I felt compelled to write this article due to the nature of the case presentation, the vast number of nursing mothers who could find help through chiropractic and to encourage these women not to give up breast-feeding their babies.Recently, a new mom who entered my office with musculoskeletal complaints relating to her thoracic and lumbar regions. During my usual consultation and history, we discussed an interesting issue brought up by the patient as a concern. I do not believe she thought I could do anything about the problem she was experiencing; she just brought it up as part of our consultation.
I can only imagine the frustration that a new nursing mother must experience when the natural process of breast=feeding is altered or compromised. Research clearly supports the fact that babies thrive best on mother's milk; artificial formulas and powders just do not measure up. We all want what is best for our children and that should begin with breast=feeding.
My patient, Melissa, initially entered my office in February 2009 with the chief complaints of thoracic and lumbar pain of two months duration. She mentioned during the consultation that she had been nursing her 4-month-old baby as well. I proceeded to perform my usual chiropractic and orthopedic examination of these areas and noted my findings. Of particular interest was tenderness and multifidi muscle atrophy noted upon palpation of her right mid- to upper-thoracic area. Moments later, she had made mention of the fact that she also had been experiencing a decrease in her milk production from her right breast and didn't know why. She said that the milk production was down to only 1 ounce at a time compared to the normal 4 ounces she was able to express from her left breast. She had to pump in the morning because she was working full-time at this point.
A bell went off in my head as it dawned on me: Could this spinal observation and her mention of reduced milk production be connected? I thought to myself that an adjustment to the right thoracic region in the area of T3-T6 might help improve the mechanoreception, which in turn would decrease nociception, which would subsequently decrease muscle hyperactivity and thus lower sympathetic dominance. (In reviewing the local neurology later I did note that the T2-T5 spinal levels do innervate the mammary glands via the 2nd to 5th intercostal nerves.)
Anyway, I decided to give it a shot. My treatment was aimed at alleviating her primary musculoskeletal symptoms with a hopeful eye on restoring the normal amount of lactation back to the right breast. Well, it worked! Not only did her chief complaints subside significantly, but her lactation returned to normal after only four treatments. Melissa was elated and I was once again amazed at what chiropractic can do.
So, with those conditions that you are not sure will respond to chiropractic care, research the possibility, look for a neurological connection and keep monitoring the patient's progress. In so doing, the box you keep chiropractic in will be enlarged and your patients - and your practice - will benefit.
Dr. James Metzger graduated from New York Chiropractic College in 1987 and has been in private practice in North Haven, Conn., since 1990.