decision on whether or not to continue. “Chiropractic care seems to be a widely misunderstood practice,” Thompson says. “It’s a matter of putting the pieces together (no pun intended).
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