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The nervous system is the hub of the human body. The first cells to differentiate in a fetus occur about seven hours after conception, and they will soon become the brain and spinal cord. Around the 16th day of development, the neural plate becomes visible. The neural tube forms about five days later. The front of the neural tube develops into the brain and the remainder becomes the spinal cord. After the central nervous system is developed, it becomes the conduit for the other systems to grow. So, the spine is a critical part of the human body, even prior to birth.
A vertebral misalignment, or subluxation, can occur at any age, even in a newborn. Once a vertebral subluxation occurs, the body attempts to heal itself naturally. They rarely restore themselves to a normal position but rather remain misaligned, too tight, or too loose. Out of position, they impinge on the spinal nerves, negatively impacting the flow of messages to the brain and the rest of the body. Inflammation and scar tissue develop, followed by gradual – and potentially irreversible – degeneration. In an infant or young child, a subluxation can lead to a variety of developmental problems.
The chiropractic solution
Because a healthy spine is literally at the core of a healthy body, it makes sense to include chiropractic checks in the wellness program of infants and children. Chiropractic focuses on correct alignment of the spine because the nervous system’s messages are received here from the brain and transmitted to every area of the body. When this central communication point is not functioning properly, a wide range of problems can occur:
• Infants can develop colic, respiratory problems, difficulty nursing, sleep problems, stomach pain, and chronic ear infections, depending on which area of the spine is compromised.
• Toddlers and children can suffer degenerative problems if the spinal subluxation is left unattended. Their ability to achieve prescribed developmental milestones is hampered and they struggle to keep up with their peers.
• Adolescents and teens might suffer from chronic headaches, allergies, sinus infections, irritable bowels, indigestion, arm and/or leg pain or numbness, and back, neck or shoulder pain. Carrying those heavy backpacks contributes to the misalignment and its ensuing problems.
Prenatal and birth causes
Subluxations can occur even while the baby is in the womb. When the mother’s womb is not large enough for the baby, the cramped space can alter the developing spinal cord. Induced labor and pain medications can also contribute to subluxation in an unborn child. The birthing process adds even more risk, with the use of forceps or vacuum extraction that can pull on the newborn. Even a Caesarean section can cause subluxation. Any pulling and twisting can shift a baby’s spine out of alignment, which can lead to problems with the organs, muscles, and tissues that rely on this nerve center for healthy function.
Gross motor skills like crawling and walking – even holding up her head – can be difficult when an infant suffers from vertebral subluxation. The fine motor skills – writing, drawing, tying a shoe or buttoning a button – are also impaired. Language, cognitive, and social skills do not develop along normal timelines in infants and toddlers with spinal problems. In fact, children who have been diagnosed with ADD and ADHD have benefited from chiropractic care because the treatment has been proven to help so many of the areas that contribute to the condition.
Chiropractic treatment for infants is gentle and painless. A chiropractor applies the same amount of finger pressure to the infant’s back as you would when testing fruit for ripeness.
The pain of child’s play
As children become more active, they face other risks to their spinal wellness. From the wrong sleeping position or tumbling out of bed to a fall off a bicycle or swing set, their growing spine and the surrounding nerves, tissues, and muscles can be easily injured. Even a strong jolt like a bumpy ride on a school bus or jerking motion on an amusement park ride can lead to subluxation. Add youth sports, dance classes, and other physical activities to the mix and you can see that there are countless ways for a child to suffer an injury to even one small area of the spine. Other less obvious threats include toxins and pollutants in the air, water, and food. Medications – both over-the-counter and prescription – can lead to vertebral subluxation. Whatever the cause, a subluxation that is not corrected leads to greater problems.
An 18-year study of 4,600 cases of upper respiratory infections in a group of 100 families attests to the efficacy of chiropractic care and spinal hygiene. Researchers determined that ear infections occurred in individuals with restricted spinal motion in the upper neck area. When correction function was maintained or restored, the infections did not occur.
Visible signs of subluxation
Be proactive with your young patients. Look for these signs of subluxations:
• When lying down, one leg is shorter than the other
• When standing, one of the hips or shoulders is higher or lower than the other
• Head tilts to one side
• Uneven wear on the heels of the shoes
• Shoulders and hips are not parallel (twisting in opposite directions)
Unfortunately, too many parents overlook potential damage to the spine when the symptoms aren’t obvious. Most children are brought to chiropractors as the result of an injury, rather than for regular check-ups. Just as every person, regardless of age, should have an annual exam, they should also visit a chiropractor periodically throughout the year to avoid causing further injury or medical problems as the result of an undiagnosed subluxation.
By Felicity Young
Posted on: 06-14-2011