Chiropractic care is the largest and most popular form of complementary therapy available and around 35 million Americans visit a chiropractor every year. What many people don't realise is that approximately 17% of patients are people under the age of 18 receiving pediatric chiropractic care. There is a wide range of reasons why parents might seek pediatric chiropractic care for their children but many parents worry beforehand about whether or not it is a safe treatment option. There are many misconceptions about what chiropractic care with children may involve and it is always a good idea to look at the evidence and expert recommendations to help you make a truly informed decision.
Is pediatric chiropractic care safe for children?
The first thing to remember is that pediatric chiropractic care looks very different from its adult counterpart. While the characteristic "pops" as the spine is adjusted are a common thing to experience for adults, this is not the type of treatment that is conducted on children, especially young children. Instead, pediatric and family chiropractors take into account the size and age of the person who is being treated and the pressure applied is proportionate to that. Spinal manipulations are more akin to a gentle massage than the adjustments you would expect for adults and chiropractic care for children takes a much broader approach than spinal manipulations alone.
But what do the experts say about the safety of pediatric chiropractic care? The College of Chiropractors of British Columbia (who are responsible for chiropractic safety regulations) conducted a review in 2019 which found that "the treatment of children with SMT (spinal manipulation therapy) does not present a significant risk to the public". In addition, scientific studies have found that adverse events in children after a chiropractic treatment are very rare and most likely to be minor.
What are the benefits of pediatric chiropractic care?
Now we have seen that the evidence shows pediatric chiropractic care to be safe for children, the next question is what are the benefits of it? After all, knowing that a treatment is safe is of little importance if the treatment itself isn't effective. Thankfully, when it comes to chiropractic care we can be relatively certain that it does provide a range of benefits, some of which are physical and some of which are mental.
When an adult is experiencing pain and discomfort, it is relatively easy for them to make an informed decision about the healthcare provider they need and how to communicate the problem to them. The situation is very different in children. They are much less able to verbalise the situation they are in which means that problems related to spinal misalignments that can be treated by a chiropractor often take longer to diagnose.
Signs of spinal misalignment in children can include unspecified pain, sleep problems, stress/anxiety, issues with posture, and behavioural problems. And, because it can be more difficult to diagnose, regular visits to a chiropractor (at a schedule that suits you) can be a good way of heading any potential problems off at the pass.
Pediatric chiropractic care can be especially useful in treating sports injuries in children, as well as injuries stemming from children exploring the world when they are younger. These small injuries can cause distress to children and could lead to musculoskeletal imbalances that may lead to future problems so getting them treated early can often be a good idea.
A chiropractor can also help with other pain complaints such as back and neck pain or headaches. But they can also help children to deal with common issues such as stress and anxiety, which can lead to behavioural problems, as well as sleep issues. While chiropractic treatments may not be able to treat these problems directly, by relieving your child of pain and helping their body to relax and function as it should, chiropractic care can have a real impact on how well children are able to deal with these challenges.
Many parents want to avoid the use of pharmacological interventions for many of these common childhood ailments because of the likelihood of side effects. In this situation, pediatric chiropractic care can be the ideal choice because it is a treatment option that encourages your child's body to heal itself naturally. And, as we have seen, it has a very low risk of side effects.
How young should my child be at their first pediatric chiropractic care visit?
Many chiropractors are happy to treat children as young as newborns and, in fact, it can be advisable to bring your newborn to a chiropractor from as young as two weeks old. Birth can be a traumatic experience for your baby and it can put a lot of stress on their spine. This can mean that some babies are born with musculoskeletal issues that can cause them to be more unsettled and distressed. They have also spent a number of months curled into a restricted position and chiropractic care can help them to stretch out their body and relax.
Remember that pediatric chiropractic care in a child this young will look very different from adult chiropractic care. Your chiropractor will use the gentlest of touches to help adjust your baby's vertebrae and to relax their musculoskeletal system. Baby massage is well known as something that relaxes babies and helps them to settle and bond, so including this type of treatment from a very early age can help both parents and baby to have a more relaxed and enjoyable first few months together.
Pediatric chiropractic care is a popular choice for many parents and it can be used to help children from newborn age all the way up to 18 with all of the varying issues that go along with each life stage. Whether it's an unsettled infant due to birth, a clumsy toddler, a sporty child who has suffered an injury, or a child dealing with sleep problems, chiropractic care can help. And all of the available evidence points to it being a safe treatment option with a very low risk of adverse reactions, so you can rest assured that you are choosing something safe for your child.