Did you know that chiropractic is the number one choice of complimentary care by parents for their kids? (National Center for Health Statistics 2018). Chiropractic care is now mainstream, with 30-40% of Canadians going to a chiropractor some time in their life (Journal of chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2017). In light of the growing opioid crisis (yes! Kids get prescribed opioids too!), chiropractic is being recommended by Health Canada and the US Department of Health & Human Services for musculoskeletal conditions. 95% of users of chiropractic services state that chiropractic is effective for treatment of their neck and back pain. But do these statistics have anything to do with healthy kids?
What conditions would kids have for parents to bring them to see a chiropractor? Amongst babies, parents frequently bring them to a chiropractor if they have torticollis or have difficulty turning head to one side or another. Babies may experience excess strain on the neck during the birth process (it’s not only the labouring mom that feels pain) and this can affect their ability to nurse, or cause ongoing discomfort, like colic, gastrointestinal issues or poor sleep. Even in the absence of symptoms, some parents bring their babies in for a check-up. Then there are the accidents, like a baby falling off a change table, sofa, or bed. It happens.
Toddlers are notorious for getting themselves into trouble. Learning to stand, walk, run, climb and play naturally involves bumps, bruises, falls and scrapes. If their bodies become misaligned from these incidences, it will take more effort to develop balance, coordination, agility and strength. There are a great many developmental milestones in this short time period of time. Each developmental growth spurt (physical ability, new tooth, cognitive leap, change in height, emotional awareness, verbal ability) is a challenge to the child’s nervous system. Normal side effects of the child undergoing these necessary stresses can include fussiness/irritability, weakened immune system, fatigue, restlessness, clinginess or changes to appetite. Wellness-minded parents find extra chiropractic care at these times brings comfort to their children. What chiropractors know is that the growth spurts create added stress on the nervous system. The chiropractic adjustments help the nervous system manage these stresses better so there is a smoother transition.
The preschool years (3 to 5 years old) are when kids are on a serious journey of discovery. Sports, independent activities, simple self-care, curiosity, and limits… especially limits and boundaries. What can I do? How much can I handle? What will my parents let me get away with? How do I do this? Why can’t I do this? What happens when I do this? Mistakes are bound to happen, as are errors in judgement, hurt feelings, not to mention the development of new and better skills, abilities and discernment. It’s really an exciting time with explosive nervous system and brain development. With everything happening at an accelerated rate, the hurts, stress, frustrations, challenges and celebrations are magnified compared to before. Chiropractic care now can help undo any interference to the nervous system while it is fresh. This way, the body doesn’t have to grow in a distorted manner and the brain doesn’t get into the habit of distorted thinking.
The school years are when kids have the pressure of meeting a myriad of expectations… expectations of social behaviours, following rules, conforming to their peers, academic and athletic performance. Then, there’s the added stress of dramatic physical development (hello, hormones?) and emotional maturation. When kids don’t fall into the narrow (often arbitrary) ranges of expectations, they can get shamed, punished or ostracized by other kids, teachers and caregivers. This is when many kids first get labelled, for better or for worse. Chiropractic care can help kids manage the stresses of changing expectations, abilities and challenges during this time, including internal changes with puberty and growing up. As kids push themselves harder in sports, injuries and strains become inevitable. As school work becomes more challenging, kids find that chiropractic care helps with their concentration, memory, and understanding. Girls getting regular chiropractic care also express improvement with reduced menstrual cramps and PMS.
More importantly (arguably) is how kids feel more relaxed and at ease when they get regular chiropractic care at any age. A child that’s comfortable is less likely to exhibit anxiety, anger issues, depression, withdrawal or fussiness. If chiropractic can have such benefits for healthy kids, imagine how a troubled child (or adult) could benefit from a properly-working nervous system? The point is that there is no life without stress (unless you’re in a coma, but that’s not really living). There is stress we can handle, and stress that we can’t, either because it’s overwhelming all at once, builds up insidiously overtime, or we’re not resilient enough to handle regular amounts of stress. Instead of waiting until the nervous system can no longer compromise to handle the stress of accumulated injuries or hurts, you can have the option of healing your nervous system so you can better manage life’s stresses.
How does chiropractic help in so many different ways? Is there a specific treatment for reversing hurt feelings, and another for sore knees, and yet another for constipation? Not exactly. In terms of biomechanics, physical misalignment (subluxations) of the spine and joints can affect motion, weight bearing, balance and coordination. This misalignment is often (but not always) accompanied initially with swelling and pain, and then with arthritic damage to the joint over time. Because muscles are attached to bone, they can also be affected by, or create joint misalignment. Reversing the subluxation is the goal of chiropractic treatments, and repeating the process as much as is needed to stabilize in the proper position, even in the face of ongoing stresses.
When it comes to organs, it helps to know something about neuro-anatomy. Nerves link the brain to the organs via the spinal cord. Nerves exit the spine between segments of the spine to reach their designated organs. Subluxations of the spine can irritate, pinch or pull the highly sensitive nerve roots and affect the flow of nerve impulses along that nerve, thus increasing, decreasing or completely shutting off the flow. The result could be that the organ is hypersensitive (normal sounds become painfully loud), overactive (excess stomach acid), slow to respond (delayed reflexes), underactive (numbness), ineffective (heart flutter), unpredictable (irregular menstrual periods), or malfunctioning (autoimmune problems). Nature has designed us to have nerves from multiple levels of the spine control vital organs and systems of the body. Therefore, for a problem to progress to a disease state, it’s most likely that more than one level of the spine is in a state of subluxation.
How about emotions, mental state and learning? How does chiropractic impact these areas? People tend to forget that your brain is made up of nerves. We have all the nerve cells (neurons) in our brains that we’ll ever have, before we’re even born. As we live and learn, we make connections between those neurons in the brain, and between our brain and body. Neurons that aren’t connected to others will shrivel up and die. (“Use it or lose it”) Connections and nerve activity are driven by input to the brain and thoughts created in the brain. Actually, 99% of brain activity is related to motion and most of that input is coming from the spine itself. Our ability to locomote is what defines us as animals. That means only 1% is dedicated to thoughts and emotions, including intellectual learning. In order to maximize our ability to think, learn and feel, our motor function, coordination, and balance need to be so easy we don’t need to think about it. How do we do this? First, we need to develop our motor skills through lots of repetition and training, starting when we are very young. This means that from the time we are babies, we feel and recognize motion (babywearing and floor time versus strollers and car seats). Once toddlers can get around, this is their default use of time. Walking, running, climbing, manipulating things with their bodies… basically anything but staying still in front of a screen. Children still need lots of motion. They learn best when incorporating their whole bodies, rather than sitting still. Even adults get lethargic without motion. They definitely get decrepit (and crabby) without enough movement. Chiropractic care maximizes the amount of input to the brain… correct signals, rather than incorrect signals or static, so your brain and body can think and operate with the greatest ease, efficiency and efficacy.
Is good health, happiness, development, connection and success academically and athletically important to you? If so, chiropractic care ought to be part of your regular routine. Want to learn more about the role of chiropractic in family wellness? Please call or email our office about attending our next free 90-minute New Patient Orientation. You can also get a free Baseline Health Assessment for your children in our office ($325 for adults) to find out their level of nerve distress and recommendations for a fabulous quality of life.