Chiropractic care is commonly but mistakenly thought to be exclusively a musculoskeletal treatment and strictly for adults. However the reality, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, is on average 11% of chiropractic patients are children (including newborns), for common pediatric conditions including colic, reflux, tongue-tie, constipation, sleep problems, torticollis, plagiocephaly, seizures, ADHD, asthma, and more.
What is Nystagmus?
Nystagmus is an involuntary eye movement disorder, where the eyes (usually both) can move fast or slow and range in frequency of movement:
- side to side
- up and down
- in a circle
Looking in certain directions may cause the eyes to shake more aggressively. Children with nystagmus will commonly tilt or turn their head in effort to find the “null position” — which is the position and direction when gazing of minimal involuntary eye movements as it’s the least bothersome to their vision. Nystagmus has 2 broad classifications; (1) congenital (which is present at birth or soon thereafter) and acquired (emerging at 6 months after birth or later).
What is Strabismus?
Strabismus is a condition where the eyes are misaligned and do not look in the same direction at the same time, and are thus unable to work together as a team for comfortable and clear binocular vision. One type of strabismus is where one eye (or two) is misaligned outward (“wall-eyed”), another type where one eye (or two) is misaligned inward (“crossed eyes”). Strabismus also has the same 2 broad classifications; (1) congenital (which is present at birth or soon thereafter) and acquired (emerging at 6 months after birth or later). Typically strabismus appears by the time a child becomes a toddler or at about age 3, though it can possibly in later childhood and even in adulthood.
Signs & Symptoms Strabismus and or Nystagmus
In children with strabismus, symptoms usually appear before the age of 3, but almost always by the age of 6. (Source) However, older children and adults can develop crossed eyes as well.
Signs and symptoms of strabismus include: (Source, Source)
- One eye pointing in the wrong direction (turned out or in, up or down)
- An eye that moves or drifts while the other eye is focused
- Squinting of one eye
- Frequent blinking, especially in bright sunlight
- Rubbing one or both eyes
- Tilting or moving the head to see something better
- Double vision
- Split vision (seeing one regular plus one half or partial image)
- Seeing unstable or moving images
- Eye fatigue or strain
- Poor depth perception
- Constant or occasional trouble focusing, especially when you’re tired or ill
Causes of Strabismus and or Nystagmus
Both strabismus and nystagmus can be congenital (present at birth or soon thereafter) or emerge at some later point due to an injury or underlying condition. Both eye disorders are a result of
- weak eye muscles
- nerve issues related to transmitting information to the brain
Combined and clinically said, “Most strabismus results from an abnormality of the neuromuscular control of eye movement” Since eye movement corresponds with neurological control and function of eye muscles, both eye disorders are considered a type of neurological disorder.
Research points to subluxations of the vertebra (spine & central nervous system) and cranium as the culprit disrupting neuromuscular coordination and eye control. 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. 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. When the central nervous system in babies and toddlers is disrupted due to subluxations, the result can be a measure of loss of neuromuscular control of eye movement (strabismus and or nystagmus) or any of several other adverse conditions.
This is supported by the following research:
- Objective: The chiropractic care of a 4 year old pediatric patient with Down’s syndrome and bilateral convergent strabismus is described. The purpose of this case report is to demonstrate the effects of vertebral subluxation reduction on aberrant ocular presentation and to propose vertebral subluxation mechanisms responsible for these effects.
- Conclusion: The results suggest that chiropractic care, specifically atlas subluxation reduction, might be responsible for the correction of convergent strabismus, without surgical alteration, in this case.
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. Click here to where we go into detail in answering the question: How Do Babies & Toddlers Get Subluxations of the Spine?
Another important study to point to is as follows:
The Chiropractic Care of an Infant Female with a Medical Diagnosis of Strabismus: A Case Report (ANDREA L. PARISIO-FERRARO and JOEL ALCANTARA). An 18-month-old female with strabismus received chiropractic care to correct her eye disorder. The patient was cared for with chiropractic spinal adjustments in combination with cranial-sacral therapy with positive outcome. The patient’s strabismus improved as confirmed by ongoing consultations with an ophthalmologist. Conclusion: This case report provides supporting evidence that infants with strabismus may benefit from chiropractic care (Click to Review Study).
Treatment of Strabismus and or Nystagmus
As both a Chiropractor and Craniosacral Therapist, I am able to combine both therapies consistent with the research proven effective in resolving both strabismus and nystagmus. The importance of being treated by a craniosacral therapist in correcting these neuromuscular eye disorders becomes clear – once you’re mindful that it’s cranial nerves that control eye movement.
The extraocular muscles which originate in the eye socket and work to move the eye up, down, side to side, and rotate the eye are activated by three cranial nerves.
- Oculomotor nerve: Ability to move and blink your eyes.
- Trochlear nerve: Ability to move your eyes up and down or back and forth.
- Abducens nerve: Ability to move your eyes.
These cranial nerves start in your brainstem. Your brainstem connects your brain and spinal cord. Cranial nerves send electrical signals between your brain and different parts of your neck, head and torso.
What conditions can affect the cranial nerve functioning?
Cranial Nerve dysfunction can be present at birth, or at any point soon after due to:
- Inadequate blood flow: Causes lack of oxygen that nerves need to function properly.
- Nerve compression: Abnormal pressure on a nerve.
Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s organs, tissues, and cranial nerves. Something called blood hemoglobin concentration is what determines oxygen delivery to the cranial nerves and there is research determining craniosacral therapy results in greater improvement in hemoglobin oxygen saturation to cranial nerves. – Source, Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial
As a craniosacral practitioner I place my hands gently on the skull. Then, applying only tiny, nearly imperceptible amounts of pressure, allow for mobility of the cranial bones to release tension and improve the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (and oxygen) through the craniosacral system (including to the cranial nerves controlling eye movement). In doing so conditions such strabismus and nystagmus can be reducing stress of connective tissue layers encasing the eyes, covering the optic nerves, enveloping the eye motor nerves or disturbing vision processing regions. Improving the condition.
I discuss extensively how craniosacral therapy resolves neurological disorders here, and the benefits of chiropractic care for babies and toddlers, including a comprehensive explanation of subluxations, here.
Craniosacral Therapy and the Visual System
Simply put, craniosacral therapy can help the eyes regain their fluid nature and help the eye muscles to relax. It is effective for releasing tension patterns or trauma in the eyes, eye muscles, brain and nerves. This therapy also helps the bones in your skull to realign, especially the sphenoid bone that partially houses the eye sockets. The misaligned bones in the skull could be due baby being stuck in utero or to birth process intervention using forceps or vacuum or cesarean and concussion from a fall in infancy or childhoodAn article, “How cranial therapy can complement vision care after a concussion”, was recently published in the Helio Medblog associated with the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association International (NORA). The article suggests that patients receiving vision rehabilitation for oculomotor (eye muscle) dysfunctions might benefit from cranial therapy since the objective is to “relieve “potential inhibition of the cranial nerves supplying the eye muscles and improving circulation to the brain”. This is another way of saying:
- Inadequate blood flow: Causes lack of oxygen that cranial nerves need to function properly.
- Nerve compression: Abnormal pressure on a cranial nerves.
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.