Can you tell us how a healthy spine can affect the overall health of a child?
Dr. Andrew Shepherd: I think the first thing we need to consider is that the spine is made up of 24 different movable segments called vertebra. Between each one of those is a little cushion- you’d liken it to a jelly doughnut that acts as a shock absorber and just helps the spine move in a better way. Out of each of those 24 segments becomes a pair of spinal nerves.
Like the master processing center in a computer, the nervous system runs the whole computer or in this case, the body. The nervous system starts at the spine and the brain and runs the whole way through the body from top to bottom. It is enclosed and encased within the spinal cord which is great because it acts as a protecting agent for it. However, it can create issues as well.
What we find is if there is a problem with the spine where something becomes out of place or misaligned – and in chiropractic we term it subluxation which is opposed to a dislocation when something comes completely out of a joint. A subluxation is a sufficient movement to cause a pressure on the nerve. When the nerve is interfered with or has pressure on it, it can create dysfunction, disease, discomfort, pain, and symptoms within the body. It is extremely important with a child particularly to make sure that we have that spine functioning at its optimum so that they’re able to develop the way that they were designed to.
Interestingly, also we see a difference the birthing process. The vaginal birth children come out obviously through the birth canal and there’s a reason for that. What that does is it starts the spinal fluid wave from the top of the skull all the way to the base of the sacrum or the base of the spine. That’s very, very important. That’s the way body gets the nutrients, the nerves have the blood supply and the nutrient supply to be able to grow.
Then we look at the cesarean where the baby is removed through the stomach. They don’t get to go through that spinal canal. We see many, many times that the jump-starting of that spinal wave for cesarean babies is significantly slower and sometimes that can slow down the development. It’s even more important if you had a cesarean section child to at least get them evaluated.
Besides improving overall health, are there other benefits to pediatric chiropractic care in terms of improved behavior, sleep habits, etc?
Dr. Andrew Shepherd: Definitely a good question. One of the things that I have seen over 18 years in practice and dealing with children as young as literally 1 day old through to teenagers is their nervous system is very, very sensitive as it’s developing, as it’s growing, and it’s able to process an awfully large amount of information. Anytime we see a malfunction with that, we see things like a decrease in their immune system, a decrease in their ability to be able to focus or concentrate. Sometimes we’ve seen things like bed-wetting, obviously in infant’s things like colic.
The benefit to having chiropractic care is basically making sure that the spine, the nervous system and hence the child is able to develop exactly as they were designed to, healthily and strong immune systems.
What is involved in a spinal check? Do you take x-rays? Do you use any special equipment?
Dr. Andrew Shepherd: The pediatric visit is slightly different. I think first it’s good to point out the fact that every chiropractor is trained in pediatrics and is more than capable and qualified to be able to take care of a child. However, there are some of us out there, myself included, that had decided to get additional postgraduate care in pediatrics. We really go in the diploma courses through the birthing process, through the entire development of the child both in and out of utero to enable us to just have a little bit more information on what it is that we’re looking for and how we can best help the children.
Initially what’s going to happen is we’re going to evaluate the child, look at their behavior, look at their mood, look at their posture, look at the tone of the muscles their flexibility, review some of the pediatrician reports. In my office I use an electronic nerve scan, which basically allows me to evaluate how healthy the nervous system is and whether there’s any interference with it. It’s non-invasive. The kids actually have fun doing it. It’s a very, very good, safe tool.
I do not personally take x-rays on children unless there has been some kind of a trauma, a birth defect or some clinical reason to want to actually have a look. We’re able to, using the technology we have today, much more non-invasively determine whether or not a child needs chiropractic care and spinal realignment.
Again, things have come a long way with technology. We’re able to use some specific instruments now that are very, very, very gentle. The children many times go to sleep either on the table or in my arms … very safe and very gentle, but again with the goal of making sure that everything is aligned the way it should be and that that nervous system is functioning at its maximum potential.
How can chiropractic care help children with sports injuries?
Dr. Andrew Shepherd: Absolutely. Here’s just an example. My daughter is 11, and she’s a competitive cheerleader. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched cheerleading but they have more injuries than pro footballers.
I’m obviously their team doctor but what we’re able to do is basically help the kids with sprains, strains. Obviously if it’s a break, we’re going to send them off to the ER have it taken care of that way. Soft tissue injuries, bruises, sprains, strains, stretching help all of those kinds of things can be done literally on the sideline with children. Or if they’ve had an injury then obviously if they come into the office, we’re able to do an evaluation and take it from there but definitely super important.
One of the things aside from just dealing with the injury perspective when the spine is aligned and the nervous systems are functioning at their peak, we find that the kids actually perform better in their sports. I have many children right up to teenageagers who actually come and receive an adjustment prior to doing some kind of sporting competition whether it be a swim meet, a bicycle race, a cheerleading competition, whatever because they’ve noticed that they perform better, their times are better, and they just feel better after it.
How often should children get their spine checked?
Dr. Andrew Shepherd: That is very case dependent. What I do personally in the office is evaluate each child on a case-by-case basis. If they’ve had traumatic births, if they’ve had histories of ear infections, colic, bed-wetting, scoliosis, wry neck – any conditions like that, then obviously our frequency is going to be of care a whole lot more intense as opposed to a child that I’m looking at as a well-check who … a bit like your pediatric visit, maybe once or twice a year come in. Let’s just get everything evaluated.
Provided there’s been no traumas or no injuries, there’s really should be no reason for the child’s spine to be out of alignment. It really does become case specific. It can change because somebody can go from being obviously just evaluated once or twice a year with an injury then it may be appropriate that we have to work with them several times a week for several weeks until that injury is resolved. Then obviously we would go back to what would be appropriate for maintaining and well-care from there.
For our listeners across the country if you are interested in speaking with Dr. Andrew Shepherd, visit www.planochiropractornow.com or call 972-212-5725 to schedule an appointment.