Paediatric Chiropractic: Should you take your baby to see a chiropractor?
Dr. Michelle Zhou, Chiropractor
Picture a “typical” candidate for chiropractic treatment and who do you imagine? Someone who has a sports injury? An older person suffering from pain after a fall? Or perhaps a newborn baby?
People tend to understandably be pretty surprised to learn that infants can benefit from chiropractic care as much – if not more – than adults. It’s important to remember that children are not mini adults and that their little bodies function and move in completely different ways – meaning that their chiropractic care should also be approached from a different angle.
How does a baby get spinal problems?
Birth is a natural and beautiful process, however it can often place significant strain on the baby’s spine, and in particular the neck. In the event that the birth is long or complicated – or when interventions such as forceps or C-sections are necessary – the stress on the baby’s spine is further increased. Some studies have indicated that birth related spinal trauma is as high as 80-95% .
As babies develop, they eventually learn to sit, crawl and walk, which are not only huge neurological milestones, but also huge biomechanical challenges for them. At these stages, some babies can develop spinal or pelvic dysfunction; similar to an adult attempting a new workout or sports activity.
As any parent will tell you, once a toddler begins to walk, play and explore their world, they’ll endure many falls and (hopefully minor!) accidents along the way. Again, this can cause imbalances in their musculoskeletal system.
What are the symptoms of spinal dysfunction in babies?
Some of the more common signs and symptoms that can indicate your baby might be having some spinal and/or cranial issues that can be improved with chiropractic are:
- • Breastfeeding issues
- • A poor latch and weak suck
- • Excessive crying or fussing
- • Easily startled
- • A strong preference for one breast over another
- • Sleeping difficulties
- • Unable to turn their head to one side
- • A strong preference for a certain head position
- • An excessive dislike to tummy time
- • A misshapen or flat head
- • Asymmetrical facial features
- • Other forms of asymmetry, for example in the hips, pelvis or bottom
- • A difficult birth
So what does chiropractic care for my baby look like?
As mentioned above, adjusting a baby is very different to adjusting an adult. The techniques utilised are extremely gentle and rarely is manipulation performed. Most of the time an adjustment involves gentle stretching and mobilisation of the spine, pelvis and skull, which normalises and facilitates the function of the baby’s growing neuro-musculoskeletal system.
Cranial Sacral Therapy (LINK) is also extremely helpful in facilitating the growth and development of the baby’s nervous system as well as improving conditions such as Phagiocephaly and Brachycephaly, also known as Flat Head Syndrome.
Is chiropractic adjustment safe for my baby?
The safety of chiropractic is well documented. In adult studies, where spinal manipulation is used, the likelihood of serious adverse reaction is estimated to be as low as one in 5.83 million, which is five times less likely than being struck by lightning, and 250 times safer than taking a course of anti-inflammatories. In children, where much gentler techniques – mostly without the use of manipulation – are used, the risk of chiropractic adjustments is extremely low.
Ideally, every baby should be have a chiropractic assessment as early as possible to check for spinal and nerve dysfunction related to birth trauma. This is particularly relevant if there are visible signs of spinal dysfunction, as stated above. An assessment will reveal whether or not chiropractic can help you baby and, if not, appropriate referrals can also be made.
Ensuring your baby has a healthy spine and nervous system is important for their normal growth and development. And as we all know, healthy babies are happy babies!
- Gutman G. Blocked Atlantal Nerve Syndrome in Babies and Infants. Manuelle Medizin. 1987;25:5-10
- Fryman VM. Springall P. Effect of Osteopathic Medical Management on Neurological Development in Children. JAOA. 1992;92:729
- Haldeman S, et al. Arterial dissection following cervical manipulation: a chiropractic experience. Canadian Medical Association Journal 2001;165(7):905-06.
- Dabbs, V., & Lauretti, W.J. (1995). A Risk Assessment of Cervical Manipulation vs NSAIDs for the Treatment of Neck Pain. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 18(8), 530-536.
- Graham RL. Pistolese RA. Risk Assessment of Neurological and /or Vertebrobasilar Complications in Paediatrics. JVSR 1998;2(2):73-81