This is one of the most frequently asked questions in my office, especially when patients see me adjusting a new-born or small child. The truth is that there are many reasons why babies and kids need adjusting. The sweeping reason is because, like adults, they experience trauma that causes their joints to work improperly. The difference is that children adapt much better and do not degenerate. However, like a sapling that is not staked to grow straight into a healthy tree, the consequences can set a child up for problems in adulthood.
The most common reason I adjust infants is due to digestive issues. The term “colicky” comes from the same root as colon. Infants cry and scream for long and unbearable periods of time because of gas or some other digestive issue. If you have had a child with colic, you know how miserable it can be for everyone involved. My second child was colicky and I still haven’t recovered 10 years later from sleepless nights of attempting to console him in vain. For this very reason, however, I learned to adjust infants. I was in chiropractic school at the time and was at my wits ends. I met a pediatric chiropractor and took my son to her. She was generous enough to teach me. It made all the difference in the world!
With colicky infants, adjusting the pelvis and low back calms down the sympathetic nervous system which stimulates the parasympathetic. The parasympathetic nervous system controls digestion and works opposite the sympathetic nervous system. When this happens, babies are typically constipated and gassy. I warn parents that after the first adjustment or two, they should plan for a “blow out.” If you are a new parent and your child has always been a little constipated, a “blow out” is where the diaper cannot contain the mess.
Another common reason I adjust babies is because they are having a difficult time nursing. Usually, they are uncomfortable feeding on one breast or the other due to a restriction in the neck. Nursing mothers will tell you that there is not much that is more uncomfortable than a full breast and a hungry baby that refuses to nurse from it. Such a scenario can also cause mastitis also known as a breast infection. A gentle neck adjustment will help the baby move her neck freely and comfortably nurse.
As for kids, if they are like mine, they can do some wild things that cause trauma to the spine. For example, my two year old loves to jump off the back of the couch. About every third time she misses the pillows she positioned to break her fall and comes crying for help. I check her regularly to make sure everything is adjusted properly. I adjust my 12 year old when his asthma flares up due to allergies. This helps to drain the sinuses but also frees the ribs allowing him to breath better. Adjustments also help to regulate the immune system.
I have adjusted kids for too many reasons to name all of them. Here are some reasons I can think of: Sensory issues (a common Autism Spectrum disorder), bed wetting, reflux, constipation, to help start walking, scoliosis, sports injuries, general trauma, headaches, and more.
The follow up question, in case you are wondering the same, is how I know when babies need to be adjusted. This is simple but has been known to alarm a few mothers. This only works with infants. I take the infant by the ankles and hold them upside down in front of me. If they hang with a nice arch, they are just fine. It they twist or bend or look from side to side, that is an indication that they need an adjustment.