Pediatric chiropractic care is a gentle and safe musculoskeletal (including bones, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments) treatment for children of all ages, including the tiniest of newborn babies. It’s proven effective in diagnosing, preventing, and manipulating the musculoskeletal system to treat numerous illnesses, conditions, and mechanical disorders.
Can Babies & Toddlers Receive Chiropractic Care?
Yes, chiropractic adjustments for babies, toddlers, and young children are commonplace but very different from what most people think when it comes to visiting a chiropractor. There are no loud cracking noises, abrupt twists, or forceful movements and often the manipulations may only involve a gentle massage. The pressure applied in a chiropractic adjustment for a child is a delicate one or two-finger method and similar to what you would use in testing the ripeness of an avocado, as the bones of children are soft and not fully formed.
Adjustments for an infant are never forceful or abrupt, and your baby most likely will not notice that they are undergoing care at all. Yet and still, chiropractic adjustments for newborns and toddlers are important since the first subluxations commonly occur in the birthing process itself. A subluxation is a stress or trauma induced impairment to the spine. Thus, for most children, the benefit of pediatric chiropractic adjustments is immediate as it will correct the damaging effects of spinal subluxations thereby enabling the body to recover from numerous ailments and conditions, naturally, using the recuperative powers of the central nervous system – and without drugs or surgery.
Keep in mind a newborn’s spine will increase about 50% by age 1, reflecting the amount of growth a newborn and their central nervous system undergoes in the first year of life. Any subluxation or misalignment of a newborn’s spine can affect the proper functioning of their central nervous system and give rise to a myriad of ailments and conditions, all within that first year of life and going forward if left unaddressed. The fact that this incredible growth rate coordinates all of the other changes in a child’s body while they are growing is the reason that the health of the spine and nervous system is extremely important, particularly for babies and toddlers.
(The bottom of this page links numerous studies and research supporting the effectiveness of chiropractic care for babies and toddlers for everything from reducing fussiness, relieving colic, reflux, feeding and sleeping concerns and more).
The Effect of Subluxations on Babies & Toddlers Explained
As medical care, chiropractic’s origin is rooted in “the science of healing without drugs” and in the understanding that illness and ailments are caused by subluxations of the vertebrae (spine). A subluxation occurs when a trauma or stressor upon a vertebra of the spine, bruises or slightly moves the vertebrae out of position, causing irritation and or inflammation on nerves within the spine. When this happens, spinal nerves protrude from between the vertebrae bones, malfunctioning and interfering with messaging (signals) taking place within the central nervous system between the brain and body.
Subluxation interference prevents the brain from properly communicating with the body, resulting in the body being unable to effectively fight off ailments. When the central nervous system in babies and toddlers is not communicating effectively, the ineffective communication may result in colic, irritability, poor sleep, inability to suckle and breastfeed, digestion issues, developmental delays, behavioral problems, asthma, inability to concentrate, low energy, headaches, and more. Subluxations can even occur and sustain in place without pain, yet still disturb nerve communication to the brain and body causing malfunctioning of the central nervous system. Pediatric chiropractic care will realign the spine restoring functioning, communication, and the recuperative powers of the central nervous system. Thus, regular chiropractic checkups can identify potential spinal issues, make the correction early in life and help avoid many of the health complaints seen later in teens and adults.
How Do Babies & Toddlers Get Subluxations of the Spine?
Subluxations with infants and children are common as there are tiny shifts in a child’s musculoskeletal system produced from routine daily activities like crawling, running, jumping or simply playing. Even at the birth of a baby, whether vaginal or via c-section, it’s not uncommon for trauma to occur in a newborn’s spine, something called Traumatic Birth Syndrome or TBS. Birth trauma can go entirely undetected yet surface in the form of illnesses, ailments, and or behavioral issues. Not only can spinal misalignments from birth trauma cause feeding problems but also digestion difficulties, fussiness, and or sleeping problems.
For example, during a natural vaginal birth approximately 60 to 90 pounds of force bears down on a baby’s neck and can potentially slightly misaligned a baby’s spine. In fact, in one research study 95% of 1,250 infants had cervical (neck) strain from birthing. Other research of over 1,000 newborns within 5 days postpartum concluded 90% experienced some measure of birth trauma and approximately:
- 10% of the babies had perfect, properly mobile skulls
- 10% had severe trauma to the head
- 80% had patterns of strain detectable in the cranial mechanism
Ideally, newborns should be checked and adjusted soon after birth and here is a quick read with all the supporting evidence on this wisdom (or click here).
Babies and toddlers are susceptible to a wide array of potential stressors that can produce subluxations that strain or inflame other body systems (such as urinary and respiratory) and the function of otherwise healthy tissue. The most common origin of subluxation producing stressors come from thoughts, traumas and toxins.
- Thoughts (emotional): Medical testing, Time in the hospital/NICU, stress on the mother and family, etc.
- Traumas (physical): In-utero constraint, birth trauma, car seats, falls, injuries, baby carriers, etc.
- Toxins (chemical): Antibiotics, soaps, vaccines, lotions, formula, cleaning products, etc.
Since subluxation symptoms can overlap with symptoms from other issues, parents should be cautious about self-diagnosing their children. Even once children become school aged, excessive time spent sitting and learning in a classroom can also put pressure on a maturing spine. There is research with school-aged children documenting how learning workstations contribute to musculoskeletal pain.
Common indicators of subluxations in school-aged children are:
- Lethargy and fatigue.
- Poor mood.
- Poor concentration.
- A tendency to be easily distracted.
- A lowered immune system.
- Heightened allergies.
- Complaints of headaches.
- Complaints of back pain.
- Restricted spinal movement.
- Poor posture.
- Sleep issues.
Subluxations occurring in infancy and early childhood aren’t simply outgrown. In fact, these underlying nervous system blockages can worsen with age due to the fact that maturing bodies are in constant change.
Benefits of a Chiropractic Adjustment for Babies & Toddlers
Babies and toddler’s immune systems are not fully functional in their early years and thus chiropractic is essential to combat ear infections, stomach issues, and constipation are a few of some issues that are very common in children. Additionally, on a musculoskeletal level, there are times when toddlers show signs of slight scoliosis, which might or might not be hereditary. Fortunately, there is still time for young children to reverse scoliosis, as growth plates are still open, and the spine is still being fully formed. Hence from improved immune systems to better sleep and concentration, here’s a list of other benefits of pediatric chiropractic treatment:
- Better sleep – While many tend to think of babies being fussy and crying through the night for no reason, typically babies who have trouble sleeping aren’t fussy at all, they’re uncomfortable. By performing an adjustment, I can relieve any additional stress from a baby’s neck or back, allowing them to rest peacefully. Click here to learn in detail how I treat sleeping problems with babies and toddlers.
- Improved immune system – As babies develop, their immune system is susceptible and vulnerable to attacks by numerous ailments. By soothing the musculoskeletal system, chiropractic care has been shown to reduce the duration of sickness a child may endure. Pediatric chiropractic adjustments can enhance digestive and immune health required to eliminate the re-occurrence of:
- Chronic ear infections and ear aches
- Colic and acid reflux
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty recovering from illness
- Asthma and allergies
- Improved behavior – Stress and anxiety affect children emotionally and physically and can cause them to act out as a coping mechanism. A pediatric chiropractic adjustment can help release tension which goes a long way in improving the child’s mood, comfort and well-being. The added benefit of better sleep guarantees a more relaxed child with an improved attitude towards learning and playing.
- Improved nervous system – Your child’s spinal cord and brain are part of their central nervous system and control all aspects of life, learning, thinking, speech, feeling, movement, sight, hearing, growth and development. Since infancy is the time of greatest brain development, it’s prudent to ensure the health and proper functioning of the nerve system. Be mindful how all-encompassing a healthy nervous system serves a child. Ear infections for example are nervous system problems – which heal after the spine is aligned correctly. How so? For instance, recurring ear infections can indicate your child’s Eustachian tubes are not draining properly. Fluids building up in these tubes leading from the inner ear to the throat attract bacteria causing infection. The origin of ear infections is commonly subluxations in a child’s neck. I can identify any such subluxation and correct any misalignment thereby enabling your child’s immune system to properly function and ear and sinuses properly drain. This is how and why regular pediatric adjustments can improve not only nervous system function but also immune function.
- Improved brain development – Pediatric adjustments clear neural pathways and promote neurological development and neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the nervous system (including the brain) to learn and have neural pathways strengthen, change, rewire, and strengthen further those important neural connections Spinal misalignments in children hinder learning and exacerbate learning difficulties and disorders like ADHD, speech delays and or ADD. When I correct any subluxations or misalignments, this reduces pressure on the spine resulting in increased brain function and improved neuroplasticity potential. With the nervous system operating at an optimal level, better concentration, sharper focus, and a greater attention span can be performed by a child. In a nutshell, pediatric chiropractic adjustments help reduce pressure on bones, joints, in the spine which in turn improves your child’s neural brain development. With improved focus and reduced hyperactivity, chiropractic care can help regulate the different lobes in the brain allowing for proper development.
The benefits of chiropractic care for babies, toddlers, and young children extend to the treatment of specific ailments and conditions, including the following:
- Ear infections
- Digestive issues
- Sleep issues
- Sports injuries
- Concentration and focus issues
- Irritable baby syndrome
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Asperger’s syndrome, autism, and autism spectrum disorders
Chiropractic Adjustment for Babies & Toddlers, a Summarized Example
It’s important to understand that as a Chiropractic practitioner, I do not directly treat ailments, disorders, and adverse health conditions. I enable your child’s body to naturally respond to these conditions. I assess your child’s spine for subluxations and misalignments that impair nervous system function, therefore affect overall body function. Thus, by identifying and removing subluxation interference of the spine – ailments, disorders, and adverse health conditions can improve naturally through the recuperative powers of the central nervous system – without drugs or surgery.
For instance, when a baby has a feeding or latching problem, it’s fairly common to find the Atlas Vertebra (a small bone at the top of the cervical or neck) misaligned. The ring-shaped Atlas Vertebra connects the occipital bone to support the skull’s base and is the point where about half of the head’s forward and backward range of motion originates. Trauma placed upon the neck and cranium during the birthing process can cause the Atlas Vertebra to slip out of alignment. This is often the case when a baby strongly favors or is only able to turn their head to one side. Additionally, when the neural pathways between the Atlas Vertebra and jaw are disrupted, the baby may exhibit difficulty with jaw functioning for latching and feeding. Minor chiropractic adjustments can help to realign the Atlas Vertebra, allowing the baby to latch and feed with ease.
While many choose to have their baby receive chiropractic care as soon as possible from the moment of birth, there is no wrong or right answer as to when is the right time – mindful of your comfort level. However, if you observe symptoms that seemingly have no underlying cause, be mindful of the nature of a subluxation. Even school age children may be experiencing the ailments or other issues stemming from what a still undetected “birth” subluxation is causing.
Regular pediatric chiropractic adjustments can help make sure your baby or toddler’s spine and brain develop along the most optimal path possible. By keeping your child’s spine and central nervous system healthy and functioning well, you are providing an ideal environment for their brain’s growth and development. If you’re concerned about your baby, toddler, or young child’s health or well-being, don’t hesitate to call me at (212) 328-1180. Below are links to a vast amount of study and research supporting the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic care for babies and toddlers.