Exhausted new parents know that nothing takes the joy out of bringing home baby more than when they just won’t sleep. New babies are not born with a developed ‘body clock’ and an awareness of when it is time to be awake or asleep. They also have very tiny tummies and need regular feeds, so it is realistic to expect some disturbed nights, especially early on.
But what most people don’t realise is that the birth process itself is exceptionally stressful and intense for babies. “We tend to focus on the impact of giving birth on the mother, but don’t recognise the pressure a baby’s body is put through during labour and birth, even if it is an uncomplicated one”, said Dr Adam Sherriff, Paediatric Chiropractor at Wellbeing Group Langwarrin. “A baby’s neck and shoulders are especially vulnerable, and for many babies, the reality is that they can be jammed into one position with the entire force of their mother’s contractions bearing down on them for hours. In fact, birth trauma accounts for many of the symptoms I treat in tiny babies.”
Paediatric Chiropractic has become increasingly popular as parents look for ways to deal with a range of symptoms in their babies, safely and naturally. “In my early years as a Chiropractor, I found that I was treating a lot of babies for issues such as poor sleeping and feeding, colic, poor attachment during breast feeding, irritability, reflux and silent reflux. All of these symptoms can be associated with problems from spinal posture.
Parents were bringing their babies to me because they were basically at the end of their tether, trying to figure out what was wrong with their baby. They were literally beside themselves with sleep deprivation and worry.
I realised it was incredibly important to continue my training in this very specific field, which I refer to as ‘Kids Chiro” because there was such a huge and urgent demand for help. So many people are looking for safe, natural ways to help their children reach their growth and developmental potential. We know that a child’s wellbeing is connected to their ability to grow and learn. It is scary to think that up to 80% of newborns can have spinal misalignments due to the birthing process.
So what is Kids Chiro?
Kids Chiro (Paediatric Chiropractic) is the application of specialised chiropractic techniques, methods and principles that have been specifically modified and altered to use on newborns, babies, children and teenagers.
Kids Chiro focuses on the relationship between Structure (the spine, pelvis and cranium) and Function (as coordinated and controlled by the nervous system). The body’s Structure can become compromised during physical, chemical and emotional stress or insults, which affects the normal Function of the nervous system and the body.
The joints that are affected by these Structural compromise are called ‘Subluxation’. Chiropractic and Subluxation has been described in many different ways to help patients to understand the Chiropractic philosophy.
“My favourite way to explain it, is to get parents to think of the internet connection to their computer or phone,” said Adam. “If the network is poor or slow, then you know that it will takes a frustratingly long time to load a page. This is much the same principle that happens to the body when it is Subluxated; the functioning of organs, muscles and tissues is compromised and won’t operate as smoothly as you would normally expect.”
In babies and children Subluxation can play out as colic or irritability, inability to suckle and breastfeed, poor sleep, developmental delays, reflux/digestion issues, behavioural problems, inability to concentrate, headaches and growing pains.
How does Kids Chiro work?
“We use a gentle, safe and thorough technique, examination and palpation to detect the areas of Subluxation in your baby or child,” said Adam. “We assess your baby’s nerves, muscles and joints by applying techniques that have been adapted and specialised for small babies and children. When using our modified technique to the Subluxated areas of your baby or child’s body, we can improve the Functioning of their body, restore their health and optimise vitality. At the end of the day, we are essentially supporting the body’s innate ability to heal and repair itself.”
While Kids Chiro may be able to help with many health issues, the main focus is not directly related to ‘curing’ ailments. Instead, the aim is to ensure that your baby or child’s nervous system has every opportunity to work efficiently and effectively allowing them to reach their potential. A Kids Chiro appointment will also incorporate current advice on sleeping posture, handling, breastfeeding, dietary changes and nutritional supplementation. Our relationship with other Paediatric specialists and practitioners will give you added peace of mind, as we can refer or co-manage your newborn or child appropriately if needed.
“This is crucial to newborns and infants in particular,” said Adam. “Because researchers have found that the period between birth to age two is a critical period of brain development, and injuries can have long-lasting or even permanent effects on the structure and function of the brain. They also found that the first year of life may be a period of developmental vulnerability, so it is also the time in which therapeutic interventions can have the greatest positive effect.”
“Constant learning and research is a vital aspect of specialising in Paediatric Chiropractic,” said Adam. “As my interest in this area of Chiropractic grew, I went on to complete post-graduate studies in Paediatric Chiropractic and Manual Therapy for Infants and Children. It is so important that parents feel confident that their child is receiving safe and gentle care.”
What symptoms do we commonly treat in small babies?
These are the top six problems we treat with Kids Chiro:
Poor sleep – this one hardly needs explaining. When a baby cannot settle and sleep for extended periods, life very quickly becomes very miserable for the whole family.
Poor feeding and attachment to the breast – again, this issue needs little elaboration. When a baby is either not sleeping or feeding well, it can also rapidly affect the other.
Reflux/silent reflux – reflux or silent reflux is something that Adam treats very regularly. “I strongly believe that all children who have been diagnosed with either condition, should come for a chiropractic assessment.” The term ‘reflux’ is used when an infant vomits or regurgitates their stomach contents. Silent reflux is when the baby doesn’t vomit, but can seem irritable after feeding. This condition is often confused with Colic. In fact ‘silent reflux’ is a predominately Australian term. “Typically, the medical management of reflux will consist of anti-reflux medication or nutritional/formula changes,” Adam said. “Whereas, we look at your baby from a holistic perspective. We will review the neurological control of digestion and assess for what may be allergy related reflux, particularly via physical and neurological examination, clinical history and family history. Chiropractic assessment and treatment can be extremely beneficial to babies who are suffering with these symptoms. If your baby has been diagnosed with either reflux or silent reflux, a Kids Chiro assessment will allow us to see if we can help your child,” Adam said.
Colic – colic, or ‘Irritable Baby Syndrome’ has been described in a variety of ways. There are many opinions about the cause of colic and how best to determine if your baby has it. What we do know is that colic is very common and is challenging and stressful for many families. Colic babies will often present to our clinic with one of the following:
– Excessive crying – Fussing during feeding time – Arching and flailing arms backwards – Difficulty burping baby and lots of wind – Trouble getting baby to sleep – Will only settle with movement or rocking – Excessive sucking on hand
It is well known that Chiropractic has great results with helping colic babies and it is our holistic approach to your baby that is the reason that we get results. If we believe that for any reason, your baby may not respond to Chiropractic, we will refer to a health practitioner who may better be able to assist and find a solution.
Plagiocephaly (misshapen/ flat head) – this is a very common symptom in babies and infants that present to our clinic. The most usual causes for this change in head shape are:
– Stiff neck or reduced neck movement
– The birth process
– Long periods of time spent on back (i.e. extended time in neonatal unit)
– Baby’s preferred sleeping position
Often a child with Plagiocephaly will not want to turn their head to one side and as a result, develops this preferred sleeping position. For many years Plagiocephaly has been seen as only a cosmetic issue, however recent research shows that infants with untreated Plagiocephaly can have a higher risk of developing gross motor deficiencies. Kids Chiro has been shown to have excellent results with Plagiocephaly and neck stiffness. We also have the equipment and ability to diagnose whether your baby may need to be referred for Helmet Therapy. We are very confident in managing Plagiocephaly and we strongly believe that all infants with a flat head should have a specialised Kids Chiro assessment.
Ear pain – this is one of the top 3 reasons for a consultation with a Kids Chiro. For many years, it has been acknowledged by health professionals that there is an association between the birth process and recurrent ear infections (also known as otitis media). During birth, the neck (cervical vertebrae) can become misaligned, disrupting nerve function. In turn, this may affect the eustachian tube. The eustachian tube is responsible for regulating the drainage from the ears. Disruption to the function of the eustachian tube may lead to fluid build up in the middle ear and cause otitis media. This is incredibly painful for babies and infants and impacts on their sleep and feeding patterns. Antibiotics, which are the primary medical treatment of choice for ear infections, are often not effective and may even lead to a recurrence of ear infections. Many children managed by their medical doctor or paediatrician continue to suffer, with an ongoing cycle of repeat ear infections and treatment with antibiotics. This is obviously not desirable, and eventually this cycle may even lead to unnecessary grommet surgery.So where does chiropractic fit into treatment of baby and infant ear infections? A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics indicates that there is a strong correlation between Kids Chiro and the resolution of ear infections. The results show that close to 80% of the children whose ear infections were managed with chiropractic treatment did not experience another ear infection for the next six-months of Kids Chiro management after the initial visit.“My experience has been that when symptoms associated with ongoing ear infections are left untreated, this can create a whole range of problems for children. I commonly treat children who are experiencing developmental delays, auditory processing issues and learning difficulties at school,” Adam said.
What else can Kids Chiro help?
Kids Chiro is not just a useful way to treat a range of symptoms in babies and infants, but for kids of all ages, even teenagers.
Growing Pains – growing pains often occur in children from four years old, right up until adolescence. These pains in the legs are intermittent and do not occur every night, but seem to be more likely to occur after a day of increased activity. Parents are given few to no options for treatment. Typically, massaging your child’s legs and the use of analgesics are the only suggestions. Parents are often told that growing pains are normal during the growth process, and that they will eventually pass. This is small comfort to parents who are trying to comfort distressed, crying children, night after night.Altered biomechanics and spinal misalignment, especially in the lower back and pelvis, can create imbalances in the leg muscles, which often contribute to the leg pain/growing pains. Pelvic misalignments can cause a leg-length inequality which causes your child to unevenly distribute their weight through their legs and may also be contributing to the growing pains.Kids Chiro improves the alignment of your child’s spine and restores the normal biomechanics of their body which often improves the frequency and severity of their growing pains.
Scoliosis – this is one of the most common conditions that children and adolescents present to our clinic for help with. When your child’s body is looked at from behind, their spine should be straight without much deviation from one side to the other. Scoliosis is a disorder that causes a lateral, or side-to-side, curve of the spine. As a result, it may look as though your child has:
– Poor Posture
– One shoulder higher than the other
– Hip/Pelvis pushed out to one side
– Ear and head is dropped toward one shoulder
– Shoulders are hunched or slumped forwardScoliosis in children is a serious condition because it can rapidly progress as your child grows and can cause many other health issues. Kids Chiro can help your child’s Scoliosis in many ways, from helping to alleviate pain, restore normal functionality and attempting to prevent further progression of the Scoliosis.
Sports injuries – active children and teenagers who play a lot of sport, or play contact or sports at a very high level may, at some time or another, end up with injuries which can benefit significantly from chiropractic care. “As a teenager, I played a lot of football, and so I understand the types of strain and injuries that can occur when kids play high intensity sports such as football or basketball. And having regular chiropractic treatment is a great way to minimise risk of stress related injuries.”
Dr Adam Sherriff holds a Bachelor of Science degree (Chiro) from RMIT in Melbourne. In addition, he has a Master of Clinical Chiropractic, a Graduate Certificate in Neonatal and Infant Paediatric Manual Therapy and a Diploma of Chiropractic Paediatrics.
Make an appointment
To make an appointment with Adam, call Wellbeing Langwarrin on (03) 9785 6411.