Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adjusting ideas about children’s health care

September 14, 2010, 9:27 AM

Your child may have digestive trouble — like constipation, reflux or colic. Perhaps asthma or allergies make your little one irritable.

Or maybe you’ve noticed that your baby just isn’t eating or sleeping as well as you would like. You could talk to your pediatrician or consult a baby care book.

But there’s another option: pediatric chiropractic care.

Although it’s not the first option on many parents’ minds, chiropractic care for infants and children is an important facet of health and wellness for kids starting at the youngest ages, said chiropractors locally and at a national organization.

Chiropractors can help children’s posture as they grow, straightening out the damage done by tumbles and roughhousing, heavy backpacks and misaligned spines.

But they can also pitch in as part of a panoply of care to help handle common childhood health concerns.

Dr. T. Patrick O’Neill, owner of O’Neill Chiropractic in Buffalo, said he has cared for many babies and children. Minor adjustments to kids’ backs and necks can make enormous differences, he said, in eating, sleeping, digestion, respiratory problems —and even pesky autoimmune issues like ear infections.

“With an adjustment, while the tears are still wet on their cheeks [from ear pain], they hop off their chairs and say, ‘OK, I’m better,’” said O’Neill. “We call them the daily miracles.”

O’Neill, in practice on Potomac Avenue in the city, has used chiropractic care to help his own three children — including a daughter with Down syndrome—navigate childhood in a healthy manner.

Now, a good part of his practice is made up of children—some of them infants in arms—who are brought in by parents who have seen the difference small adjustments to the neck and spine can make to their child’s wellness.

“One of the ways parents realize the value of this is when they look back and realize they’ve missed no school days,” O’Neill said.

With good word of mouth, he said with a laugh: “On Saturdays, this place looks like a day care center—there are more patients on the floor than on the table.”

At the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, based in Media, Pa., executive director Dr. Jeanne Ohm said there are currently 3,000 chiropractors affiliated with the organization. More chiropractors take care of children but are unaffiliated, so the group of chiropractors for children is actually much larger, she said.

Chiropractic care for children, which has been recommended since at least 1910 by chiropractors, is being adopted by more and more parents as a way of keeping their kids well in a non-intrusive fashion, Ohm said.

“Parents are becoming aware that the typical allopathic model of drugs for

symptoms is not effective — and may cause more harm,” said Ohm, the mother of six children and a chiropractor for 30 years. “Parents are becoming more aware and more conscious — they don’t want to be just treating their child with a chemical.”

At O’Neill’s office in Buffalo, chiropractic care for children works a little differently than for adults.

In a room with a play table and dollhouse, he might look over and adjust a small patient while he or she is sitting down, playing. For babies, he might adjust the baby on the mother’s lap.

“With an infant, they’re rarely on the table,” O’Neill said. “I’ve adjusted babies while they’re on their mothers’ laps, or while they’re nursing. Some kids can’t get in the room — some kids get adjusted out in the waiting room.”

Chiropractic care can help with respiratory issues like asthma and allergies, digestive problems ranging from colic to constipation, acid reflux, and autoimmune problems like ear infections, as well as many other health issues, O’Neill said.

Ohm said that the changes that can be made to a child’s wellness by chiropractic care continue to amaze her.

“It blows my mind all the time,” she said. “Just a few of these very light adjustments, taking pressure off the nervous system, can make tremendous changes.”

Even if your child is healthy at the moment, said O’Neill, you can take a look at your child’s frame to see if there is any misalignment that might cause posture problems or pain.

When your child is undressed, check for:

• Asymmetry of posture or movement.

• A reluctance or inability to turn the head fully in both directions.

• Shoulders and hips at different heights, rather than the same height.

• Incorrect position of the feet when the child is standing still.

• Asymmetrical muscle tone in the shoulders and back.

Finding a pediatric chiropractor can be tricky. Not every chiropractor works with young children. But some specialists do practice in the Western New York area, so ask your general chiropractor for a recommendation or check out the Web site of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association for help in finding a practitioner: .

“This is no ‘cure-all,’ ” said O’Neill. “But the nervous system is the master control system for everything else.

“If we can facilitate the body’s inborn healing capacity, that’s what it’s all about.”

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