A friend recently shared with me that her 1-year-old son needed tubes in his ears because he had chronic ear infections, but that they were going to try the chiropractor first. We were all pleasantly surprised when, lo and behold, one chiropractic visit later, the pediatrician had cleared her son of needing tubes in his ears. A pediatric chiropractor can't fix every childhood ailment, but many people swear by them, which is why you need to keep a look out for these signs your baby needs a chiropractor, because it can really help.
UPDATE: It's important to note that The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently does not push for chiropractic care in treating infants and children for a few reasons: There's not yet enough evidence to support that this type of treatment works for nonmusculoskeletal (the combination of your muscles and skeletons) concerns and there are potentially very risky side effects.
Here's a snippet from the AAP's most recent clinical report on Pediatric Integrative Medicine:
"Serious complications are possible with chiropractic treatment of children. but such adverse effects are rare and related to high-velocity, extension, and rotational spinal manipulation. It is essential that any known preexisting underlying pathology be discussed and an age-appropriate, thorough history and physical examination be conducted to exclude abnormal anatomic or neurologic findings before any type of manual or manipulative therapy is used on a child or adolescent."
Earlier: "The chiropractic philosophy is that we try to improve their nervous system to remove any interference that might have occurred due to something like a tough delivery or a genetic issues," says Caroline Long, doctor of chiropractic and at West University Wellness in Houston in an interview with Romper. "We're not curing anything, we're just trying to improve their nervous system," which can involve anything from helping treat colic to those blocked ears.
She explains that there's really no way to know if your baby needs an alignment or adjustment until they examine your child, "We do an exam that's very similar to a pediatrician's exam, but then we do chiropractic test to see if there's something out of alignment." And fear not, most chiropractors don't do any popping or crunching that you might associate with the profession until children are older and can align your baby without a sound.
Dr. Long does caution that it's important to ensure you make an appointment with a chiropractor who has particular accreditation for pediatrics, which not all practitioners do. "Definitely reach out to the chiropractor if you think it could benefit your child because most chiropractors are more than willing to talk by phone and answer all your questions."
If you're wondering what specific issues a chiropractor can even treat in an infant, here are 5 reasons why parents bring their babies to see a specialist.
1. Trouble Latching
Dr. Long says that one of the reasons chiropractors will see their youngest patients is because they are having trouble feeding. "Very small babies we tend to see because they have latch issues. Right out of birth the lactation consultant or doula or midwife might notice there might be a misalignment in the way the jaw is aligned. Light chiropractic and CranioSacral adjustment can realign [the] jaw, giving baby the best chance possible of latching on to the bottle or nipple." And that, of course, is the goal.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health Chiropractic explained that an adjustment by a chiropractor can help alleviate constipation in babies — and quickly! A mom brought her 3-week-old baby boy to the chiropractor because he'd been suffering with constipation since birth. "The patient’s mother reported an immediate, dramatic improvement in the patient’s bowel function following the first chiropractic adjustment." If you think constipation is your baby's problem, it might be time to schedule a visit.
3. Chronic Ear Infections
Like my friend and her 1-year-old, proponents claim that chiropractic adjustments can help mitigate the need for having tubes put in a baby's ears because of chronic ear infections. A study by the International Pediatric Chiropractic Association reviewed a patient who showed relief from ear infections after chiropractic treatment, "After the first visit, the patient responded well and the mother reported symptom relief."
However, the Mayo Clinic is slightly less confident in the practice, "Proponents of chiropractic treatment claim that certain manipulations can prevent or cure ear infections. No rigorous long-term studies have proved the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for ear infections."
In babies with reflux, chiropractic adjustments could help give the baby some relief. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association published a study of a 3-month-old baby who had gastroesophageal reflux disease. The study explained, "By the 7th [chiropractic] visit, the patient was vomiting only once per day as compared to vomiting following after every feeding." The study elaborated that it seemed chiropractic care was to be given credit for helping the baby recover.
5. Not Sleeping
If your baby is chronically not sleeping well or waking up repeatedly during the night, a visit to the chiropractor might help. Good Night Sleep Site said: "Imbalances of the spine can occur during childbirth, from tumbles or falls, or from other daily activities. If the imbalance is left untreated inflammation may occur which can irritate the nerves and add stress to the nervous system and the body’s ability to function properly." That, in turn, can keep babies from sleeping soundly, and chiropractic adjustments can help.
Of course you as the parent should observe all safe and possible options to cure your baby's ailment, and figure out which forms of treatment you are comfortable with, based on medical professionals' recommendations.
Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to reflect the American Academy of Pediatrics' stance on pediatric chiropractic care.
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