Family wellness series - prenatal to adolescence
The benefits of chiropractic and massage care for infants, toddlers, children and teenagers
Author: Meagan Roback
From the moment you know you or your partner is pregnant to that moment when you see your child off into the world (and let’s face it... they’ll always be your little girl or boy deep down), a million things can happen to or contribute to the health of your child or children.
There’s a lot of information available to help parents with the child’s development. This series, and this blog in particular, aims to help parents understand certain complementary modalities to health care and their associated benefits at different stages of growth.
The health of the fetus as it grows and how the baby adjusts outside of the womb kicks off the wellness journey.
It’s beneficial for the mother to get chiropractic adjustments throughout the stages of pregnancy, easing pain or discomfort, and preparing her body for gestation and the birthing experience. A massage helps mothers for similar reasons before birth. After giving birth, it helps to alleviate any aches and pains, including sciatic pain and sacro-iliac joint pain, as well as swelling. It can also promote a more restful sleep and reduce pregnancy induced insomnia.
Postnatal massage helps new moms with any postural concerns associated with breastfeeding and pregnancy relieving muscle tension in the neck and the shoulders, as well as general muscle tension and aches. Just like prenatal massage care, it helps to promote a more restful sleep and alleviate anxiety and stress from sleep deprivation. It can help with fluid retention, too.
For babies, touch is one of the most important aspects for vitality outside of food. Infant massage may stimulate the developing nervous system and brain, improve circulation, respiration, digestion and elimination, and has been shown to help them be less prone to colic. It can even help prepare the body for sitting, standing and walking by promoting strength, motor coordination and self-confidence. Infant massage is becoming very popular with new parents and a number of resources are now available to get you started.
The baby may have experienced some physical trauma while in utero or through the birth canal that could affect their alignment, which may have negative effects down the road - it’s best to be treated at the time or close to the time of the initial trauma. It’s most optimal to visit your chiropractor when the baby is a few days old to ascertain if this is the case and to also check-in with the mother and her alignment. An adjustment on a newborn is extremely gentle and barely applies pressure at all.
A baby’s growth is rapidly astonishing so it’s a good idea to continue to seek chiropractic care as the baby grows to ensure optimal alignment. A child’s spine grows 50% in the first year of life, which is why it’s so important that your baby is in proper alignment, ensuring proper symmetrical growth that will allow for optimal movement, balance, upright posture, protection, and shock absorption.
Childhood is another stage of development, although not as rapid as babies and toddlers. We have seen more and more in science and medicine that preventative care is the way to go. Issues in a child’s alignment can occur at almost any point in their development and growth. From falls while learning to walk, to playground bumps, heavy school bags and sitting all day in the classroom, these may contribute to stresses for a growing child’s spine and nervous system.
Chiropractors help to ensure proper alignment, but more importantly, they are trained to identify and treat any musculoskeletal conditions before they become more serious. Those that seek chiropractic care in adulthood often remark they wished they had sought care sooner. Chiropractors help during childhood by continuing to ensure the child’s spine does not have misalignment that may impair nerve system function. Because the spine houses the main channel of communication between the nervous system and body, there have been instances where nervous systems interference may play out as ear infections, colic or irritability, asthma, developmental delays, inability to concentrate (ADD or ADHD), behavioral problems, digestive issues and headaches.
Seeking a Registered Massage Therapist during childhood is not as uncommon as you may think. Massage benefits this stage of development similar to the reasons for chiropractic care in that it helps alleviate muscles and joints from backpacks, slouching, text neck or gaming. There’s also injuries or aches and pains from rough play or/and sports. It’s also a wonderful environment to reduce anxiety and hyperactivity.
Like babies, touch is essential for helping children develop into well-adjusted adults by providing comfort, relaxation, in addition to the physical benefits of symptomatic relief from chronic conditions such as asthma, nausea, constipation and chronic muscle aches. In addition, studies have shown improved concentration, increased focus and decreased aggression. Some researchers even report that children who have received massage therapy for a regular period may show an increased IQ.
The same benefits for children above apply to teenagers, with some additional attributes because this is a time of rapid change as well, primarily on the mental and emotional levels. Seeking massage care to ease anxiety through this confusing time can help alleviate and set the stage of the benefits for seeking complementary care in adulthood. It has also been shown to contribute to positive body image.
Teenagers are often involved in more vigorous sports and extracurricular activities. Sports massage is also another great avenue to ease any physical symptoms, and is also helpful for prevention by following proper home care.
As with the other stages of development, adolescence is no different to ensure proper musculoskeletal alignment for vitality and optimal function. It’s also a great time to consider orthotics as a preventative step as well.
There are other modalities that can help support development, like nutrition and supplements from a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) as an example. They can also provide allergy testing given the accelerated instances of allergies. Further, many NDs are trained in acupuncture.
Energy healing is another modality gaining popularity. It can help ease stress and anxiety, and it also helps children and adolescents understand the power they hold within themselves for healing.