Baby chiropractic frequently asked questions.
Chiropractic for babies and children can stir up a lot of questions. As a child and pregnancy chiropractor, I am asked these questions on a daily basis. So I thought, why not have them available for everyone to read? If my patients are wondering these things, I’m sure the general public is too.
I’ve compiled for you the ten most common questions about baby chiropractic. Though it really does extend into older children and pregnancy chiropractic too.
What is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a science concerned with maintaining the natural harmony that should exist between the brain and the body for it to achieve optimal health.
During childhood is a particularly important time to be checked, because your child is still growing. Their nervous system is still learning and maturing, responding to the environment it is in. If the nervous system is irritated, or their spine is out of alignment, I wonder what this will do to their health potential?
“As the branch is bent, so grows the tree”
Chiropractic treats and corrects the CAUSE of the problem, not the symptoms. Chiropractic adjustments (I prefer to call them corrections) support the body to realign joints, thereby reducing inflammation and neurological irritation.
This means we do not promise to fix any one condition, instead we work with the nervous system. The overflow effects (for example, if your child starts to sleep better) is a result of their nervous system being back in balance. You can read more about chiropractic on my FAQ page.
What does a chiropractic appointment involve?
Seeing a chiropractor for children involves an initial consultation – which typically takes anywhere between 40-60 minutes. We cover all aspects of your child’s health, as well as the pregnancy and birth. This gives a complete picture of health to work with.
This is followed by a thorough physical examination, similar to that which occurs in a paediatrician’s office or child nurse health check. All reflexes and developmental milestones are tested to ensure your baby is neurologically within normal ranges. The consult finishes with a spine and joint assessment, to assess where areas of motion restriction are.
All abnormal findings are discussed with the parents, and a plan of care is devised.
Follow-up appointments are scheduled typically weekly for a few weeks until spinal movement and reflexes are within normal range.
Do adjustments hurt?
Not at all. Most babies and children find gentle corrections relax their body immediately.
When it comes to chiropractic for babies and young children, twisting, cracking and popping are not the goal of a children’s chiropractor. Instead, gentle corrections are provided to the baby/child, followed by a reassessment to ensure the body has returned to normal function. Assessments include movement/motion, blood flow, and tendon reflex changes. The pressure used to adjust your child is similar to the pressure you use to check the ripeness of a tomato.
During appointments, if a baby/child is upset, typically it is because the chiropractor has found a point of discomfort (that was already there), as opposed to the chiropractor causing a child pain.
Do chiropractors crack babies’ necks?
Simply put, no! Babies and children do not need the same amount of pressure as adults do. Cracking your baby’s neck is not the goal of a baby chiropractor. In fact, this is why I strongly using the term adjustment, and prefer correction.
The pressure used to adjust your baby is similar to the pressure used to test the ripeness of a tomato.
I personally use a combination of applied kinesiology and gentle paediatric chiropractic, meaning many appointments involve corrections that are very far from the traditional form of chiropractic.
What results can I expect?
If you’re new to chiropractic care, you’ll want to know what type of results you can expect. Results vary from child to child, but most parents see positive changes in their babies and children soon after beginning care. These results continue to consolidate with continued care.
In the rare case of a failure to respond to care, or worsening of symptoms, the chiropractor is well equipped to find the reason for this and alter the course of treatment, or if necessary, refer to a more appropriate health provider.
The great news is babies and children typically respond much faster than adults! The average baby only requires a small number of visits, followed by a check-up every 2-3 months to ensure they are growing and developing well. You should not need to have your child on a weekly/fortnightly wellness plan for their entire childhood. Please bear in mind that speed of outcomes depend on many factors – including what your goals of care are, and how your child presents. For example, a baby attending for a general check-up tends to need less visits than a school aged child attending for behavioural issues.
Is chiropractic safe?
Despite its many benefits, chiropractic care has some risks. Please note, these risks are referring to traditional manual therapeutic adjustments, of which I do not do.
Minor and moderate risks associated with a baby/child’s proposed care include – muscles stiffness or soreness, irritability, sleep disturbance, headache, and back pain. The occurrence of these risks is rare at a rate of 1 in every 100-200 patients. They tend to last less than 24 hours and resolve without the need for additional care.
Serious adverse events in paediatric chiropractic have occurred 8 times in total. Death from neck manipulation has occurred 3 times, none of which were caused by a chiropractor. All of these cases involved unknown underlying pathology, or the use of unsafe treatments. A children’s chiropractor will thoroughly examine a child before proposing any treatments, will not provide treatment if underlying issues are suspected, and will not use unsafe treatments on a baby.
In comparison – a study comparing chiropractic care and a course of anti-inflammatory drugs found chiropractic to be 250 times safer.
If you’d like to read more in detail the research about chiropractic safety, I have written a blog post specifically about it. Learn more about the safety of chiropractic.
What about the negative media?
Despite recent media and negative press associated with chiropractic care for children, chiropractic continues to uphold it’s exemplary safety record and gentle approach to children’s health. Many families are starting to search for alternative health options, and wanting to follow a more natural approach to health. By providing chiropractic and nutritional support in one consultation, I am continuing to help many families in raising happy, healthy children. I cover some of the media in my safety of chiropractic post.
How is baby chiropractic different from adults?
There are a number of ways a child differs from an adult, particularly when it comes to pain or discomfort.
Firstly, a child’s nervous system has not yet matured. We all know that our child’s brain is still developing and learning every day. But we often don’t consider that the rest of their nervous system is still developing too! The pain pathways in children are very broad. This means if a nerve is irritated or they have some pain, it could feel like their entire leg (or their entire body) feels sore. In this way, they are unable to locate the source of their discomfort and instead might say things like “my tummy hurts”, “my legs hurt” or even just be in a bad mood without explanation.
The second thing is that pain can be very visceral for children. They will often complain of a sore tummy or a headache when really the source of discomfort is elsewhere.
The third and final point is that many children cannot communicate how they feel properly. This is definitely true of babies – though a mother will know if their baby’s cry is a pain cry or a hunger/tired cry! In toddlers, they may mimic a caretaker’s description of pain. “My back hurts”, “I have a headache”… their discomfort may be in an entirely different area of their body but this is how they have learned to communicate their pain.
In this sense, it can be difficult for a caretaker to determine if their child is having pain in their spine or associated muscles, and as a general rule I recommend that all children have a spine and nervous system check-up. It is an easy thing to rule out, and also a simple thing to help if subluxations are found!
What conditions do chiropractors help with?
Chiropractors work primarily with the spine and nervous system. In this respect, we cannot promise to fix any one condition! As a general approach, I personally suggest that if you feel something is “not quite right” with a child, it is worth having them checked. As you now know, chiropractic has a strong safety record and is gentle and non-invasive, making it a good choice for many parents and their children (400,000 people a week can’t be wrong!).
There has been some limited research on chiropractic and specific conditions. The main premise of the research is based on the fact that we know that nerves from the spine go to both muscle and organs, therefore if a particular spinal region is irritated, it may affect both the associated muscles and organs.
Overall, the research is equivocal and more is required to understand how chiropractic truly impacts the body. What must be remembered is that the human body, particularly the nervous system, does not work like a recipe book. We as chiropractors cannot adjust one bone and expect the same result in every patient, because everyone’s nervous system will respond differently.
How do I choose a good baby chiropractor?
All qualified chiropractors hold a 5 year double degree, and are tightly regulated by AHPRA. When looking for a chiropractor for your children, it is best to start with finding a chiropractor who is interested in working with children (not all of us are!).
A chiropractor who is interested in children will make the effort to undertake further postgraduate training in paediatrics. Formal education is required each year to maintain chiropractic registration. There are a number of fantastic postgraduate paediatric chiropractic training programs available to keep knowledge up to date.
Mums will often comment in forums about their chiropractor, so you can always check your local mums groups for a recommendation too. If you are looking for a recommendation and can’t seem to decide, please use the contact form to email me (include your location) and I am more than happy to assist you.