why you should consider giving your children chiropractic care
Xandra says: I have been working as a chiropractor for many years, and over that time I’ve supported many patients through stressful events in their life like a new job, a new house, a wedding, and of course, pregnancy.
But what is the right age to begin chiropractic treatment? How old does a baby have to be before they can have their spine checked? If you yourself have been supported through life’s events with the assistance of chiropractic treatment, it may feel intuitive to want to check the spine and nervous system of your baby, to give it the healthiest start in life.
And the answer is, that we can check a baby’s spine and treat them if needed, as soon as they are born.
aren’t babies born ‘perfect’?
Every baby is perfect, but that doesn’t mean that the process of their arrival into the world necessarily was. A long labour, forceps delivery or caesarean can all affect a baby’s spine, neck or back.
As an example, I was with my sister when my niece was born. Jess had a difficult, 70-hour labour that culminated with an emergency caesarean. The next morning, Jess was struggling with getting her new daughter to breastfeed, as she wouldn’t turn her head to the right. The midwives were very concerned about this, which in itself was stressing Jess out. My sister’s answer was to hand me her six-hour-old baby, and tell me to “fix her neck, she’s had a horrible birth”. Within five minutes, after one very gentle treatment, baby Amelia was turning to the right without an issue.
After the toll of a 70-hour labour and an emergency caesarean, it’s understandable that her tiny neck could get stressed. So, it was a good idea to check that out to see if the magic of chiropractic manipulation could help.
Does treating a baby with chiropractic hurt the baby?
No. Chiropractic treatment is extremely gentle and chiropractors are highly-trained health professionals who only practice what can be considered moderate treatment for each individual. Occasionally, babies do cry with treatment, but this is a normal reaction to a stranger, or something unexpected, not as a result of any pain.
Jess’s son has also been treated regularly with chiropractic treatment since birth. He was a perfect four-hour home water birth, but regardless, his back, neck and spine were still checked when he was just two days old. He has always been a poor sleeper, and so his joints get stiff, and he appreciates the relief that his chiropractor aunt gives him! From just six months of age, as soon as he was put in the position for treatment, he would start giggling. He has no fear of chiropractic, shows no discomfort or crying and really seems to love it (which is great, because Aunty Xandra would love him to become a chiropractor one day)!
Why treat children with chiropractic at such a young age?
Life can be hard on a small baby’s growing spine and developing nervous system. As they learn to stand and crawl they are constantly falling onto man-made hard surfaces. This can be jarring to their spine and nervous system. Add to that, all the modern advances that they were not designed for, like prams, car seats and bouncers, which can all cause discomfort and stiffness in children and babies.1 Getting our spine health checked should be a normal part of life for the whole family, including our children.
What to do if you think your child is suffering from back, neck or joint pain:
Work on their posture: Posture is the most common reason that I see children in my chiropractic clinic. Heavy school bags, constant looking downwards at smartphones or tablets, or slouching when watching TV or gaming can all affect children, just as much as adults.
Posture problems are developing in even very young children, as school and even play is becoming more desk-based. There ought to be lessons when we start school, to teach children how to sit correctly! Our guide to workstation setup includes sections that apply to all ages, including children.
Make sure they play and exercise: Play is vital for us all, not just for kids! Encouraging movement and regular exercise can help us to keep our muscles and skeletons fit and supple, and play can encourage us to move our bodies in ways that we may not otherwise, helping to keep our muscles and spine guessing and gently flexed.
Help them get a good night’s sleep: Sleep is also important, and a good pillow and bed is also a key part of keeping your child’s spine in good working order. Babies should have a firm mattress with no pillow and minimal blankets and coverings to prevent SIDS2 (use a sleep sack to keep them warm). Older children can have a pillow but make sure it is designed for them, not just an adult pillow.
Consider taking your child to a chiropractor for regular checks, and especially if they have experienced a traumatic accident or fall. In my practice, I see children of all ages; from babies who are just a few weeks old, to toddlers who are learning to walk, right through to school children, and of course, plenty of adults too!
Any kind of trauma is a very good reason to have your child see a chiropractor. Whether this is following a car accident or after a bad fall, it is worth getting your child checked over, even if they are not expressing any pain or discomfort. It can often reveal hidden problems that they may not have been aware of.
Looking after the spine from a young age makes so much sense, you look after your teeth from when they start to grow so why not your spine?
- Hestbaek L, Jørgensen A, Hartvigsen J. A description of children and adolescents in Danish chiropractic practice: results from a nationwide survey. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2009 Oct;32(8):607-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2009.08.024. PMID: 19836596.
- Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9(9):665-674. doi:10.1093/pch/9.9.665