Chiropractic Helps Children and Teenagers

Chiropractors help children and teenagers maximize their potential for living a happy and healthy life with a functioning nerve system by providing chiropractic care and examining and correcting misalignments in their spine.

What are the most common issues that chiropractors help children with?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, that’s a good question, and we get asked that an awful lot and people will call up, usually a concerned parent, asking questions about a child. There are many issues that affect children, but the one thing that a chiropractor is always looking at is the alignment of the spine. And why that is so important in children and teenagers is as they grow, the spine, if it’s straight, will go straight. If it is not straight, it will grow crooked. When the bones are out of alignment, the important thing to understand is that in between every vertebra there’s a disc, and then coming out between the two bones through this small passage are the spinal nerves. If those bones misalign, they will pinch and irritate the nerves.

Now, if there’s enough pressure on a nerve, of course it could cause pain or problems, but also remembering that your nerve system is the communication center of the body. Your brain is sending messages down through that thick bundle of nerves we call the spinal cord and then coming off the corridor, those delicate spinal nerves, that branch out and go to every area of your child’s body. So, if there’s pressure on the nerves that go to the rib area and the lungs, your child may have trouble breathing. That might actually look like asthma, but sometimes it’s just irritation to the nerves, making the muscles involved in breathing very tight, and they can’t take a deeper breath and sometimes they’ll feel short of breath. Sometimes it could be something as simple as a child falling and getting a stiff neck, or a child falling and injuring their back and having back pain. Sometimes parents will bring in children with what they call growing pains, unexplained pains.

People will be bringing in kids with gait issues. They look at their hips, they look like they’re offline or one hip’s higher than the other, or one shoulder’s higher than the other. It’s really interesting how many parents are really astute and picking these things up and bringing their kids in. So, there are many different things that a chiropractor can help a child with. But the primary thing we’re always looking at is the health of the spine and the alignment of the spine. Because when the vertebrae of the spine get misaligned, we call that a vertebral subluxation, and that can put pressure on the delicate spinal nerves or the communication center of the body. That can cause a host of issues in a growing child because there’s so much depending on their nerve system. Every stage of growth and development, healing, running and regulating their body. It’s an absolutely amazing process, and the nerve system has so much power in it and it’s so far reaching in the body when it’s working better, your child is going to be healthier.

How can chiropractors help children as they move toward their teen years?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: That’s a great question. As your child grows, they get more active and they start doing more things. They get involved with sports and they’re on the playground and there could be pushing and shoving between siblings and all these different things, which create those misalignments or subluxations in their spine. But since every stage of growth and development is neuro regulated, it’s the nerve system controlling and coordinating that, if a teen has pressure on those nerves, it can actually cause problems in the way they grow, develop, or run and regulate, or even slow down the body’s ability to heal. Your brain needs a very clear picture of what’s going on in every cell tissue and organ system in your body, and that connection from your brain to your body are those delicate spinal nerves.

So, making sure they’re in proper alignment will, number one, give solid spinal mechanics, and the other thing that we’re really concerned about with children as they move towards their teen years is screen time. The thing that we’re seeing now is something called tech neck, where normally the spine will have a curve in the neck, which helps absorb shock. But since kids are sitting with their iPads, on their iPhones and they’re on computers at a very early age, and now with the pandemic, kids are learning at home and sitting in front of computers even more, it’s really creating something called forward head posture. That is one of the biggest things plaguing our children today.

We’re seeing a shift forward of the cervical spine, which puts the weight of the head forward, which puts more stress on the neck, sets up these vicious cycles. We’re seeing a lot more changes in teens and young children in their necks earlier than we used to see it ever before. That’s one of the biggest initiatives in our office, is making sure that we’re checking children periodically. When we see these problems early, we can prepare the parents and teach them how to move forward towards their teen years and making sure that these habits don’t become bigger problems later in life.

In what ways does a chiropractor help children prepare their bodies for athletic training and sports activities?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Hey, that’s another great question, Liz. We do work with a lot of kids that are being very active. One of the things that is super common is that we’re seeing a lot of parents putting their kids in gymnastics at two years old, in ballet at two years old, and then soccer practice and all these things. These are all stresses and strains on the developing spine, especially ballet where they’re asking a child to center and get themselves into these positions and asking for flexibility before the spine is fully developed. Same thing with athletes and in gymnastics with tumbling and those things, those bones aren’t completely ossified. As a matter of fact, young girls, they don’t reach skeletal maturity until 22 years old. So, all these stresses on the spine when there’s open growth plates can create misalignments. If there’s uneven pressure on the growth plates that can cause scoliosis or curvatures and other problems in the child.

Most importantly, when you really think about what your nerve system does, it is all about the coordination of the body. If your kids are trying to learn how to swing a baseball bat, how to dribble a soccer ball or whatever the skill might be, or learn certain dance moves, that requires 100% attention of the nerve system. Your nerve system controls that. And have you ever started to learn to play a musical instrument like a piano or guitar? When you’re really in the flow and you’re playing well, you’re not thinking about, “Oh, I’m going to go from A minor to C or back to D.” These things become ingrained in the nerve system and they almost happen without thinking.

The mechanics of a professional baseball player swinging a bat are just ingrained in the nerve system. He’s not really thinking about it too much. So, preparing a child for athletic training and sports activities, one it’ll keep the spine flexible and healthy, which will prevent injury. It’ll enhance nerve system function, which should enhance coordination and athletic ability as well. Most importantly, when a child does have an injury, a collision on a sports field, you can get that child checked and make sure that doesn’t create a misalignment that can become a bigger problem later.

Can chiropractors help handicapped or challenged children?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Liz, that’s a fair question and we get asked that a lot. Depending on what’s really the challenge to a child, I can’t say that chiropractic is going to treat or cure anything that a child is born with. If a child’s born with Down syndrome, I can’t make Down syndrome go away. If a child is born with any type of deficiency or anything like that, I can’t make those things go away. But what I can do is make sure that they reach their full potential. A child might not have the same potential in learning as someone else, but they may have a special skill in something else. So, I don’t care what your child has or if your child is labeled challenged or any of those things, whatever label you put on it. It’s about maximizing that child’s nerve system and maximizing their potential.

A clear nerve system is going to be better than one with interference. If you already have some challenges, the last thing you need are subluxations putting pressure on the nerves, adding to those challenges and slowing down the nerve system. I often talk about something similar with adults. People will come in with neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, or they might come in with MS, and they’re like, “Oh, can you help someone with MS?” If someone has multiple sclerosis, there is a demyelinating process, which is slowing down the nerve system transmission. Now, I can’t make the myelin grow back on the nerve, but what I can do is make sure that there’s no additional pressure slowing down the nerve system even further.

So, it’s about stacking the deck in a child’s favor, whether they’re challenged or healthy or normal, abnormal. Doesn’t matter what label you put on it, it just helps a child’s nerve system function at its optimum potential. The better the nerve system, the healthier the child. It’s just that simple.

I’ve heard some people talk about their kids getting adjusted and how it also gives them an attitude adjustment. Have you experienced that?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: We see stuff like that all the time. Sometimes kids come in and they’re in a dark gray mood, and then we adjust them and they leave bright yellow. There’s a lot of factors that go into it. The attitude in chiropractic, we always talk about the mind body connection, because if your mind is in a dark place, your body’s not going to function, right? You’re going to be depressed. You’re going to be secreting different hormones. When the spine is adjusted and the nerve system is strong and a child is healthier, they’re going to be happier. It’s just that simple. I don’t know that some kid comes in in a bad mood that an adjustment is going to change them on a dime. But when you make an adjustment, you certainly get the body secreting some endorphins and enkephalins, and that kind of perks the body up.

Sometimes when we work with children and they’re in pain and you get them out of pain, of course, they’re going to feel better. They’re going to be more active and happy. So, it definitely plays a factor. I mean, obviously someone in pain is just not going to be happy and well adjusted.

So, when we have children that are having growing pains or having concerns about, “Oh, they can’t do this like the other kids do,” it can bring a child down and get them on some level of like a mild depression. So, keeping them on par, active and healthy and doing the same things that other kids do will certainly keep them happier and more positive throughout life.

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