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.
While listening to sports talk radio the other day, the topic of Sidney Crosby came up. For those who don’t know, Sid the Kid has been one of the best, if not the best, player in professional hockey since he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins into the NHL in 2005. He won a gold metal for Canada at the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Stanley Cup in 2009. However, no one is talking about Sid’s accomplishments right now. His career is in jeopardy due to a concussion he sustained back in the 2010-2011 season that has kept him sidelined for all but a few games where he tried to come back only to have his symptoms return.
Anyone who has played hockey or any other physical sport has at least seen someone get a concussion. It doesn’t take much. Football has tried to make safer helmets and create rules that severely penalize hits to the head. Prevention is noble but if you ask anyone who has played sports, it is going to happen no matter how cautious. The more important question to me is how to treat it when it does happen. Time and avoiding another blow to the head are the recommendations these days. I think there is more we can do.
The brain, by all accounts, is a slow healer. As a pattern, tissue that has a limited or controlled blood supply is difficult to heal. Blood and brain tissue has to be controlled because blood is very toxic to nervous tissue hence the poor healing capacity. The reason blood is important in healing is because oxygen is a necessary component to healing. Oxygen is needed to burn the fuel in the form of glucose to give the cells energy to repair itself.
If more oxygen to the brain is the solution, then we have an effective remedy: hyperbaric therapy. In a hyperbaric chamber pressure is used to help oxygen saturate into the liquids of the body and can therefore easily cross the cell membrane and be used by the cell. In the brain this is especially effective because it also allows oxygen to cross the blood/brain barrier that is an extra protection for the brain and other nerves. More oxygen will allow the brain to actually heal.
Now, I realize that most people have not have ever heard of a hyperbaric chamber let alone know where to find one. Doesn’t it make sense, though, with all of the concern about concussions that we push for a treatment with a track record of success?
The purpose of this blog post is in no way to belittle or degrade the medical profession. My best friend is a medical doctor and I have several friends whom I admire and respect who are medical doctors. Furthermore, I have many medical doctors who refer patients to me on a consistent basis. No, this article is for those medical doctors who refuse to educate themselves on the benefits of alternative health care. Lately I have had a few medical doctors tell our mutual patients that they should not get adjusted anymore. Every single one of them cited arthritis as the reason why they should discontinue care with me. I hope this article will educate you as a patient of such physicians and maybe even influence some of them to do some research.
First of all, arthritis is a very generic term. Medical doctors routinely use it for any ache or pain in a joint. Most of the time calling it arthritis is technically true but over simplistic. It seems to me like they use it liberally because they do not want to explain what is really going on. Arthritis means is inflammation in a joint. It can be caused by auto-immune conditions like Rheumatoid or Lupus but more often it is caused by wear and tear. This is rarely explained to a patient so I am going to.
When doctors tell you that you have arthritis, most of the time what they are saying is that they can see signs of degeneration on your x-rays. Examples of degeneration are decreased joint space, bone spurs and misalignment. Essentially, instead of seeing nicely aligned joints with smooth edges, they see jagged edges with varying degrees of misalignment. This happens over time. How quickly is determined by how dysfunctional the joint is. The more dysfunctional the quicker it degenerates. Dysfunction of a joint means it is either not moving properly or not moving at all.
In the spine, the vertebrae have discs that can degenerate. Usually, this is associated with a disc herniation or bulge. Degeneration in the spine can lead to stenosis or narrowing of the openings where the nerve roots travel. Spinal degeneration or arthritis can come in varying degrees and complications. I am very aware of the risks involved with adjusting a highly degenerative spine.
Let me repeat that. I am very aware of the risks of adjusting a spine that has arthritis or degeneration! I also know the benefits. For this reason, I am very frustrated with these MD’s who are telling my patients to stop. Do they think I am unaware of my patient’s condition? Do they believe that I have no regard for my patient’s health? To be honest, I don’t believe they consider this, at all. I see fear derived from ignorance.
The truth is that an adjustment of a degenerating joint can be very beneficial. Retraining the joints to move properly can decrease inflammation and increase the nerve flow to that area which will at the very least slow down the degenerating process. Increased function will lead to improvement to the health of the joint. Are there risks? Of course. There are risks to everything. I believe the greatest risk is doing nothing. It is certainly the most predictable risk.
Trusting in your chiropractor to know when to adjust or not is important. Communication is the key! If you have a condition and you are unsure of your chiropractors awareness of it, express your concern. On that same note, avoid taking advice from people who don’t know. They shouldn’t be making recommendations about things of which they are ignorant. That doesn’t seem to be stopping some of them. If you stopped chiropractic care because your MD told you to, but have’t discussed it with your chiropractor, its time to have a frank and open discussion with all the parties involved, OK?
Before you get into this article, I want you to take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Now, pull your shoulder blades down and lift at the chest while keeping your head in neutral. Feel better? Remember this activity whenever the stresses of the Season start to build up.
As tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, let me first wish my Jewish friends a happy celebration over the next 8 evenings. To my Christian friends, Merry Christmas! To all else, Happy New Year. I think we can all hope for a prosperous and healthy 2012.
This time of year is often difficult for people. The onset of Winter and the shorter amount of daylight certainly doesn’t help. Stress increases both emotionally and physiologically. We have no shortage of things that can stress us out. But, besides just saying, “be calm and don’t stress out,” lets come up with a strategy to cope. First, is to do your best to control your mind. This is difficult. Prayer, meditation, or just few moments to vegetate will help you be more effective. Take some time each morning to get your mind right and to put things into perspective. It will make a huge difference.
Second, increase your physical activity. This will increase blood flow and increase the good hormones. You may not have time to go to the gym but try to do things throughout the day that will increase your heart rate in a good way.
Get adjusted. Adjustments have been proven to increase endorphins. In addition, when your nervous system is working properly, all systems will work better and you will feel better. Adjustments will help lessen the physical strain that stress puts on your neck and shoulders, as well. It is not a cure-all but, it will help tremendously.
Finally, do something to help someone else. Serving others will help you feel good and that is what it is all about. Even a simple gesture of letting someone in front of you while driving can improve your mood. If everyone on the streets and in the stores was a little more gracious, the palpable tension in our community would significantly decrease.
There you go. Some simple things you can do. By the way, I am taking December 26th off to have a little more time with my family after Christmas. I wish you all the best this Holiday Season!
Do you or your spouse work for Sutter Health? If so, did you know that you have excellent chiropractic and massage benefits? According to your policy, you get 20 visits a year with just a $10 co-pay. That includes any and all chiropractic procedures AND up to an hour massage!
Let me repeat, for $10, you can get adjusted and receive an hour long massage.
I give high praise to Sutter for offering such phenomenal benefits. Not only do they give great care but obviously they want their employees to maintain good health, as well. So, if you are fortunate to have Sutter benefits, what are you waiting for? Give us a call and come in for chiropractic care, massage, or both.
Ah, the frustration of finding the perfect pillow! Have you found yours, yet? Once you do, your spouse or kid will probably steal it or your dog will chew it up. Or, do you have that pillow that has been perfect for longer than you are willing to admit and it is just moments away from disintegrating in the middle of the night as you blissfully rest? I know how it is. I wish I was writing this article with the perfect solution for everyone. Alas, there is no perfect solution but there are some general guidelines that can help.
First off, finding the right pillow can take time and you may need to invest a little in several different pillows. How much is up to your commitment to a perfect night’s sleep and how important it is for your neck to feel good in the morning.
The most important factor to consider is that you need to keep your head and neck is a neutral position relative to the shoulders. If your head is closer to one should over the other or flexed forward or extended back, you are no longer in a neutral position. This can put a strain on the joints of the neck and cause shortening of one side of the neck muscles and conversely lengthening of the other side. Because we spend so much of our lives sleeping, it is vital that you keep your neck and head in a position that puts little stress on all of the structures.
For side sleepers the biggest issue typically is finding a pillow thick enough to take up the space between the shoulders and the head. This is especially hard if you have broad shoulders. A firmer pillow is usually your best bet because it will hold its shape all night. Down pillows tend to be fine for the first few hours then compress during the night. I, personally, sleep on a water based pillow that holds it shape really well but is soft enough to be comfortable. It has over a gallon of water in it so it weighs a ton which makes it hard to change the pillow case, but what do you do?
Back sleepers typically need a fairly thin pillow or no pillow at all depending on the curvature of the upper back. The shape of your neck will largely determine the style of pillow. If you have a good curvature (which is ideal), a pillow that helps maintain the arch can be great. If your neck is unfortunately straight or reversed, then that style of pillow might be very uncomfortable. Some say that using a pillow as a neck orthotic to restore the ideal curvature is a good idea. I could definitely make that argument but sacrificing sleep might not be worth it.
OK, I know the what you are thinking, “I switch from side to back all night.” Let me say it right now, unless you are just the right structure, there is not really a pillow that is dual purpose. Sorry! If you have a pillow thick enough to take up the space between the head and shoulders, it is going to be too thick to sleep on your back and vice versa. Furthermore, if you are a stomach sleeper, there is no way to keep your head in neutral and still breath unless you have a slot for your mouth and nose.
There you have the basic guidelines. Happy hunting. FYI, just because pillows are expensive doesn’t mean they are going to be a good fit for you. Still, cheap is cheap. The pillows I sell in my office are around $50, if that is useful. Good luck and sweet dreams!
I was asked to write this article by one of my patients. She actually asked me write about chiropractic vs. physical therapy but I feel like there isn’t really a competition. They are different even if the end goal of improving one’s health is the same. There is some overlap but at the very least they are complementary. Nevertheless, here is the comparison.
Chiropractors focus on proper joint motion and nerve flow. Philosophically, we want to make sure that the innate intelligence that flows in each of us through the nervous system is not impeded. Subluxations or altered joint function can be a major cause of altered innate flow. When a chiropractor adjusts, the correct movement of a joint is restored and the nervous system flows as intended.
I don’t believe physical therapists have any such allusions to such a philosophy. Their focus is on mechanics, rehabilitation and improving activities of daily living. Physical therapists are rehabilitation specialists. After major injuries or surgeries, bodies need to be reeducated and strengthened. Exercises, joint mobilization, soft tissue work, and physiotherapy are their tools. They spend a lot more time teaching and pushing the patient.
Although most chiropractors are taught the same rehab techniques techniques as PT’s, the vast majority, including yours truly, have no interest in them. Our tool is the adjustment which can be compared to mobilization that PT’s do but the adjustment is much quicker and thorough. It is technically considered a Grade 5 Mobilization. I think most chiropractors would argue that it is much more than just a mobilization.
We can both teach exercises, do soft tissue work, and physiotherapy (e-stim, ultrasound, heat, ice, etc.). I personally will teach some basic exercises in a course of treatment and will do soft tissue work, if need be. However, physical therapy requires more time each visit. As a chiropractor I don’t spend very much time with each patient. An adjustment only takes a few minutes. Physical therapy appointments are typically at least a half hour.
Both treatments are effective for what they are. Getting joints adjusted is very important and may be all the body needs to heal. Sometimes the patient needs more. I refer to PT when it is more than I can feasibly handle. On the same token, some soft tissue injuries, especially muscle strains, need physical therapy and adjustments don’t really have an affect either way.
Like I said, Physical Therapy and Chiropractic are very complementary. With complicated cases, doing both can be extremely effective. If a PT or a chiropractor tells you differently it is probably because they are insecure about their own skills.