Getting chiropractic help for your child
I did not grow up in a “chiropractic family”. I don’t think I even really thought twice about the word or profession until I was part way through my Kinesiology degree, and a student from a chiropractic college came to speak to our SFU Pre-Med group. Her description of Chiropractic medicine treating the source of many nerve, muscle, and spine problems deeply resonated with me. You could say that day changed my life, and those of all the thousands of lives I have had the privilege to touch since graduating 20 years ago.
One of the most surprising ways I have found I am able to serve my community is through my pediatric practice. I don’t think the book-wise Dr. Angela Macdonald understood quite how far-reaching her impact could be from the newborn, to the constant texting teenager, to the elite high school athlete (the last two are not mutually exclusive by the way). As my career progressed, I began to understand the quote, “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree”.
Let’s start with the tiniest of twigs: the newborn. Birth is a miraculous and awe inspiring event but can sometimes be physically traumatic to a baby. Many times the trauma is not enough to require medical attention but is enough to give the infant pain. A headache or sore back can sometimes be the cause of colic and is so easily assessed by a chiropractor comfortable with treating newborns.
If you have ever been to a chiropractor, you know that as the chiropractor palpates (feels) your spine, you both know that “that’s the spot”. Post-delivery, if there is a chiropractic problem when palpating the baby’s spine, it’s much the same and we know that “that’s the spot”. I’ve seen babies go from wailing to fast asleep right in my arms from the instant relief. It is wonderful to give the baby the relief, but just as wonderful to give the parents the relief (and the sleep!)
How to know if a baby might be in need of chiropractic care
Two indicators to look for that may indicate chiropractic care can help are, breast preference (they are more comfortable turning their head in one direction) and discomfort in their car seat or lying on their back (especially if combined with gassiness).
Some moms and dads will choose to bring their newborns in for a wellness check, making sure the “twig” is good to go. Sometimes little things to correct are found, but often it is simply a great chance to get reassurance that their baby’s spine feels fantastic. Assuming there are no concerns (falls off of change tables or overly aggressive big brother hugs), the next check-up should be when they begin to crawl, as the spinal curves begin to change at that point.
From the get go, parents should try to limit the time in the car seat to just the car or when needed (hey, I understand, I am a mom too). This is because one of the first things we want happening is for babies to explore the length of their body and naturally get away from a fetal position. When they are strong enough, “tummy time” is nature’s way of strengthening their posterior chain muscles and is strongly encouraged.
Another common concern with infants is chronic ear infections. Like colic, this is a problem that can have multiple causes (food allergies being another concern to rule out). When we get an infection, our bodies or antibiotics do a good job of killing the invading bacteria, and all that’s left of this interaction should be drained away by the lymph system. There are two challenges with a baby’s ear: their eustachian tubes are still horizontal (as we grow they become more vertical) and the lymph is very collapsible allowing for muscle tension to push up against the vessels, not allowing for the drainage. With these two challenges, there remains a moist, warm, bed for new bacteria to thrive in the inner ear. If a chiropractor can palpate tight muscles in the neck, relax them, and restore efficient movement, it quite often allows for the drainage and breaks the cycle.
The crawling checkup is the perfect time to rectify funky (asymmetrical) crawling patterns (sometimes co-treating with a physiotherapist). The next recommended check is when they start to walk, as again, new curves are created in the spine. All the while confirming symmetry and taking care of the multiple tumbles a toddler inevitably will have.
As kids grow, it is beneficial to keep an eye on their spine and muscle balance especially as they try new sports and activities. It is important to have them take some responsibility for their health and help them learn how to avoid muscle imbalances from happening. From the neck of a flute player to the shoulder of a pitcher to the rotated pelvis of a hockey player, all of these potentials for repetitive injury can be prevented by working with a chiropractor and ensuring the young person does appropriate stretches and exercises specific for their lifestyle, at that moment.
Lately, it has been especially rewarding to help everyone—young and old—under-stand the importance of posture. Changing little habits can make a huge difference in how we look and feel. Confidence in teens is an important issue. As Amy Cuddy says, “Your body language shapes who you are”. Good posture can actually physically change your hormones, so they give more confidence. Teens also often complain of being tired, possibly due to how much less oxygen we get when we are slouched. Proper posture is an empowering thing.
I think of all the adults that I treat who “just have always had a bad hip” or “it just goes out really bad like this every once in awhile”, and wonder if the twig had been gently guided, would the tree be suffering so much?
In my mind, it is all about living our best lives, and if there is a chance to not let back and neck pain get in the way of that, then that is pretty exciting stuff.
Need to help your child’s posture?
- Get them to pretend they have a helium balloon attached to their head, and it is pulling them up.
- When they sit, have them pretend they have a tail off their tailbone and make sure they don’t sit “on it”, instead, flick it out behind them. It is much harder to slouch when seated this way.
- Get your kids to pretend there is a balloon behind their shoulder blades, when they take a breath in, feel the balloon fill you up and lift you taller, when you “let the air out of the balloon”, try to stay just as tall.
- Play the tissue dance game. Every child places a tissue on his or her head. As the music starts, the children begin dancing. Parents should encourage as much movement as possible. The goal is for the children to keep the tissues on their heads as they dance. If it falls off, the child can grab it and place it back on his or her head, but if it touches the ground, the child is out. The last child left dancing wins!
How to read a tweet
Did you know that your head weighs 10 pounds? For every inch it is forward of your body you add an additional 10 pounds. So, if you are slouched forward reading those tweets on your phone, your neck muscles are holding up 50-60 pounds! Ouch! Protect your neck while texting: tuck your elbows into your sides and bring the phone up to eye level.
Dr. Macdonald is a chiropractor practising in Maple Ridge, BC. She is also the creator of “The Posture Project”, a social media soap box to let the masses know how to grow and live and play without pain holding them back. For more ideas find her on Facebook or on Twitter.
Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley
Erin Rice is a Langley chiropractor who has a practice that focuses on pregnant women and children. Erin has completed post graduate training through the ICPA in techniques that are gentle and effective in caring for her patients. Please visit www.ricechiropractic.ca for more information.
We love helping kids express their fullest potential. Our focus is on relieving nerve distress which might be a factor in issues affecting emotions, behaviour, personality, learning, immune system, and sensory integration, so kids can rest, play and grow!
AltaVie is a holistic, interdisciplinary team that focuses on family health, from pre-conception preparations and pregnancy support to pediatric care and postnatal rehab. We customize our treatment plans for the specific developmental stage and presentation of each patient. Let our chiropractors, registered massage therapists, and registered dietitian facilitate your family’s thriving health experience.