Dr. Jeannique Norbert, chiropractor, Austin, Texas

Did you just say infants and children? Why, yes indeed, I did.

Upon hearing that I am a chiropractor, the most common phrases from the person I’m talking to is some variation of, “Oh man, I need you!” as they grab the body part that’s aching them the most at the moment (99% of the time it’s their back) or, “Thank God I’m not in any pain right now, but I’m coming to you when I am!”

Without discrediting the amazing role chiropractic plays in the alleviation of back pain, I’ve seen that our society has generally come to understand chiropractic as simply a means of back pain relief for adults and the elderly. As a result, so many are unaware of the far-reaching benefits of chiropractic care and what incorporating it regularly into their lifestyle can mean for their body’s overall picture of health and vitality. Our little ones are no exception!

Why even the smallest spines can benefit from chiropractic care

As a family chiropractor, my focus is on safe, gentle, and effective chiropractic care for the entire family. By this I mean from the time of conception with the pregnant mother, newborns, children, adolescents, and adults.

Chiropractic is concerned with the natural preservation and restoration of health, and focuses special attention on correcting improper motion and alignment in the vertebrae of the spine (Subluxations), not simply on correcting symptoms and disease. If you will for a moment, think of the nervous system as the information highway of communication that delicately balances the self-regulating and healing mechanisms in your body. It is a scientific fact, that since the spine protects the spinal cord and creates outlets for every single nerve that branches out and feeds the brain and all muscles, cells, and systems of the body, you can guarantee that even the slightest bit of poor nerve communication is negatively affecting something in the body, somewhere, and somehow.

The unique role I play as a chiropractor is to assess and clear the spine of any of these misalignments in the vertebrae that are interfering with this vital communication pathway of nervous system feedback to and from the brain and our body systems. This can be the root cause of dysfunction, pain, and overall decreased function and health in the body. That means everything from your “normal” neck or back pain to alleviating and preventing issues such as ear infections and asthma in children. It’s quite exciting when my patients understand that I am not healing their child’s symptoms or disease, instead, through specific adjustments of the spine and freeing the flow of communication in the nervous system, their body is actually doing the healing itself!…Just as it always strives to do.

Top reasons parents bring their children to a chiropractor

It would be so nice if our little ones could perfectly verbalize their complaints or discomfort to us. Even though that’s not the case, their bodies are doing the talking for them. It just takes a skilled chiropractor with experience and training in working with children to interpret these signals of nervous system distress and correct it naturally, without the use of medication or surgery.

Here are the top 10 reasons that parents bring their newborns in to check their spinal health:

  1. To maximize their child’s brain and nerve development (Wellness)
  2. To enhance their child’s immune system
  3. To strengthen immunity and reduce the incidence of colds, earaches, and general illness
  4. To help with colic and Irritable Baby Syndrome
  5. To help with asthma, breathing difficulties, and  allergies
  6. To improve spinal posture, crawling abnormalities, and latching/suckling issues in breastfeeding
  7. To improve their child’s ability to concentrate
  8. To assist with behavioral disorders and offer greater emotional well-being
  9. To help alleviate bed wetting and digestive problems
  10. To assist with sleep issues

Why would I take my healthy child, who has no symptoms, to see a chiropractor?

My passion for caring for children resonates from the understanding of the age-old concept that one change in a young person’s life today can affect the entire course of their life and vitality for years to come! Unfortunately, many of the hard-to-correct problems I see in adolescents or adults, like scoliosis or headaches, are the result of long-standing subluxations that began, and remained undetected in childhood. The earlier these problems are addressed, the easier it is to maintain proper structure, function and responsiveness to the inevitable stresses our body will endure as we age.

Let’s go back to that communication highway: the nervous system. Consider what a communication breakdown can mean for a relationship between friends or couples. Even though it may not be obvious in the early stages, dysfunction can bubble under the surface for a long time before a blow up eventually occurs. Similarly, the communication breakdown in the nervous system caused by subluxations can go undetected for years given that are usually totally pain-free, discretely affecting your body’s balance. Unfortunately, if they are left uncorrected the body’s capacity for health can deteriorate over time. Pain is the body’s final warning defense that there is an underlying problem, not the first!

Why chiropractic care can start as early as birth

The reason that I advise that all newborns and infants seek chiropractic care truly all begins with the birthing process. There are many factors that can cause birth trauma in a seemingly normal vaginal delivery including: a long or very short labor, failure of the mother’s cervix to dilate, the use of drugs to increase contraction intensity, the use of vacuum extraction or forceps, cesarean section delivery because of lack of progress, cord around the baby’s neck, incorrect positioning in the uterus or birth canal, or fetal distress.

As a result, the use of force has become routine in our modern birthing technique where grabbing and twisting of baby’s head and neck are commonly used during delivery, or forceps and vacuum extraction. Any force applied to the baby’s fragile neck may cause nerve system stress to their delicate spinal cord and nerves, not to mention create immediate tension and underlying spasms in the muscles of the neck.  Studies have shown that in adults and children alike, even the weight of a dime on a nerve disrupts feedback. Compare that to up to 90-140 pounds of pulling pressure applied during delivery and the question of having a newborn’s spine checked is easily answered.

Other causes of nerve dysfunction for children

In addition to the birthing process, kids will be kids and encounter general knocks and falls as they grow and develop. While the initial pain of these accidents usually resolves in time, if dysfunction in the spine is left uncorrected, it can continue to affect nervous system function and cause major problems as the child grows into adulthood.

Other physical causes for spinal misalignment in babies include sitting in a car seat for long periods of time or without proper support for the neck and even repetitive actions on the spine during diaper changes. Chemical stresses like exposure to vaccines, antibiotics and other toxins in the environment can also contribute to nerve dysfunction.

Yes, their little bodies are very resilient, but just as any machine or engine needs maintenance and service to help it run at its best, so does your child’s nervous system.

How often should your newborn or child be adjusted by a chiropractor?

Ideally, babies should be checked and adjusted as soon as possible after birth to help alleviate spinal problems caused by constraint or abnormal positioning while in the womb, or undue stresses during birth. After that, I advise my parents that wellness check-ups be performed at least at each developmental milestone, like lifting of the head, crawling, walking, etc. The frequency of care is based on your chiropractor’s interpretation of the stress on your baby’s spine during his/her evaluation and how quickly their body’s adapt throughout the course of care. The same is true for if you’ve brought your child in for help with a specific condition like bed-wetting or ear infections.

Is this safe for infants/babies/children?

Usually, when you think of how an adult’s spine is adjusted, it’s hard to fathom that chiropractic care is safe or even possible for infants. Rest assured, different adjusting techniques and exam procedures are called for when it comes to the care of the delicate pediatric spine. In the exam, the findings I look for in a child differ from adults and are based on their age, since appropriate reflexes and developmental / structural milestones in babies vary even from month to month. With the adjustment, a light fingertip pressure gentle enough to pierce a tomato is used.  Sometimes a small, hand-held instrument called an activator can be used.  At no point is powerful thrusting or twisting used on an infant nor is it common for a “popping” sound to be heard with these light adjustments. Their developing spines move so fluidly with the lightest of pressure. For this very reason, a baby’s body often responds far more quickly to chiropractic care than the adult spine!

The journal, Explore, recently published a revealing study investigating both the health benefits and risk of side effects in children who were treated by a pediatric chiropractor. Of the 812 pediatric cases reviewed, 717 reported improvement or resolution of their primary complaint following chiropractic care while only 9 reported aggravations related to treatment. These were described as “soreness” or “fussiness”. In addition, 74 of the cases reported improvement in areas unrelated to their primary complaints such as quality of sleep, mood, immune function, and range of motion. Read the study.

Doctors of chiropractic have been providing proactive, drug-free family healthcare to children and adults for over 100 years. However, chiropractic care for children is becoming increasingly popular.

This shift in awareness has been due to the advanced educational standards of chiropractors today, the expanding body of research supporting the efficacy and safety of chiropractic, and the high public demand for chiropractic care.

Today, physicians and chiropractors generally take a team approach toward patient management. It’s important for me to share that a referral to a chiropractor by another physician is not mandatory in order for your child to seek chiropractic care. However, it is always a good habit to keep all health care providers involved in your child’s care informed of all methods of care your child is receiving. I encourage all of my patients to communicate their child’s chiropractic care to their pediatrician, if their pediatrician wasn’t the source of the suggestion to begin with! I firmly believe and educate my patients that the best approach to health and the ability to address the concerns and needs of each individual is a multi-factorial approach and a team effort.  The individual skills of one practitioner alone may be limited, so I place high importance on developing referral relationships with other practitioners combining our expertise and knowledge, all for the benefit of my patients achieving their health goals and answers/solutions to their health concerns.  

Not every chiropractor is built the same

Like any profession, chiropractors and the style we choose to practice will vary, but the overall goal of health and optimal functioning for our patients is the same. In our four-year doctoral program, we all receive general training on caring for the pediatric spine and their health issues. However, some chiropractors have gone above and beyond in post-graduate specialty certifications and continuing education to make us particular experts on pediatric care, from how we analyze and adjust their spines, to the nutritional, postural, and overall lifestyle recommendations we are able to provide.  

So how do you know for sure that your chiropractor is well-trained in the care of your little one? A great place to start is looking for your local pediatric chiropractor on directory listings with the International Chiropractic Association (ICPA) or the International Chiropractic Association (ICA), Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics. These associations provide chiropractors with 200+ hours of additional expertise training for pediatric and pregnancy care. Final certification is also determined by participation in research studies and board-certified testing. Outside of certifications, word of mouth in the community is always a great way to know if a chiropractor has chosen to build a family-based practice and frequently works with children.

Empower Family Chiropractic is just that – a family-based practice! Particularly for my confidence and knowledge in the care of newborns and children, I have received my training through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. I am also Webster Technique certified (the specific adjusting analysis and technique for pregnant women) so that the health potential of your newborn can be impacted as early as in the womb. I also offer a special gift of providing your baby’s first spinal evaluation and adjustment free of charge. The impact of pediatric care is truly that important to me.

Your child’s health is their greatest asset. Health is a responsibility and requires discipline, but we all have innate healing power that given time, will enable us to recover and grow. With the chiropractic lifestyle, this won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Children’s bodies can respond quickly, becoming strong, interactive, and healthy. Through time, discipline and commitment, your child can be well. It is up to you and your child and we are here to help!

See more information on research related to chiropractic care for newborns, infants, and children

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