Kids and Accidents: Can Chiropractic Help?

Infants and children should be examined by a chiropractor whether or not they have been in any type of accident. A Chiropractor can check the child’s spine to find if there is interference in the function of the nervous system which runs and regulates every stage of growth and development. Chiropractors can align the spine and restore proper body function.

Let’s start with babies. What are some reasons parents would take their infant to see a chiropractor and how would you examine and potentially treat an infant?

Well, infants and children, they are a lot like adults in that they both have spines and they both have a nerve system. Just like adults, that nerve system and spine is susceptible to getting misaligned. Most people, however, consider chiropractic really a treatment for back pain or neck pain. Since most infants and children don’t really have neck pain or back pain, they don’t think that it’s necessary.

But caring for your spine should be approached pretty much the same way you care for your teeth. If you care for your teeth a little bit at a time throughout the course of your lifetime, they will stay healthy for the rest of your life. It’s really no different with the spine. As you know, most people, as soon as the first child’s tooth comes in, they’re making an appointment to go and see the dentist. The dentist is already planning on what they’re going to be doing and how they’re going to manage that case. The parents expect to go to the dentist and it’s not a problem.

Everyone thinks that going to the dentist is just normal, but the spine is made of the same stuff as your teeth. It degenerates in a similar fashion. If it’s not cared for, it can cause significant degenerative problems later in life and lead to a host of different health issues, because when the bones are misaligned for long periods, they can irritate the delicate spinal nerves that they’re designed to protect. The nerves exit from in between the two vertebrae. If the vertebrae are misaligned, it will pinch and irritate those nerves. Then that has a deleterious effect on one’s health because that nerve system runs, regulates and coordinates every stage of growth and development in a baby, child and an adult. It also runs and regulates our body and makes sure that our body makes all the best decisions and adaptations. That’s what makes it so important.

Lastly, your immune system is actually controlled by your nerve system. If your nerve system isn’t working on or as close to 100%, your immune system isn’t as strong as it could be. Caring for the spine has a lot of extra benefits in it. Whether you’re a child or an adult, the principles are always the same in chiropractic.

As toddlers learn to walk and climb, they will fall countless times. Sometimes children sustain real injuries and other times they just get right back up. How does a chiropractic examine a toddler and know if there’s any damage to the spine or joints at such a young age, and what is involved in the visit with the chiropractor?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, most parents will bring a toddler in when a child falls and that can cause a sustained injury. They fall off the bed, kids fall off the monkey bars, there could be a drop and most of the time the kids just get right back up, right? They kind of look at mom and dad, and as long as mom and dad don’t look worried, the kids are okay. If mom and dad looked worried, the kid will start crying, right? I’m sure we’ve all experienced that.

The misalignments can be present in the spine, whether the kid gets up right away, whether he cries or not, or whether he has symptoms, because most symptoms don’t always cause pain. You might not know if the vertebrae got misaligned or not, unless you actually had them checked.

We always recommend that you get your kids checked periodically. When you examine a toddler’s spine, it’s a very simple process, and it’s kind of the same process that we use with an adult. If the bones are misaligned, they’re typically going to be fixed or stuck in an abnormal position. There can be like taut and tender fibers surrounding that vertebrae. If the vertebrae is misplaced, you can palpate and feel it. When you push on a vertebra, it should have a nice springy, healthy feel, but if we’re pushing on the vertebrae and it feels a little fixed or stuck, you know that there’s a good chance that there’s a misalignment or what we call a subluxation. Once the subluxation or the vertebral misalignment is located, very gentle pressure is needed with infants because they haven’t been on the planet very long, they haven’t been exposed to a lot of stress and tension and poor posture and all these things that make the spine misalign and more difficult to adjust.

The examination process is almost identical to an adult. We do motion palpation to check the alignment. We do static palpation. We do orthopedic and neurological testing, same as we do with an adult, but different tests obviously, checking all the reflexes. We also examine the cranial bones, making sure that there’s no flat spots developing on the head of an infant. Sometimes they might sleep on one side more than the other, so we always want to check those things. Then the adjustments literally only call for finger pressure when you’re working with an infant or a child, because again, their spines are so much more malleable. It’s much easier and safer, believe it or not to adjust infants than it is to adjust adults.

That’s really how it works, but it’s very, very similar. I know that they fall countless times when they’re learning to walk and they sustain other injuries and somehow still manage to get back up, but the examination process is the same and hopefully you can get the alignment improved and corrected before any damage to the spinal joints are done at a young age. That’s really what a visit to the chiropractor is. If you’ve been as an adult, it’s kind of the same as for a child except different levels of pressure and slightly different examination and testing.

When children start playing sports, they will get injured with broken bones, sprained ankles, or sustained repetitive stress injuries to their joints. In addition to regular medical and orthopedic care, in what ways can a chiropractor help a student athlete recover from sports-related injuries?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, you’re absolutely right. As kids start to get older and bigger and stronger, the forces involved in these sports injuries and sports that they play also increase, right? Sometimes there can be a football player or a lacrosse player or a hockey player where they get into a collision where the force is enough to break a bone. I can almost guarantee that if there was enough force in an accident or a collision to break a bone, there’s probably more than enough force to misalign some of the vertebrae as well. I played soccer and lacrosse in high school and anytime anyone’s playing a soccer game, you’re probably going to have at least 10 to 15, maybe even 20 collisions in that game. Colliding with another player, slide tackling, going up to head the soccer ball and hitting someone else’s head. Even in basketball and football, there are even higher and more intense injuries that can happen.

Those constant hits, falls and tumbles to the ground certainly can stress the vertebrae of the spine, cause them to misalign or what we call subluxate. If a misaligned spine loses its biomechanical advantages, it doesn’t move as smoothly and it’s easier to get injured. I always talk a lot with my patients about that game Jenga, where you start to pull the little pieces out and as you start to pull those pieces out, the alignment of the stack changes and it becomes less stable. When you start to lose stability in the spine, then it’s a lot easier for that spine to get injured. Even a minor force will cause more injury in a spine that’s not lined up right. That’s really important to understand as well, that when the misalignments occur, they will put pressure on those delicate spinal nerves. Since the same nerves that sends pain and move muscle in the body are the same ones that run and regulate a child’s physiology and immune system, which is the primary source of healing, that close relationship makes it very important that kids get checked regularly and make sure that they’re not walking around with pressure on their nerve system.

The most important aspect is just making sure that the child stays healthy and has the best chance to heal and get better. Also, when the spine isn’t as healthy, it’ll affect performance in the sport itself, right? It can negatively impact the performance, just like a virus will negatively impact the performance of a computer. Subluxations will have a deleterious effect on the body’s performance and your health.

I know there are many, many professional athletes, some of them very famous that would never take the field or the court until they got adjusted. Joe Montana comes to mind, Harry Carson who played for the New York Giants, the boxer Evander Holyfield, Tiger Woods also was a big chiropractic user and supporter. These high-level athletes wouldn’t use chiropractic if they didn’t feel that it enhanced their performance and kept them at the top of their game. Whether you’re a professional athlete or student athlete, chiropractic is an important part of keeping you at your best, keeping you healthy and able to enjoy and love the sports that you play on a regular basis.

Car accidents involve entire families, but we rarely talk about how children are treated after an accident. Could you walk us through what the chiropractic treatment process is like for a child who has been involved in a car accident? Could you also explain why it’s important for parents to bring their children to the chiropractor, even if they’re not experiencing any pain immediately following the accident?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: That’s a great question, because most people think along those lines. The funny thing is that most people do think that chiropractic is only for adults and only for people in pain. However, like I said before, the child’s spine is just as susceptible to the forces of a motor vehicle accident as an adult’s. The other thing that’s important to understand is that most people will associate problems with pain, but since the nerve system is very complex and those nerves don’t always sense pain or move muscle, you can have irritation to the nerves associated with a subluxation or misalignment that might change the way the body functions instead of causing pain. You can’t always use pain as the best criteria, because if someone has pain, can they be healthy? If someone who has no pain, can they be unhealthy? Those are interesting questions.

You’ve heard me said it many times before that really only 10% of your nerve system is dedicated to sensing pain and moving the muscles. The other 90% of your nerve system runs and regulates the body. I tend to be much more concerned about the 90%. The only way to truly tell if the spine is healthy or hasn’t been injured in the accident is to do a proper examination by a licensed chiropractor. The only way to tell if your teeth are healthy and without cavities is to see a dentist. That’s important because when you go into a dentist and sometimes I’ve had the experience where they found a soft spot that didn’t even hurt. They’re like, “Oh, you have a cavity here.” The dentist wasn’t like, “Hey, Gregg, let’s wait until that really hurts and then we’ll fill it.” No, they fill it right away.

Taking care of problems early will prevent them from becoming bigger problems later. That’s why we stress after any traumatic accident, whether there’s symptoms or not, get your kid checked. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll come in and the chiropractor will say, “Hey, your kid’s clear. There’s nothing that needs to be done.” That’s like going to the dentist and having them say, “Hey, no cavities,” right? You wouldn’t be upset if there were no cavities and the dentist didn’t break out the drill, right?

The investments we make in our health, as a child will pay dividends as an adult. Because most of the problems with the spine are cumulative, it’s every accident, every stress to the spine, every time you use poor posture. Some people can have multiple accidents over the course of a lifetime and never get checked and then all of a sudden, at 30 years old, they’re in my office telling me that they have all these problems, but they’ve never had any precipitating incident or an accident.

Getting back to the process of the examination, which you asked about before, it doesn’t matter if it’s a child or adult, we always do the complete orthopedic and neurological evaluation, check the reflexes, muscle tests, and then include our chiropractic analysis to determine how healthy the spine is and how well it’s lined up. If we do find misalignments, the chiropractic adjustment uses very gentle forces to replace the vertebrae into the proper position and allow the body to function properly.

In addition to treating injuries, could you explain how chiropractic care helps children’s overall growth and development and helps the body prevent injuries and other potential medical issues?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: I can and I will, and I do believe that I’ve also touched on this a lot because the principles in chiropractic are very, very simple. Because your nerve system controls every stage of growth and development in the body, it’s really important to have a healthy spine with proper alignment as an infant and a child, because our bodies are super intelligent. As a matter of fact, the intelligence of the body is remarkable because a newborn baby knows how to make insulin just as well as you and I do. It knows how to digest food. It knows how to eat and take what it needs and poop out the rest. All those things are happening under the auspice of our nerve system. The nerve system controls all that.

As I’ve explained, numerous times, the spinal bones protect your central nervous system. If they misalign, they irritate the same nerves they’re designed to protect. That irritation will distort the mental impulses or the action potentials, and if a distorted message goes to the stomach, how do you think the stomach is going to function and digest food? Could it make mistakes if the communication isn’t clear from the brain? Absolutely.

That’s why a lot of children respond really well to chiropractic care where they have things that look like organic diseases, like digestive issues or difficulty breathing, and you clear out the nerve system, get the pressure off the nerves and everything starts to work again. It’s so important that we make sure that this intelligence can flow without interference from the brain to the rest of the body, because it runs and regulates and controls every stage of growth and development from the moment it’s born to its last breath of life. Maintaining proper alignment and proper nerve system function is paramount to raising a healthy child.

When you think about all the processes that your body does every day, and thank God we don’t have to think about them because if you have to think about digesting your food and taking the proteins and getting those to the muscles and the sugars into the bloodstream, all those different things, we would never get anything done. Thank God that we have this innate wisdom that runs and regulates our body and heals us without even thinking about it. As long as the pathway is clear from the brain, the computer to the end user, the tissue cell, everything should work well. That’s why I urge parents to get your kids checked early, get them checked often, whether they’ve been in an accident or not, periodic checkups are a great investment in the health of your child and in your child’s future.

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