It is common to get strange looks from people I talk to about taking infants to the chiropractor. I know what is going through their heads: is it safe…babies don’t have back pain…do babies get adjusted the same way I do? These are legitimate concerns for any parent, but to answer them I will begin with the most important question: WHY?
Let’s start with the obvious. When was the last time you tried to squeeze through a 10cm hole?
Being born is tough work, there are a lot of pressures and forces being exerted onto your baby during their journey into the world. A current study demonstrated that 90% of newborns suffered birth trauma and associated strain through the neck and cranial areas following birth:
Over 1500 babies were studied periodically across an eight year period by Viola Frymann, an American osteopathic doctor. All babies were examined within the first five days of birth; in fact, many were checked within the first 24 hours of birth. This study revealed that approximately:
- 10% of the newborn babies had perfect, freely mobile skulls or cranial mechanisms.
- 10% had severe trauma to the head, evident even to untrained observers.
- The remaining 80% all had some strain patterns in the cranial mechanism.
Left uncorrected this trauma continues to impact your baby’s spinal growth and development, reducing the healthy function of their nervous system. This can cause many health challenges later in life that could easily have been prevented.
The first year of life is the greatest time of spinal elongation
A baby’s spine lengthens by 50% by the time they reach one year old! At no other time does this growth happen so rapidly, so you want to make sure your baby is in proper alignment ensuring proper symmetrical growth.
The Hueter-Volkman law states that bones change shape with pressure by slowing bone growth in response to pressure (compression forces). Any spinal misalignment changes the balance of pressure across the spinal bones and can lead to asymmetric bone development. This is the difference between having a spine like a straight, strong Oak tree versus a crooked tree.
The first year of life is also the time of spinal curvature development. There are curves called “lordosis” present in your neck and lower back, and curves called a “kyphosis” in your mid-back and sacrum.
These spinal curves are necessary for movement, balance, upright posture, protection, and shock absorption. Without being in alignment during this crucial time your baby’s spinal curves may not develop properly – giving them a poor foundation for later in life.
Optimize the function of the nervous system
The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, and it processes everything that your body does. Movement, a heartbeat, seeing a baby smile, feeling the sun on your skin, laughing, smelling, creativity – all coordinated by the brain and spinal cord.
In infants the central nervous system also controls their growth and development. Being the time of greatest brain and proprioceptor (body position sensors) development, you want to ensure the health of the nervous system. This is what chiropractors who take care of babies look for, disturbances in their nervous systems that interfere with healthy growth and development.
Remember: If your baby’s spine stays out of balance, it can put tension on their nervous system.
Is it safe for infants to get adjusted?
Yes. Adverse events linked to pediatric chiropractic care are virtually non-existent, estimated at 1 in 250 million pediatric visits. There is not a single medical procedure safer than that, but I would encourage parents seek out chiropractors who routinely take care of children in their practice.
When adjusting a newborn, a skilled chiropractor will only use the amount of pressure that you would use to comfortably push on your eye. The child gets checked by hand and with technology, then is placed in position (usually in mommy’s lap), and gentle pressure is applied. That’s all there is to it. Simple, safe, effective.