We tend to have a certain image of patients who seek chiropractic treatment as being exclusive of a certain age, and this image tends to be perpetuated by the Hollywood film and television industry. In the sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” for example, Dr. Alan Jerome Harper’s patients are all adults. In the 1990 horror film “Jacob’s Ladder,” renowned actor Danny Aiello plays the part of a kind chiropractor who is actually an angel watching over the tragic life of a Vietnam veteran. We expect chiropractors to care for middle-aged men who choose to return to playing street basketball, and also for women whose lower backs are ailing after years of bad posture at work.
Pediatric chiropractic care is not something that Hollywood seems to be interested in, and this is despite the fact that 3% of American children have been treated for chiropractors, a figure compiled by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016. The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners estimates that 17% of American patients are between the ages of six and 17. In some cases, chiropractic care received by pregnant women extends to their babies.
Chiropractors Who Treat Younger Patients
Before learning about why children may need to see a chiropractor and what kind of health benefits they can derive from osteopathic manipulation treatment, it helps to understand how these healthcare professionals are trained and certified. The chiropractors depicted in “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Two and a Half Men” seem to have been trained to treat adults; this should not be surprising since adults make the bulk of the chiropractic patient population. Within the profession, a subset of practitioners specialize in caring for children, and these chiropractors often provide treatment during pregnancy.
The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association is the self-regulated entity in charge of training and certifying professionals who will care for pregnant women and patients under the age of 17. A Webster certification focuses solely on chiropractic techniques to promote a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. An ICPA certification includes pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence as a continuum of care. Chiropractors can obtain these certifications as part of their primary training or after they have been initially certified to treat adults.
Chiropractic Care for Infants and Toddlers
Some babies will endure posture-related stress in the womb, and this is something that chiropractic care during pregnancy seeks to alleviate. If the mother did not receive this care while carrying her baby, there is a potential of the infant developing spinal conditions after a natural delivery, and this is why some Cesarean section procedures are recommended.
Here are a few aspects of early chiropractic care for parents to keep in mind:
- The manipulation is extremely gentle, particularly when evaluating the patient.
- Detecting spinal misalignment at an early age is crucial in terms of development.
- Babies can easily develop improper posture habits.
- In some cases, extremely fussy babies may be suffering from musculoskeletal issues that are not typically addressed by pediatricians.
Gregarious babies will actually enjoy their visits to the chiropractor not because they feel instant relief but because they discover new physical activities.
Why Would Children Need Chiropractic Care?
Whenever you notice your child is experiencing discomfort related to motion, physical activity, or posture, a visit to the chiropractor is recommended. Please note that we are not talking about fractures or sprains; these are urgent matters that should be treated at emergency rooms or acute care clinics. Following are a few reasons why you should consider taking your child to a chiropractic clinic:
- Stress: When your son or daughter goes through periods of anxiety and discomfort that seem to be unrelated to emotional development, there is a chance that a spinal misalignment may be the underlying cause.
- Post-Injury Discomfort: Let’s say your daughter suffers an ankle sprain while playing soccer. If she has lingering pain even after being treated by an orthopedic physician, chiropractic joint care would be recommended.
- Spinal Alignment: This is the cornerstone of chiropractic healthcare, and it is often the cause of many issues related to human growth and development.
- Poor Posture: Chiropractors prefer to see and treat patients for a few sessions and never have to see them again. Some parents do not realize that their children are developing improper posture habits until physical discomfort arises; addressing this issue as soon as possible is crucial because you want your children to get into the healthy habit of being conscious about their posture.
What You Can Expect From a Pediatric Chiropractor Evaluation
Going to the chiropractor is very similar to going to the pediatrician’s medical office. The chiropractor will begin the evaluation with an appraisal of subjective facts, which means getting the input of the patient and his or her parents. The next step involves objective observations, which may include vital signs, measurements, determinations of balance and gait, x-ray imaging, and palpation of joints as well as soft tissue.
A strong consideration in every chiropractic evaluation is the proper alignment of the spine. When the vertebrae of babies develop under a misaligned condition, constant colic and even issues related to breastfeeding may arise. As toddlers begin to find their footing and learn to walk, a misaligned spine could not only delay their development but also cause issues related to mobility in the future.
Depending on what the chiropractor determines during the course of the evaluation, there is a chance that no treatment will be recommended. In many cases, parents get important lessons about how their children should develop in terms of musculoskeletal growth, and they also appreciate the knowledge they acquire during their visit. Quite a few patients of pediatric chiropractors enjoy their spinal manipulation treatments; this is more commonly seen in teenagers who play sports in school and who are not used to therapeutic massage. Finally, and this would be the cherry on the cake, chiropractors often instruct parents on how to get their children interested in certain physical activities that promote good posture and flexibility; this is a form of preventative physical therapy that may prove to be beneficial for decades.