A child's nervous system is in a state of constant growth. Newborns, infants, toddlers and school-aged kids all should have their spines checked to ensure the development of an optimal nervous system.
A child’s initial years are crucial for neurological development. 85% of our neurological development occurs in the first 3 years of life. Their spinal column grows 50% in length during the 1st year.
Chiropractic care recognizes the importance of the nervous system and its role in the interpretation of our environment. Your nervous system is involved in every aspect of your life allowing you to successfully adapt and respond to external and internal environments. Research has shown that lack of movement of your spinal joints negatively affects the communication from your body to your brain and your brain to your body. When this occurs in children all sorts of disorders may arise.
There are days we adjust more kids than adults! We love that. Everyday more and more parents are recognizing the importance of proper spinal biomechanics and the role spinal joint motion plays with the nervous system and their family’s overall health. Parents bring their children in to have their spines checked.
Half of our little patients present with no concerns. They are not experiencing any symptoms. Their body is healthy and their parent’s focus is on keeping them well.
The other half of our little patients are brought in with an issue or concern. Something doesn’t seem right. Their body is struggling to be healthy and they communicate the dysfunction with all sorts of symptoms. How do you know if chiropractic care could help? It’s simple. Ask this question;
Is their nervous system involved with the dysfunction? Here is a hint: Yes!
Our nervous systems, which consists of our brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves of the body, is our body’s master computer. It orchestrates and controls everything. As long as our nervous system is able to communicate effectively with every organ, tissue, cell, nook and cranny of us, we should experience the very best health. We call this normal.
Our nervous system is housed within our spine – this is how it stays protected. Subluxations (spinal joints that are not moving properly) interfere with nervous system function. When this happens, our bodies are not able to express normal. This means messages traveling back and forth between the brain and the body become distorted, muffled, send the wrong message, no message.....
Interfere with the nervous system and we interfere with our body’s expression of health. So, if you answered, ‘yes, their nervous system is involved with the dysfunction’, then chiropractic can help.
When we tell people that we care for children and babies, their initial reaction is often one of surprise. “Kids have bad backs?” No, well not many. Kids do have spinal joints that aren’t functioning optimally and this can negatively impact their health.
Parents also find the public’s reaction to them taking their child to a chiropractor entertaining. “You let a chiropractor adjust your child?” Many people assume that we use the same techniques on children that we do on adults. This is not the case. Chiropractic care is ‘tailored’ to the individual and their particular spine, and children are no exception. Adjustments are simple and gentle. Most infants sleep right through their chiropractic adjustment and we have many kids who race their parents to the table so they can get adjusted first.
How can you tell if your child’s spine should be assessed by a chiropractor? Unless a child has an obvious problem it can be difficult for a parent to recognize when a child’s spine is not working correctly. Here are some signs which can indicate spinal problems.
Observing movement and alignment gives us an inside look at neurology and how your child's nervous system is functioning.
We recommend that all infants have their spines checked after birth, ideally within the first month of their life. Even the most seamless labour and delivery can place stress on a baby’s spine and lead to complications down the road. Add in drugs or any other interventions such as vacuum, forceps and C section and the stress placed on a child increases dramatically.
And yes, if you are a Chiropractor committed to caring for children, postgraduate education must be completed. Dr. Lindsay and Dr. Amy are both members of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA). Dr. Lindsay has received her CACCP designation from the ICPA. It is the most recognized and comprehensive program in its field.
I began taking our infant daughter in for chiropractic care a few weeks after she was born. Dr. Lindsay taught me what to be on the lookout for as baby grows and was so gentle with the adjustments that baby hardly noticed. Dr. Lindsay knows how to sooth babies and adapt for their temperament and mood. Her office is very child-friendly so I always feel comfortable and welcome coming in with baby.
My kids love Dr. Lindsay. My son wants to be a chiropractor and plays Dr. Lindsay with us all the time making us lie on the floor while he checks us to make sure we are healthy. I love knowing that their adjustments allow their bodies to heal and for them to grow up as healthy as possible.
We recommend that all infants have their spines checked after birth, ideally within the first month of their life. We call this a Baby Wellness Check. Even the most seamless labour and delivery can place stress on a baby’s spine and lead to complications down the road. Add in drugs or any other interventions such as vacuum, forceps and C section and the stress placed on a child increases dramatically.
The health of an infant’s spine and function of their nervous system plays a large role in setting up the foundation of what the rest of their health will develop from. During the Baby Wellness Check, we will assess your baby’s movement, primitive reflexes, postural symmetries, cranial bone positioning and TMJ alignment.
Any corrections that are made to your child’s spine are fine tuning and allow us to set the stage for a 1st year of optimal neurological development. Check out the importance of reaching these developmental milestones below.
The health of a baby’s spine and function of their nervous system plays a large role in allowing for optimal growth and development. The first year of a child’s life is full of developmental milestones. They are patterns of organized movement specifically designed. Each milestone is preceded and followed by patterns that balance the overall developmental progression. When all of these milestones have been reached, the movement pathways are available and utilized for the physical, emotional and cognitive growth from childhood to adulthood. Ya, it’s a big deal! Here is what the first year looks like;
Not reaching these milestones matters! A child’s first year of life is full of nervous system integration and advancement that sets the stage for their life ahead. Milestones are designed and chronologically placed in this order for a reason. While assessing a child’s development, time is dedicated to educating parents. It is important for us all to understand what normal movement and development is and is not.
Breastfeeding is tough enough all on its own. It’s even more difficult if your baby has difficulty looking one direction, is having a tough time latching or has a problem with their jaw. Chiropractic can help by addressing spinal joints, specifically in an infant’s neck, cranial bones and jaw (TMJ). Chiropractic adjustments improve cranial nerve function (V, VIII, IX, XII) and overall nervous system tone which allows breastfeeding to become much more relaxed and effective.
Tummy time (when your baby rests on their tummy) is an important part of their day. But what if they do not like being in this position? It can make even the smallest amount of tummy time feel like an eternity!
Why is tummy time important?
We are all born in flexion with only 1 spinal curve, the C curve. As a baby begins to control their head movement and spends time on their tummy lifting their head the secondary curve of their neck begins to form and their extension pattern is stimulated. Tummy time is the first milestone in neurological development.
Tummy time gives infants an opportunity to explore their world from a different angle. Shoulder and hip stability begins to develop as they reach and grasp at things. This allows them to gain control of their limbs and progress to more complex movements such as rolling and crawling.
Time spent in tummy time has been known to help with digestion and release any built-up gas. I definitely found this to be true with my son, Wyatt (Dr. Lindsay).
It is recommended that tummy time start early and reach 90 mins by 4 months of age. Don’t worry. This does not need to be all at once and you can move off a hard surface and count tummy time on your chest or across your lap as well. If your baby is older and not getting enough tummy time slowly add in more time and space it out throughout the day.
Chiropractic can help tummy time by addressing spinal joints, specifically in an infant’s neck and pelvis and cranial bones, specifically occiput. Chiropractic adjustments improve spinal movement and muscle tone making tummy time a much more enjoyable experience.
Babies’ heads are soft and malleable. They are designed like this to assist with the birthing process, thank goodness, and they harden as a child grows and develops. More and more parents are bringing their babies into the clinic concerned about how their baby’s head looks. The concern is warranted. The shape of a baby’s head, the tone of their neck muscles and their body’s ability to right itself (hold it up against gravity) impacts their life. Sustained pressure on a baby’s head can quickly change its shape and lead to further problems down the road.
Here we have place head shape asymmetry, plagiocephaly and torticollis together because many times they show up together. Here is a quick reference:
Flat Head Syndrome, Plagiocephaly, Brachycephaly and Head Shape Asymmetry are a catch all. They are all dysfunctions describing that a baby’s head shape is not normal.
Torticollis is present when a muscle on the side of a baby’s neck, called the sternocleidomastoid, is shortened or tightened. This can result in head shape issues because the child has difficulty turning their head in the one direction.
What can cause head shape issues?
Intra-utero constraint. The positioning of the baby inside the mother can have an impact on head shape. Flattening can occur while a baby is still in the mother’s womb. This tends to be more apparent in multiple births such as twins or triplets.
Restricted neck movement. Many times a joint, specifically in the neck, becomes restricted during the birth process. The way a baby is born has an enormous impact on their development and overall health. The cascade of interventions such as induction, drugs, vacuum, forceps and C-section adds more stress into a vulnerable situation leading to a greater chance of the newborn experiencing vertebral subluxations.
In most cases babies will show signs of asymmetric movement before head shape changes show up. This can be experienced as breastfeeding issues, preferring one breast over the other or limited neck range of motion for example, baby can’t look to the left or her head is always tilted off to one side.
Sustained positioning. This occurs when a baby is left in a supine position or supported seated position with head pressure (car seat, vibrating chair, swing) for too long and too frequently.
Initially parents are simply concerned with the look of asymmetric head shape. One ear is forward compared to the other or they have a flat spot and are wearing out their hair unevenly. But what is of more concern are the potential changes that can happen to what is inside of the baby’s skull, it’s brain.
When a baby is assessed soon after birth, which is also another reason we recommend the Baby Wellness Check, we have the opportunity to evaluate neck range of motion, cranial alignment, muscular tone and overall function of their spine. If any issue is present it can be corrected early and prevent head shape issues from occurring.
It shouldn’t hurt to grow. And just because ‘growing pains’ are common should not make them normal. Altered biomechanics and spinal misalignment especially in lower spine and pelvis create imbalances which many contribute to leg pain. Along with chiropractic care we also recommend;
The lower extremity goes through significant changes as your child progresses through their developmental milestones! The bones of your baby’s legs are rotated internally when baby is in-utero, so they can maintain their fetal position, but as they become weight bearing their bones lose their rotation and straighten out. The alignment of the femur’s ("thigh bones") and tibia’s (“shin bones”) help their feet point straight ahead, and as they gain confidence in their stride, the arches of their feet begin to form.
Sometimes it’s hard to take our kid’s seriously when they say they have pain, but the truth is, pain is not normal for children and should be taken seriously. Hip issues may present as a local pain in the hip, an inability to bear weight (a limp), decreased movement of the lower extremity, groin pain, thigh pain, or knee pain. Hip pain in kids can result in altered gait patterns that can effect their ability to walk, or run. Hip issues, or pathologies can arise when there is stress that exceeds the strength of a growing bone and other conditions that are unique to a growing pediatric skeleton, such as Legg Calve Perthes, Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis, and transient synovitis. And in some cases pain is referred from the low back and pelvis. Whatever the cause, we can help!
Most often we don’t give much attention to our children’s feet until they begin walking. At this point their gait may start to reveal a foot flare, or one foot might toe-in. Toeing-in or foot flare in children can be a common cause for concern in parents. Both of these conditions can result from how your child’s femurs articulate with their pelvis (femoral anteversion/retroversion), the rotation of their tibia’s or flat feet. Specifically for foot flare, your child may have tight hip muscles, possibly as a result of a weak posterior chain, or due to poor posture. Your child’s pelvic tilt will also play a significant role in how their hips rest.
Baby’s are born with flexible flat feet. As they begin to walk their medial longitudinal arch will begin to form and by age four there should be a notable lift in the arches of their feet. Many parents are concerned about their children’s flat feet and how it will impact their future. Flat feet in adults can be associated with low back, hip and knee pain, shin splints, heel pain, bunions, and hammer toes to name a few. It is difficult for a parent to know if their child’s flat feet are outside of typical. A simple test can be performed in office to prevent pelvic and low back dysfunctions, and gait abnormalities. Your Chiropractor may make specific recommendations for home exercises to strengthen your child’s arch, encourage walking in bare feet to improve proprioception, and recommend flexible footwear to aid in your child’s development!
The physics of the body is amazing! We all are created with the programming to live and move in alignment. Each point of the body has been specifically designed to be in alignment with others. And for our bodies to work well they must be in the correct position in relation to others!
When we look at alignment from the side we should see curves. A curve in your low back that sticks your butt out. A curve in your midback that rolls you forward but not too much because there is a curve in your neck that needs to stack your ear over your shoulder.
From the back we shouldn’t see any curves. You spine should be straight.
How can parents tell if their children are growing up in alignment?
We all want our children growing up balanced and symmetrical. We should have curves in our spine. Scoliosis tells us curves are wrong. Scoliosis is the lateral deviation of the spine and affects not only adults, but more commonly affects children and adolescents because of the rapid growth they experience. And postural asymmetries are the most common signs that our children are not growing straight and could use some help.
At birth, the spinal column comprises 40% of the total length of the infant - identical to the adult. However, the average length of the spinal column in the newborn is just 24 cm or 9.6 inches. The spinal column grows 50% in length during the baby's first year of life. Over the following 4 years the spine will continue to grow another 15 cm reaching a length of 51 cm or 20.4 inches. From ages 5-10, the spine grows an additional 10 cm. Once puberty is reached and until the age of 18 the spine will typically grow another 20 cm in males and 15 cm in females.
What can help correct scoliosis curves?
There are days in the clinic where we adjust more kids than adults! Many of these kids are working on living in proper alignment. Posture is much more than stacking your head on top of your shoulder. It is a reflection of the brain and how it is interpreting the information it is receiving.
Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Roger Sperry's work focused on how the spine is the motor that drives the brain. “90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” Only 10% of our brain’s energy goes into thinking, metabolism, immunity and healing. Sperry demonstrated that 90% of brain energy goes into processing and maintaining the body’s relationship with gravity. It makes sense that if you improve the spine and the body’s relationship with gravity improves with it. It’s that important!
When a physical exam is performed on kids, many times it shows that their body and nervous system are disconnected. Through chiropractic adjustments we address spinal joint restrictions and positively influence the brain. This allows for proper posture to become easier and automatic.
Here are some tips to help with posture;