Spinal and muscular health is an important building block that can impact your child’s physical and cognitive development. We dive into the benefits of chiropractic and ergonomic care for kids.
By Lori Cohen
We get preventative checks for the health of our eyes, ears, teeth, heart and a whole lot more. But, says Dr. Greg Venning, chiropractor and author of Thrive, it makes sense for children and babies to get checked proactively by a chiropractor as early on in life as possible. Chiropractic care goes a lot deeper than the commonly known purposes of treating neck and back pain, headaches and injuries, he says. So, how can infants benefit?
‘Some studies have stated that over 90% of babies born through non-traumatic births had signs of misalignment in the spine or skull. These misalignments are called vertebral subluxations. This could affect the proper functioning of the nervous system and contribute to health issues throughout life. Because they create interference with the optimum function of the nervous system, they are a health problem, not a back problem,’ explains Greg.
How does this happen? The spine, says Greg, has 24 moveable rings that give us mobility while also protecting the spinal cord and nerves. ‘These boney rings can become misaligned or restricted in ways that cause interference to the nervous system, and so compromise the function of the nervous system. This interference can be measured in the body as dysfunction in the cells, tissue organs and glands and it can also be measured in the brain as poor integration of information from the body and the external world,’ he says.
Baby Steps to Healing
Excessive fussiness and crying (colic), feeding problems, preferring to feed on one breast more than the other, curves in the spine, a baby’s head or body preferring to turn or bend to one side and constipation, are all conditions that can be assisted with chiropractic care. Babies should be checked by a chiropractor soon after birth, he says.
‘For older children, ear infections, attention and learning issues, bed-wetting, allergies, and asthma are just a few issues that could benefit from chiropractic care if subluxations are present,’ explains Greg.
While parents report that their babies sleep better and cry less when they are under chiropractic care, the parents themselves are often in dire need of some attention. ‘Mothers who have carried a baby in their womb for around 40 weeks, putting added stress and strain on the structure of their bodies. Added to that is the birth process, which can be smooth and easy, but very often ends up with interventions that can have consequences. Caesarean births, though necessary in some cases, cut through the muscles of the core and bypass the natural process that the mother’s body is designed to do.
‘Added to that, new parents now have a little person who loves to be held for long periods, prams, baby carriers, nappy bags, and a whole world of physical stressors that did not exist for them before. Add sleep loss and emotional stress to the mix and you have some very subluxated new parents,’ says Greg.
When and How to Get Help
There are two types of chiropractors; the first is referred to as a mechanistic or pain-based chiropractor. They see people for specific conditions, and once the symptom is gone, the job is done. The second type is called a vitalistic or full-spectrum chiropractor. ‘We work with pain and symptoms but also look at the person holistically.
We see health as more than the absence of pain, more than a disease-free interlude. We give people the option of doing deeper work to alleviate the immediate pain, but also to correct underlying problems and find the causes of health issues,’ says Greg.
Muscling in on Issues
Movement or lack thereof, is another issue that is hampering our children’s development, says certified professional ergonomist Esmeralda Kerlen. One of the problems caused by extended hours spent behind school desks and lounging on sofas, is that, to grow muscles, they need to move. And our children simply aren’t moving enough.
‘When you move, your muscles work like a pump. You get an exchange of nutrients going in and out, oxygen in your muscles and waste products are excreted. When muscles aren’t used, they start to break down, and you get a loss of muscle strength. You also lose bone density,’ she explains.
Another common issue is that abdominal muscles become weak and the lower back muscles start to dominate. This changes a child’s posture negatively. ‘We can help retrain the correct balance to improve posture, but we also work
on the wrists, fingers, elbows, and other parts of the body that need to be retrained,’ she says. Children are increasingly seeking help because they have trouble holding a pen, or start piano lessons and have poor hand-eye coordination, she continues.
For school-going kids, Esmerelda says working on a computer with a separate keyboard and child-sized mouse, rather than a laptop, is preferable to avoid muscular-skeletal issues. Poor posture and handwriting are two obvious signs that your child could benefit from working with an ergonomist. They may also complain of headaches, and tingling in their hands or feet, and these issues need to be looked into.
Changing habits can go a long way. ‘Encourage your child to take lots of short breaks at school, and take opportunities to stand and sit intermittently while working,’ she says. The objective is to keep those muscles moving.