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Safe and Gentle Pediatric Chiropractic

A young tree is easy to straighten, but when it is big it is difficult.” – Filipino Proverb

I was especially reminded of this quote in August 2022, when my then 15-weeks-old baby, wife, and I planted a young tree at East Coast Park. It also resonated with me as a Doctor of Chiropractic who regularly checks the spines of the pediatric community, including newborn babies. If this young tree did not have a good foundation at the start, would it not be difficult to attempt to correct that when the tree was older, bigger, and already heavily bent?

As parents, we always desire the best for our children, importantly to be blessed with good health. Similar to a young tree, a young child should also be well aligned at an early age, before layers of stress get added on in later years. This is why as a new father myself, I have been safely and gently checking my own son’s spine since birth, and adjusting if necessary. This is a privilege I do not take lightly, because what we do as chiropractors can have a profound impact on maximizing one’s nervous system potential.

Developmental milestones

From a developmental neurobiology standpoint, there are general milestones parents can observe in their children to evaluate for potential nervous system interference. The following milestone examples are listed by International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) instructor Dr. Michael Hall (Doctor of Chiropractic and Fellow of the International Academy of Chiropractic Neurology):

1-2 months: Holds head up, raises head to 45 degrees when prone, turns head and eyes to sound, acknowledges faces, visual field follows objects, alert in response to voices, smiles responsively and spontaneously.

3-5 months: Holds head high and raises body with hands when prone, reaches for and brings objects to mouth, sits with support while head is steady, follows objects 180 degrees, starts rolling from front back and turning from back to side, smiles and laughs, excited on recognizing familiar faces.

6-8 months: reaches out to be picked up, can sit alone for short time, completely rolling front to back and back to front, imitates “bye-bye”.

9-11 months: Crawls, sits alone, pulls to stand up, uses thumb and index finger to pick object, self-feeds finger foods, imitates peek-a-boo, follows one-step verbal commands.

12 months: Walks with support or independently, pincer grasp, gives toys on request, releases objects after demonstration, points to desired objects.

Please note that each child’s milestones may differ so the above mentioned should just be referenced as a guide. Regardless, it is good to have your child evaluated by a pediatric chiropractor.

Safety and effectiveness of pediatric chiropractic

Most parents who bring in their children (including newborn babies) are already patients of our clinic and through their experiences, are convinced that chiropractic care is safe, specific, gentle, and effective. As such, they likewise tend to have the assurance that this remains the case for their own children. Below is the research to support this.

With regards to safety, according a research paper published in 2009 in the peer-reviewed journal, Explore, chiropractic responders indicated only 3 adverse events from 5,438 office visits involving the care of 577 children (defined as below 18-years-old) of an average age of 7.45 years. To put that in perspective, reported adverse events only made up 0.055% of total pediatric visits, and in these 3 events were only limited to muscle stiffness which eventually self-resolved. There were no serious injuries reported.

Next, chiropractic is also perceived as effective by chiropractors, parents, and caregivers alike. In the same paper, 518 out of the same 577 children cared for reported an improvement in their presenting complaint attributed to the chiropractic care received, making up the vast majority.

This 2009 paper titled, “The Safety and Effectiveness of Pediatric Chiropractic: A Survey of Chiropractors and Parents in a Practice-Based Research Network”, is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1550830709002079. It was written by Dr. Joel Alcantara (D.C.), Dr. Jeanne Ohm (D.C.), and Derek Kunz.

What to look out for in a pediatric chiropractor

It is important to note that Doctors of Chiropractors undergo a rigorous academic curriculum. For example, Sherman College of Chiropractic in the United States (https://www.sherman.edu/), where Dr. Kelvin Ng and I studied as a post-graduate degree, requires 5,032 core hours before graduation.

On top of this, chiropractors intending to care for the pediatric community are encouraged to take additional certifications specific to this field, such as the ICPA’s Certification Programme involving many structured hours of comprehensive training pertaining to the safe care of children (including babies) and pregnant women. Dr. Ng and I are both long-time ICPA members and are both certified in the Webster Technique. The Webster Technique is a specific chiropractic analysis and diversified adjustment, the goal to reduce effects of sacral subluxation and sacro-iliac joint dysfunction, and thereby improve neuro-biomechanical function in the pelvis. In addition, I was also awarded the CACCP credentials (Certified by the Academy Council of Chiropractic Pediatrics) for fulfilling a 200-hour certification programme specific to perinatal care, participating in two ICPA Practiced-Based Research Network projects, and passing a final comprehensive exam.

If you are looking to find a pediatric chiropractor, please check the ICPA international directory at https://icpa4kids.com/find-a-pediatric-chiropractor/

Gentle adjustments only

Chiropractors trained in pediatric care are expected to uphold safe and professional standards of care, especially important for this age group. A thorough assessment must first be done by the trained chiropractor to assess whether it is appropriate to adjust that patient. These standards on babies mean that any chiropractic adjustment on babies involves only the gentlest of pressure applied to a specific spinal vertebra, with about the same amount of force used to check a tomato’s ripeness. There is no popping, cracking, or twisting, especially on children’s spines.

In summary, it is safe and effective for the vast majority of children and babies to receive gentle chiropractic care, as long as the chiropractor has the right training and preferably pediatric-specific certification. You can also read more about this topic on the Today Online article published on 22 September 2022, which was a response article written on behalf of The Chiropractic Association (Singapore) titled, “Safe for babies to receive ‘gentle’ chiropractic care”, at https://www.todayonline.com/voices/your-say-safe-babies-receive-gentle-chiropractic-care-2000451

Every child has their own unique milestones and timelines in their own journey. That said, if there was a way to holistically and safely maximize one’s innate health potential so that children could be the best version of themselves, why not? Do consider getting your child, and perhaps even yourself, checked by a Doctor of Chiropractic soon.

In health,

Dr. Ashley Liew | DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) | CACCP (Certified by the Academy Council of Chiropractic Pediatrics) | Member of ICPA (International Chiropractic Pediatric Association)