When Should I Take My Child to the Chiropractor?

Chiropractic care that focuses on spine and nervous system health can ensure children’s bodies are set up for healthy growth and development.  A chiropractic exam of an infant who has undergone birth trauma, a child who is suffering from a medical condition or a student athlete dealing with injuries, may identify interferences in their spine that are impacting their nervous system which controls body function.

I understand neonatal care examinations are performed on infants after birth. Could you explain why parents would want to have their newborn examined, and what is involved in the exam?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Those are really good questions and, when new parents come in with an infant or a child, sometimes they’re nervous, sometimes they’re already pretty well read and they understand these things. So, a parent would want to have a newborn examined if they’ve been educated. Most people don’t wake up with their newborn and say, “Hey, I’m going to bring it to a chiropractor.” Most of these moms have been under care and they understand the value and the benefits of chiropractic care. And that’s why we’re having these conversations to enlighten people.

The main thing that you would want your child checked for immediately after birth is something that we call birth trauma. And it’s not like they drop the baby or anything like that, but sometimes when the head comes out, there can be a little bit of a delay when the shoulders are turned a certain way. To get the shoulders to turn vertical, sometimes they’ll turn the baby’s neck, which can elicit a little bit of pain response. And then the baby will start to turn and they can usually get the baby out a little bit easier once the baby’s more vertical. Sometimes when they’re doing that, they need to pull the neck. The neck is very delicate at birth and sometimes that can set up for something which can follow birth trauma, which is called infant torticollis. And then you’ll see the head will just flop to one side, you move it back to the center, it flops back to the other side. Sometimes those muscles can spasm or lock up where the baby’s head will lock there. Sometimes the muscles go into spasm and the baby can be quite uncomfortable and is constantly crying. The angulation of the neck can affect the way they latch during breastfeeding.

It’s important to get them checked just because sometimes the birth itself can actually cause some problems in the neck so that’s the first time you would really want to do it. Then, when they start to gain control of their head and they’re using the neck muscles and things of that nature and they’re starting to gain control, that’s when you would want to start to check it again, you want to make sure that everything’s in good alignment and that everything grows straight because as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.

I just want to reiterate that it’s super safe to adjust infants. They’re really cartilaginous, there’s very little effort or pressure needed, and infants and children don’t get adjusted the same way adults do. So, a lot of people are like, “Oh, how can you adjust a baby at one week old?” It’s just very, very gentle. The infants don’t even know that they’re getting checked. We swaddle them and hold them and its really just gentle pinky pressure to make sure everything is lined up through the cervical spine. There’s usually not a lot that needs to be done elsewhere unless there were other complications during the birth. But generally speaking, it’s really about just making sure things are lined up and making sure that there are no issues. It’s basically like a screening procedure right from the get-go.

If a child is suffering from allergies, headaches, or other health issues, should parents bring them to see a chiropractor?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: You know, there are a lot of reasons that people bring their children in: allergies, headaches, health issues. Really it all goes back to the nerve system being the paramount system that chiropractic tries to affect. Again, everyone thinks that we’re back doctors and that it’s all about the back. We’re concerned about the spine because the spine’s job is to protect the central nervous system. If the vertebrae become misaligned, those vertebrae can start to irritate the nerve system and change the way it functions. And since every stage of growth and development is controlled by the nerve system in an infant and in a child, it’s so important to maximize nerve system function.

There is lots and lots of research posted on the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, where they talk about all these great articles that they’ve put out, and some of the titles read Resolution of Reflux in Nine-Week-Old Infant, Following Kale Specific Upper Cervical Care, Resolution of Failure to Thrive in an Infant Following Chiropractic Care to Reduce Vertebral Subluxation, Resolution of Chronic Bilateral Ear Infections Following Chiropractic Care in a One-year-old Infant.

So, all of these case reports are out there for people to read and it’s just amazing to see how well kids respond with their young nerve systems, because those nerve systems are just growing and adapting and really trying to do everything that is normal in such a quick and efficient manner. And the better the nerve system works, the more efficiently the body works, and that just helps the baby grow strong and healthy.

That’s really what it’s about, it’s making sure that the child’s nerve system is functioning optimally since that nerve system is the master system controlling everything else. When that is clear and functioning strong, the rest of the body is clear and functions stronger, and the body will be less likely to break down and have these complications that a lot of parents can see with their kids.

If a child sustains an injury, like a broken bone or a concussion, and receives medical treatment, should they also see a chiropractor, and how could a chiropractor help them?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, absolutely. If there’s enough force for a child to sustain an injury, like a broken bone, there’s a good chance that that type of force could cause misalignment in the spine. So, if there was enough pressure, the kid falls down and breaks an arm, some of that energy can be transferred into the spine, create misalignments or what we call vertebral subluxations, and that can put pressure onto the delicate spinal nerves. And that can cause interference in the nerve system, which can slow down the body’s ability to heal or have other deleterious effects on their health. You never really know because that nerve system controls everything.

It’s not just about where it hurts, and that’s a common misconception. People come in and they’re like, “Oh, I have numbness or tingling in my hands, a chiropractor can’t help me”. But those nerves originate in the neck and if there is pressure on them or pinching or a disc is swollen enough to put pressure on that nerve, you can get numbness or tingling. So, everything relates back to the spine.

The chiropractor is always beneficial in improving the alignment and the health of the spine. It’s so important to make sure that these kids get off to a good start. If there is any type of trauma, whether it be a sports injury, a dropped child, or just the hundreds of falls a kid takes every day, rough housing with his brother and his friends, it’s a good idea to get those small misalignments checked and cleared out before they become bigger problems later. And that’s the main reason that you would want to get a kid checked after any trauma or even just periodically.

Why should parents take their kids who are involved in competitive sports, dance, or gymnastics to see a chiropractor, whether they are injured or not?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, that’s a really important question. And you know, you really hit the nail on the head, whether they’re injured or not, because these kids are entering in competitive sports, and they’re looking for performance.

Now, the development of a sport and the coordination to perform that sport is a hundred percent nerve system regulated. So again, you want the nerve system functioning optimally, so they can develop those reflexes, learn those patterns. It’s just like juggling, it’s a skill. When you first start, you’re very clumsy and it’s really hard to do, but if you keep at it, your body starts to learn those pathways and eventually you can do it without even thinking. So, it’s really, really important to make sure that the nerve system is optimized because the kids are going to develop.

Now, the other thing is that these sports, dance and gymnastics, especially the ones you named, put a lot of pressure on the developing spine. You’re asking an increased flexibility of the spine when the spine is not fully developed. A lot of these kids are starting dancing at three and four years old, and they’re starting tumbling at five, six years old where the growth plates are open and the spine is not fully developed. Increased stress and strain on the spine can create misalignments. And then as the twig is bent, so grows the tree and those problems can develop and set stage for problems much later, which can affect their performance. The harder these kids are training earlier, the more important it is to check them.

But every child should be checked because if they’re not in competitive sports, they’re still falling down, they’re still rough housing with their friends and their family. If I could tell you every time that my brother snuck up on me and just jumped on my back and we tumbled to the ground, or they give you that little shove when you’re running downhill and you tumble, all these things can create those misalignments. It doesn’t have to be in a competitive sport, but any type of these things that the kids go through, up and coming, is really important. So, all these collisions and falls, if not corrected, can allow the spine to heal wrong, grow wrong, create those misalignments that can lead to problems later.

High-level athletes perform better when they’re in optimal condition and the spine is working right. That’s why a lot of professional athletes use chiropractors. And the little guys are the same as the pros, they have a spine, it helps increase their level of function. When the spine is healthy, they have better flexibility. Also, better flexibility in the spine also leads to less injury to it. The more flexible it is, the more likely it’s going to bend as opposed to break.

Chiropractic always goes back to that elemental core of what it does, and that’s relieving the irritation to the nerve system, which can improve proper balance, better motor function, improved performance and healing. And that’s really what it’s all about in the children.

Most teenagers these days are developing poor posture as a result of constantly hunching over their cell phones or other devices. How can a chiropractor help?

Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, prevention and education is really what’s important. Kids, our children, may learn what you teach them, and I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but I’ve seen examples all throughout where parents now use an iPad as a babysitter. A four-year-old, a five-year-old, they’re holding the cell phones, right? And now if you ever look at someone sitting on a train, they’re hunched over, their neck has dropped down, they’re staring down at their phone. It’s the same posture they use at their computer.

This forward head posture is really becoming a big issue. It’s something that now they’re calling tech neck. I’m a little bit older and I didn’t have my first computer till I was probably 25 or 30, I don’t think I had a cell phone till I was in my thirties as well.

But now these kids are growing up with these devices and the postures are changing. I can see, when I do the X-rays on the teens and the 20-year-olds, that there’s almost no curve left in the cervical spine. Those curves are there for stability and shock absorption. And as these kids grow up, looking in that forward, head down posture, we’re not seeing that curve develop. And when you lose that curve, you lose the stability of the spine, and then it’s more likely to get misaligned. And then we’re seeing all these postural deviations.

It’s really about prevention and education and making sure that the kids know that this is a real thing and that there are certain things they need to change their posture. The more time you spend in that forward flex position, the more time we need to get the neck back into extension to counteract that. It’s even more important nowadays to make sure that these kids get checked so they don’t grow up with these spinal misaligned patterns that build themselves into the spine and cause the problems that we all see in adults later in life.

Learn More

To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call (212) 977-7094 to schedule an appointment.

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