What Parents Need to Know
There are many physical stressors in the life of a child. These stressors may be seen first in the last trimester of the pregnancy when the fetus is in a malposition causing in-utero constraint. The infant in a breech position is 50 percent more likely to have a hip dislocation, mandibular asymmetry and postural distortion. The transverse lie increases the child's chance of postural scoliosis, and the brow or facial presentation can lead to upper cervical, upper thoracic and lumbopelvic strain (microtrauma), causing potential areas of subluxation. All of these malpositions rarely resolve prior to birth and lead to C-sections.
In the United States, birth trauma is estimated to be one of the top 10 causes of infant mortality. Many in the developing field of sensory integration disorder management are stating that birth trauma is a major cause of the disorder. In 2006, 31.1 percent of U.S. births were by C-section, a dramatic 50 percent increase from the previous 10 years. With the increased rate of C-sections, the rise in pregnancy-associated deaths should be noted.
The first year of life is not without trauma, either. Approximately 50 percent of all children have fallen head-first from a high place. Furthermore, baby walkers contribute to 3,000 annual injuries in children under 15 months. There are other staggering statistics:
- More than 1 million children under the age of 5 visit hospital emergency rooms each year.
- Almost 200,000 children are injured in car accidents and more than 1,000 children die annually as a result of those accidents.
- The beloved trampoline causes approximately 88,000 visits to the emergency room each year, and playground equipment accounts for another 200,000 visits.
- In the United States, 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.
Looking at repetitive stress (microtrauma) syndrome, it is very easy to see that it may start with parents incorrectly holding their newborn or changing their diaper without providing proper spinal stability. Infant bouncers or activity centers require youngsters to stand on joints that are unable to normally support their own weight. Mastering walking is not easy. The art of balancing on two feet will mean hundreds of falls, with the child often landing on their bottom. This can cause repetitive microtrauma to the sacrum and other surrounding joints.
Children learning to walk also are often seen with bruises on their brow from running into something low. This hyperextension trauma may lead to cervical and upper thoracic spine subluxation. As the child gets older, repetitive stress continues with the use of backpacks at early ages and the asymmetry it brings to the child during their developmental years.
The Wellness Lifestyle
As a family wellness chiropractor, you cannot single-handedly eliminate all causes of micro- or macrotrauma, but you can see yourself as the wellness advocate on behalf of the child. Introduce healthier or safer lifestyle habits by conducting in-office workshops and providing handouts, articles and in-room advice. Parents who are told that their child's spine and nervous system are developing, and that there is only a window of time for true prevention care, normally choose wellness care for their child.
Checkups vs. Adjustments
My recommendation for colleagues who have developed or would like to develop a family practice is to create a schedule for regular checkups of all child patients. Depending on your technique and the needs of the child, this schedule will vary, but a good rule of thumb is a twice-a-month evaluation of the child's spine to see if an adjustment is warranted. Not all visits may turn into an adjustment; however, parents value your opinion. If they are aware that between checkups, their children will experience normal physical stressors that may lead to vertebral subluxation, we can expand our professional role as prevention advocates.
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