People are sometimes confused about why we adjust babies. To understand what problems we are solving for babies, we have to share some background information about how the body’s control mechanisms work.
Most people have heard of the fight-or-flight response, and we’ve all experienced it directly. For example, we narrowly avoid a car crash, and our heart starts to pound, our skin tingles all over from the blood rush to our muscles, and we are on high-alert mode in regard to what we see and hear. It’s a challenge to think clearly due to the nervous system’s fight-or-flight response. This response is orchestrated by the autonomic nervous system, which is the blood vessels, organs, and glands. In a fight-or-flight response, functions like digestion, immunity, and reproduction are minimized or even shut down because our senses and our muscles need to be ready to spring into action.
The sympathetic nervous system is activated for short-term survival strategies, which is smart. Its partner, the parasympathetic nervous system, is called our rest and digest system, and this is activated for long-term survival strategies. Functions of the parasympathetic nervous system include sleeping, digesting, reproducing, repairing damage, and growing new cells. For babies, growth and development require that they spend most of their time in this rest and digest mode. It is harmful to a child’s development to be stuck in fight or flight mode because they will not fully develop their rest and digest functions. Similarly, adults need to strike a healthy balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity.
There is a major player in the parasympathetic nervous system that is often affected by physical trauma to the head, neck, or spine. This major player is the vagus nerve, that’s spelled V-A-G-U-S, which comes off the brainstem, at junction of the skull and upper neck. Vagus nerve travels behind the ear, down the neck and into the chest and abdomen, where it communicates with the heart, lungs, digestive, and immune organs. The vagus nerve is basically the foreman of the autonomic nervous system. One reason that we treat babies is that the birth process often causes small, subtle misalignments in the bones of the upper neck. This misalignment interrupts the normal electrical signaling of the vagus nerve. The result is weakened digestive functions, often diagnosed as colic or reflux.
A second problem is that due to the misalignment, the baby develops muscle spasms to protect against any further injury, and it can’t turn its head, so it has trouble latching during breastfeeding. Our observation, among pediatric chiropractors, is that babies with breastfeeding issues, torticollis, colic, and reflux develop into toddlers with immune system issues like eczema and chronic ear infections. In other words, a neurological problem at birth that was never identified or corrected can continually hamper a child’s development during the critical first few years of life.
What if we identify and correct those misalignments that disrupt the work of the nervous system, that throw a monkey wrench in the brain’s well-orchestrated plans? We can help create good output in nervous system function. But there’s an even bigger benefit to correcting disruptions in the nervous system. Correcting neurospinal dysfunction allows better input from the body to the brain, so the brain can create even better, more efficient, more effective plans of action. If this is the first time hearing that term, neurospinal dysfunction, it means that the spine and nervous system are so intimately connected that they function and dysfunction together, like a married couple.
Our work involves enhancing nervous system function, using chiropractic as the tool to accomplish this task. We’ve found that restoring balance, calm, and clear signaling to the nervous system is a high-leverage approach to achieving greater health. Most of our patients report multiple benefits as a result of their care in this office. We use neurological indicators to determine where and when to correct the neurospinal system. Many patients report being more mentally focused, having more endurance, and feeling calmer. That’s why we have a passion for helping people, especially kids, with health challenges.