The idiomatic phrase “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree…” fits beautifully in the context of understanding why chiropractic care is important for children. Children experience physical, chemical and emotional stressors (just as adults do) and this can contribute to the development of the vertebral subluxation complex (possible combination of altered joint and nerve function, pain may be present). From the birth process to learning how to walk and falling on their bottom many times per day to falls from trees and off of bikes, an active child’s life is full of opportunities for physical trauma. If you have even seen an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, you have a great visual list of potential reasons children could benefit from chiropractic care. While children are very resilient and can often “walk it off” when mild bumps and falls happen, if the underlying structural component is not addressed their body is merely compensating and developing a maladaptive pattern that the body will only cover for so long before symptoms begin to develop. Injuries sustained as children often present as symptomatic areas of degeneration or “wear and tear” in a person’s twenties, which is commonly when a person chooses to seek chiropractic care for the first time.
A common misconception is that chiropractic care for children looks the same as chiropractic care for adults. All of the techniques used are modified for the child’s specific stage of development and comfort. I am so happy to provide gentle, specific chiropractic care to little ones to help prevent their bodies from getting used to these poorly functioning joint segments and maladaptive compensatory patterns so that they have the best chance of not keeping these imbalances and misalignments as they age. While it would be silly to bring your child in to the chiropractor after every minor bump or fall (you might as well just move into the chiro office while they learn to walk), some key times to have your child’s spine checked by a chiropractor match up well with some major developmental milestones. Important times to be checked would be shortly after birth (stress to bones of skull, neck and possibly pelvis), after learning to hold his/her head up (stress to neck), after learning how to roll over (stress to transitional area between mid and low back), after learning how to sit independently (stress to low back and pelvis), after learning how to walk (stress to low back and pelvis), or after any falls or injuries where your child acts like it might have been significant (things to watch for include not resuming play immediately, reacting differently than normal, continuing to mention discomfort). At a minimum, it is prudent to have your child’s spine checked by a chiropractor at about 6 month to 1 year intervals (similarly to how you would take them in for a dental check-up). The longer a child lives with (and adapts to) the vertebral subluxation complex, the harder it will be to release that pattern… this is why periodic checks are important despite the fact that your three year old will most likely not hobble over to you and say “Mommy, my back just went out”.
Every person (including a child) experiences the richness of his/her life experiences through his/her nervous system, which is housed by the protective structures of the skull and spinal cord. There is an intimate relationship between structure and function in the human organism and the relationship between the skull and spinal cord with the nervous system components it protects is no exception. The changes to the nervous system cannot be predicted based on how the structure is altered (enough research does not presently exist to say “this issue will produce more activity here or less here), however any change from a neutral/typical form can be expected to produce a change in function. The changes that occur at the site of vertebral subluxation complex are many and the effect cannot be described simply as “a bone out of place puts pressure on a nerve”, because more often the situation is more subtle and complex than all that. The most compelling reason to provide chiropractic care for children is due to this relationship between form and function. The goal of a chiropractor working with kids it to allow them to grow and develop to their fullest capabilities without any interference to their nervous systems and how they perceive and interact with their world!
Besides being well versed in the detection and correction of vertebral subluxation complex, a chiropractor trained by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association in working with the pediatric population can be a great resource for identifying the best options for baby carrying/wearing devices that support baby throughout development, general family health and wellness lifestyle information and other structural concerns such as appropriate backpack fit and style. For more information about chiropractic for kids, please check out the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association webpage.