Between the ages of 0-7 years a child’s nervous system is developing at its fastest. Learning to sit up, crawl and walk go hand in hand with falling over, which can physically stress the joints in the spine and pelvis. Children are naturally curious and often have boundless energy, which can also lead to accidents and injuries, further stressing the joints. These physical stresses can lead to biomechanical dysfunction of the spine and nervous system. Of course this does not mean that every time your child has a fall you should rush them to the chiropractor, but look out for changes in their posture, how they walk, and how they do things; if they develop a limp, are unable to use an arm properly, or simply look “lop-sided”, it may be worth having them checked over.
As children become teenagers, there are other issues that can cause dysfunction in the spine. For sporty children the intensity of sport may increase, and it is important that they warm up properly before playing to minimise the risk of injury. Children that are not sporty often spend more time sitting watching television or playing games on a console or computer. This can lead to a forward head posture, putting more stress on the joints and muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back. In addition, prolonged sitting can affect the joints in the lower back and pelvis.
A significant problem that teenagers encounter is carrying heavy schoolbags full of books. Rucksacks worn correctly on both shoulders, or a messenger bag worn diagonally across the body, are best, as they distribute the weight more evenly over the body. Any bag worn on only one shoulder causes the teenager to hunch that shoulder up to stop their bag falling off their shoulder, which can lead to neck, shoulder and upper back problems.
Studies have shown that children should not carry more than 10% of their body weight, and that carrying 15% of their body weight can be damaging to a musculoskeletal system that is not fully matured. However, children regularly carry up to 20% of their body weight, and sometimes more if you include sports equipment and musical instruments, so it is no wonder that back and neck pain can be a significant problem for schoolchildren. Unfortunately these pains are often not taken seriously, either because parents don’t realise that children can develop similar back problems to adults, or the pains are simply put down to “growing pains”.
Another issue faced by secondary school pupils in particular, is the type of desk and chairs used in schools. In the days of yore when I was at school, we sat on upright wooden chairs and had individual sloping desks, which encouraged a better sitting posture, and angled your work towards you. Nowadays chairs are usually plastic, offering little or no lumbar support, and the use of flat tables encourages children to lean forwards over the table in order to see their work. This posture significantly increases the load on the discs in the lumbar spine, and can contribute to lower back pain.
Chiropractic treatment can be very beneficial in helping relieve back and neck pain in children of all ages. The techniques used are more similar to those used in an adult, but the force used is reduced to what is more appropriate for the age and size of the child.
If your children experience back, neck or shoulder pain, or have been injured playing sport, we offer free 15 minute spinal assessments to see if their problems may benefit from chiropractic treatment. Contact clinic reception for further details.
People often ask what the typical age of a chiropractic patient is. The answer is that patients come in all shapes, sizes and ages, right from newborn babies up to nonagenarians, although the majority of patients probably fall in the age range 25-60.
Why should children, let alone newborn babies, need to have chiropractic treatment I hear you ask? The answer is that dysfunction or restricted movement in the spine can occur at any age for a variety of reasons. The aim of chiropractic care is to enable optimal movement in the spine, thereby reducing any tension on the nervous system, and allowing the body to function fully, rather than the diagnosis and treatment of specific paediatric medical conditions.
The birth process can be a difficult, stressful, and sometimes traumatic journey for a baby, especially if the mother gives birth lying on her back, which means she has to push the baby out uphill due to the shape of the pelvis. Although assisted delivery using forceps or Ventouse may be necessary if the baby has become “stuck” in the birth canal, they can put additional physical stress on the baby’s neck and skull, causing the baby to show signs of discomfort such as excessive crying for no reason, a significant dislike of lying on their back, and feeding or sleeping problems. Recent research has shown that there is an association between a baby having a difficult birth and crying excessively.
However, physical stress on the baby’s developing spine can begin long before birth due to in-utero constraint. This is where the baby does not lie in the most ideal position in the uterus, adopting a breech, transverse or facial presentation, which can restrict the baby’s movement, and can lead to compression of the neck and spine.
Chiropractic treatment of babies is very gentle, using gentle finger pressure on the restricted segments of the spine as well as relieving tension in the associated muscles. Cranio-sacral therapy can also be used to relieve abnormal tension in the bones of the skull. Babies usually tolerate treatment very well, and often sleep much better after treatment. Specific abdominal massage can also be very beneficial in helping to relieve constipation.
At Guildford Chiropractic Centre we have a special cushion for babies to lie in, to make them feel safe and secure during treatment; alternatively they can be treated whilst lying on their mother’s chest or abdomen. We are also aware that sometimes babies may need to stop for a feed during their treatment, and this is not normally a problem for us.
If you have a baby that you feel may benefit from chiropractic treatment we are happy to discuss this with you by phone, or by having a free 15 minute spinal assessment to ascertain whether our chiropractors feel that treatment may be beneficial.
Sciatica is debilitating condition that will impact around 5% of us. Sciatica is when a nerve root or portion of the sciatic nerve in the buttock is pinched resulting in pain and/or tingling; numbness and weakness in the leg and back. Most cases are the result of a bulging disc, muscle spasm or joint arthritis. Often the sufferer will have to take time off work or their social activities, thus having a major impact on their quality of life. Thankfully, the vast majority of these will respond positively to conservative treatments such as those given by chiropractors or physiotherapists, and pain medication prescribed by a GP. There are a small number however, who will require more invasive treatments such as surgery, which is not only more expensive, it carries a greater risk of complication and should be reserved for the minority of cases.
Researchers in Finland* looked into risk factors relating to sciatica, and in particular those who were more likely to be hospitalised/needed surgery. Here they followed a group of over 35,000 people for up to 30-years and assessed certain lifestyle choices.
Here’s what they found: If you either cycle or walk to work, you are 33% less likely to develop sciatica which requires surgery compared to the normal population. Likewise if you smoked or obese you were 33% more likely. If you were obese with abdominal fat, your risk went unto 41%. Interestingly, former smokers didn’t share the same risk as smokers.
Authors of the study were surprised to see that no effect on hospitalisation was witnessed by other forms of leisure time activities. They believed this may have been due to the fact that regular, moderate activities such as cycling and walking don’t add excessive strain to the back, unlike other higher-intensity exercises that would.
This study emphasises the need to keep mobile and gives us yet another reason to exercise regularly. Using those opportunities such as traveling to and from work can be an easy way to incorporate such healthy habits into our lifestyle.
Furthermore, studies have indicated that sciatica patients noticed a significant improvement when they underwent a number of treatments, including spinal manipulation as performed by chiropractors. As such the UK national guidelines recommends these sorts of treatments. Specific hands on procedures and exercises can be used to reduce nerve irritability, thus reducing pain, muscle spasm, inflammation and weakness.
If you or anyone you know, suffers from sciatica, our practice offers a complimentary 15-minute assessment to provide free advice to any sufferer. Contact clinic reception for further details.
*SHIRI R et al (2017)Lifestyle Risk Factors Increase the Risk of Hospitalization for Sciatica: Findings of Four Prospective Cohort Studies Am J MedDec;130(12):1408-1414.