Chiropractic care and the effect on infants
At the end of pregnancy there is a lack of space left for infants to move around in the uterus. If there are no complications, babies spend the last few weeks of pregnancy lying in the ideal position for birth, head down and slightly rotated. The infant’s neck is restricted and stays in a fixed position which causes a loss of normal range of motion. If the baby is born through a caesarean birth it does not get a chance to go through the natural birthing canal and therefore the nervous system may not be functioning at an optimum level because the spinal column has not been aligned correctly.
The nervous system runs throughout the body and controls all conscious and subconscious functions. It relies on accurate proprioceptive information (this is the ability to sense and understand body movements and keep track of the body’s position in space) coming from the joints and muscles. When joints of the body are not moving correctly they are not able to send clear signals to the nervous system. This can leave the baby in a constant state of pain causing stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight). This system is found anatomically in the thoracolumbar regions, in many new-borns the thoracolumbar region is a common place for vertebral subluxations. The sympathetic nervous system causes elevated levels of cortisol (stress hormone) and prepares the body for intense physical activity. Indicators of pain include the following:
- Baby cries when put down flat
- Baby likes to be held and cradled
- Neck should be floppy at birth, often stiffness is mistaken for strength
- Refusal of latching
- Baby only feeds on one side
Babies may suffer with colic, reflux and have sleeping difficulties as they are constantly using their sympathetic nervous system to survive.
Chiropractic care is an effective and safe intervention that aims to treat the cause of these problems rather than merely treating the symptoms. Chiropractors use gentle adjustments to restore normal mobility, proper joint function and communication, ensuring proper functioning of the neuromusculoskeletal system. This minimises pain and stiffness in the baby.
This treatment stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) which relaxes the baby by inhibiting or slowing high energy functions. The parasympathetic nervous system:
- Increases stomach movement and secretions – helping with gas and cramping and improves digestion
- Increases urinary output
- Causes muscle relaxation
- Decreases heart rate
- Constricts pupils rather than dilates
The parasympathetic nervous system is found in the craniosacral regions of the body and is where chiropractors perform gentle adjusting techniques to stimulate this system.
The effects of the adjustments and stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system have led to:
- Improved sleeping patterns
- Improved winding and decreased cramping
- Alleviating symptoms of colic
Written by Dr Kim Robertson