Pediatric Chiropractic Treatment: An Interview

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The benefits of visiting a chiropractor have been experienced by adults for over a century. Now, chiropractic care for infants and children is becoming more common than one would think. Its use can aid in treating many childhood conditions and can be performed safely, no matter the child's age, thus making it a popular choice of treatment for many parents. 

We asked Dr. Amanda Stevens (DC) (MSACN) (BScKin) some questions regarding the safety and effectiveness of this children's health care regimen. Dr. Stevens holds a Master of Science in Applied Clinical Nutrition as well as a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and is a member of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) and a Doctor of Chiropractic. 

As always, it's good to discuss any treatment you undertake with your child's primary care provider, in order to fully consider all aspects of their care. 

{ MORE: What You Should Know about Chiropractors and Pregnancy }

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Image via Flickr/ Gardner Chiropractic

EverydayFamily:

Why seek chiropractic care for your child? 

Dr. Stevens:

Your central nervous system is kind of a big deal. On the most basic level, it must maintain a balance between sympathetic (fight or flight) reactions and parasympathetic (rest and digest) reactions. When there is an imbalance toward sympathetic nervous system dominance, our body is in survival mode all the time.

This is great if you are trying to run away from a bear, but it is not good for long-term health! By helping the nervous system restore balance and encouraging a parasympathetic dominance, chiropractors are able to facilitate a shift from “survive” mode to “thrive” mode. 

{ MORE: 4 Benefits of Infant Massage }

The bottom line is this: minor spinal dysfunction (even the width of a dime) causes a major tax on the nervous system. When the nervous system can't function at its best, neither can you or your growing child. If we compound these issues with other life stresses, like a bad diet, poor posture, sports injuries, or heightened social stress, then the ability of the nervous system to adapt to these struggles is challenged.

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All of the chemical, physical, and emotional challenges that you face can affect these dynamics, so it really requires a whole-health, whole-person approach to encourage a child's growing body to thrive.

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 EverydayFamily:

What are some “clues” to help determine whether an infant or child could benefit from a chiropractor?

Dr. Stevens:

The vast majority of the time, children will not present with pain. The best “clues” to know that a child needs a checkup are any subtle signs that their body is not working at its best. Mom might notice that baby has a persistent head tilt or that they are crawling or running asymmetrically. Frequent sickness, wipe outs, and any struggles to thrive are good cues that something needs to be supported. 

{ MORE: Going Mobile: The Facts about Babies and Crawling }

Because it can be very tricky to know what is normal and what needs attention, it is a really great idea to schedule Well Child Checkups. Just like going to the dentist twice a year to get your teeth checked even if you don't have any pain complaints so that you can stay on top of your oral hygiene and catch problems early, the pediatric chiropractor can assess and address problems before they present symptomatically and make sure that your child's spine and nervous system are capable of their optimal development.

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EverydayFamily:

Is pediatric chiropractic care safe?

Dr. Stevens: 

Chiropractic care for children is safe and effective. This has been researched and investigated, and chiropractors have been treating children for over 100 years now. Pediatric Chiropractors take special advanced training to learn specific, gentle techniques to use with infants as young as hours old, and they know how to modify techniques based a child's developmental stage and health status. 

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EverydayFamily:

What techniques are used for infants and children?

Dr. Stevens:

In general, chiropractors working with children will use low-force, gentle techniques appropriate to that child. Some of my favorites are Logan Basic Technique, Thompson Drop Technique, and Craniosacral Therapy. 

{ MORE: The Gifts of Newborn Massage }

I can't tell you how often infants actually fall asleep in my arms during a chiropractic and craniosacral treatment. Most of the time, I actually have to tell the parent that I am giving an adjustment to their baby because it is so subtle that they may not even notice if they aren't paying attention.

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Image via Flickr/ David Salafia

EverydayFamily:

What childhood conditions can be treated? 

Dr. Stevens:

Doctors of Chiropractic do not actually directly treat disease conditions. Rather, they facilitate the body's own ability to adapt and respond to any and all situations. That being said, there are several common symptomatic conditions that drive parents to initiate chiropractic care for their children. I think that most parents understand how sporting injuries, wipeouts, and other physical traumas can affect a child's physical health. 

Other common conditions that you might not have thought about include frequent colds and ear infections, asthma, bedwetting, hyperactivity and neurodevelopment disorders, cranial asymmetries, colic, and constipation. 

{ MORE: Parents Spill on How to Survive Colic }

Ear infections are a great example. Chiropractors do not treat ear infections, as in we do not have an anti-viral or anti-bacterial effect. What we do is biomechanically and neurologically support the body in its natural fight. 

We can help improve lymphatic drainage and support the immune system through improving muscle tone and nervous system communication. Basically, we help the plumbing clear up and make sure the body can give its best fight. 

{ MORE: 7 Steps to Boost Your Child's Immunity }

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EverydayFamily:

What schedule do you recommend for youngsters and how often should they come back?

Dr. Stevens:

I do not have a cookie-cutter treatment schedule that I plug patients into. Each treatment plan is individual to that child and their current situation. Because their nervous system is still developing and they haven't accumulated all the abuse on their bodies that we adults have, sometimes a problem clears up in one or two visits. 

In other cases, it takes on ongoing effort to facilitate permanent change. It depends on the individual child. After the initial exam, I will review everything I found with the caregiver (and child), and we will typically set up an initial treatment phase that lasts between four and twelve visits, after which we will re-evaluate and make a new plan. 

{ MORE: What to Expect at Your Baby’s Six-Week Checkup }

For infants, I strongly recommend coming in at least once every three months during the first year or two. This is because their little bodies are going through such incredible, rapid changes, and I want to facilitate their neurological development. Every three months allows us to check in at each developmental milestone and helps keep the baby on track. 

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EverydayFamily:

Is chiropractic care painful for the child?

Dr. Stevens:

Chiropractic care does not hurt the child. Most spinal and cranial adjustments just feel awesome or are barely perceived on a conscious level. That being said, if there is an area of injury, inflammation, or chronic irritation, that area may be tender to touch already, so we may be poking an already sore spot.

Just like after any manual therapy, there could be some minor muscle soreness in the area that was worked on, but in my experience (and according to the research), this is very rare, especially in children. 

It is also possible that because we are teaching the body a new normal and challenging the body's ability to adapt, there can be some bumpy moments on the road to recovery. This is more common when a problem has been around for a long time or there are also some chemical imbalances present.

{ MORE: The Healing Power of Touch }

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What this means is that parents should watch for any ups or downs in energy, sleep, bowel habits, mood, or irritability. It's not a good or bad response — it just tells us more information about what is going on in that little body, so you should always communicate these things with your pediatric chiropractor. 

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Pediatric Chiropractic Treatment: An Interview

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