Teenagers are just smaller adults, so a lot of things that we see in adulthood are the same things that will start in the teenage years. Now, teens are super active, so they are playing sports, they are rough and tumble with their friends, rough and tumble with their brothers, older siblings, younger siblings, all those different things. Teens are super active.
The other thing to consider is some teenagers are the opposite of that and they are not really active. Some teens gravitate more towards computer skills, spending a lot of time on the phone, on iPads, and that can create certain postural concerns. The one thing that we are seeing an awful lot in teens now is something that we are calling tech neck; kids are not developing the full cervical curve.
Now, if you look at the spine from the side, typically you are going to see three curves. Those three curves will work in an active teen as a shock-absorbing spring as they run, jump, play, and do all the things that active teens do. But what we are seeing is, with the advent of the computer and the iPhone, kids are sitting with their heads tilted forward, straightening out the curve. And when they do that for long periods of time, as they grow older, they are losing the curve, and their spines are staying in those straightened positions. That is causing a lot of issues.
We are seeing children with their center of gravity of the head actually forward of the shoulders, which puts an amazing amount of strain on the upper neck and the muscles there. That leads to the muscles working harder. When the muscles work really hard, they can get tight, pull the bones out of alignment, and irritate the nerves. We call that a vertebral subluxation. Chiropractors adjust the spine to realign the vertebrae and help bring back those curves, restore better mechanics, and also keep pressure off the nerve system.
Since the nerve system controls every stage of growth and development, runs and regulates the body, and even controls and organizes the healing of the body, and our bodies heal by just replacing damaged cells with healthy new ones, those processes are always going on in a child, a teenager, and an adult. And the better the body can do that, the more efficient the body is at healing and really taking care of itself.
So, teenagers are unique in that they are doing more of those things. They are more rough and tumble. And they don’t really have the ability to make the healthcare decisions to say, “Hey, I’m going to go to a chiropractor,” so it is so important that we educate the parents that they need to have their kids checked periodically. Just like you wouldn’t wait till a teenager is 18 years old and then bring them to a dentist. If they’ve never been to a dentist in 18 years, there’s probably going to be a host of problems. Same thing with a chiropractor.
I try to teach parents that a chiropractor is to the spine as dentist is to the teeth. And it is about prevention, not waiting till your child has a significant problem and then trying to fix it. So, it is all about prevention, and the one thing I always tell parents is get your kids checked periodically.
Parents are coming in and getting their spines checked, and I kind of have a tendency to ask them, “Why are you coming in?” And they say, “Oh, to keep my spine and nerve system healthy.” And I say, “Do you have children?” And they will say, “Yes.” I reply, “Would you get them checked?” And they say, “Oh, they don’t need it. They don’t have pain.”
That is not really the attitude that we want to hear. We want to make sure that they get checked periodically as well. Why would you leave a child at home to potentially suffer the same consequences as you later, when these things can be prevented early on in their teen years?
It’s not that teenagers’ problems are so unique. It is just more important to get them checked early as the spine is developing and growing.
Dr. Gregg D. Rubinstein, D.C., is a midtown Manhattan chiropractor with over 20 years of experience providing customized chiropractic treatment services to a wide range of clients in the Midtown Manhattan/West New York City area. Dr. Gregg Rubinstein and 57th Street Chiropractic can be reached at (917) 534-6484 and is located at 119 West 57th St. in New York, NY.