Common Secondary Conditions of Childhood: A Closer Look
Something we haven’t discussed in depth on our blog is the mechanism by which the Structural Shift is thought to cause the secondary conditions that typically prompt parents to bring their child in for an assessment. We want to take some time to break this down in simple, easy-to-understand terms in this post.
This is not a comprehensive list, but these are some of the more common issues that we see in our office.
Difficulty Latching: This is often the first indication that a new parent has that something is amiss. While there are many things that can cause a poor latch (uncomfortable feeding positions, lip/tongue tie, breast abnormalities, etc), one of the more overlooked causes is a simple structural problem. How does uncorrected Structural Shift interfere with an infant’s ability to latch? In order to latch properly, the baby must be able to comfortably open the jaw wide enough to draw the breast into the mouth and begin nursing. If jaw or facial structure has been altered (most often occurring during the birthing process), then the baby’s ability to perform the simple act of latching will be hindered. This begins a quick downward spiral because if the baby cannot latch and doesn’t nurse well they quickly become so hungry and frustrated that they may lose the strength to keep up their futile attempts at nursing. For this reason, a complete structural chiropractic assessment should be one of the first things done to determine the cause of an infant’s latching difficulties.
Favoring Nursing On One Side, or One Feeding Position: Another common complaint from the early day’s of an infant life is that they latch fine on one breast but struggle or refuse the other breast. Typically this type of situation results from a Structural Shift affecting the upper neck, making it uncomfortable or difficult for the baby to turn their head to one side or the other - resulting in their unwillingness to nurse on the side that causes them discomfort. Other issues that commonly present along with this type of problem include unequal milk supply (if the baby cannot comfortably nurse on one side, the affected breast typically experiences a drop in milk supply), skull flatness or hair loss on one side of the back of the baby’s head, and delay or unwillingness to roll to one side once the baby begins to roll over.
Colic/Spitup/Constipation/Digestion Issues: Colic and digestion issues are frustrating things for parents, new and seasoned alike. Structural Shift is thought to contribute to colic and other digestion issues on many occasions by the following mechanism. The structure of the spine contributes significantly to the functioning of the nervous system, and the nervous system helps to regulate the motility (function) of the stomach and intestines. Abnormal structure may lead to an imbalance in the function of the part of the nervous system that regulates the stomach and intestines, leading to a buildup of gas in the baby’s intestines, causing the lower intestines to be sluggish, or resulting in abnormal vomiting or spitup - conditions that are intensely uncomfortable for infants and adults alike.
Abnormal Skull Shape: A less-than-perfectly-round skull is to be expected for the first few days after birth as the skull typically undergoes a tremendous amount of pressure when exiting the birth canal. This process is referred to as “cranial moulding” and is actually beneficial to the baby because it helps to regulate the movement of the fluid that cushions the brain and spinal cord (Cerebrospinal Fluid or simply CSF). However, if an abnormal skull shape persists for weeks or longer, this can be an indication of an underlying Structural Shift. The bones of the spine and skull (the skull has many bones that do not completely fuse together for the first few years of life) are connected to each other by tissue paper-like connective structures that begin in the skull and extend all the way down to the tailbone. Any shifts along the course of this connective tissue may have effects all the way up and down the spine in both directions, including into the skull.
Difficulty Meeting Developmental Milestones: Developmental Delay is a scary topic for many parents. Developmental delay can be caused by many things, some of which are still not understood or preventable. However, one way in which Structural Shift may affect the acquisition of developmental milestones is as follows. Voluntary motor control is a learned skill. Babies typically acquire motor skills in the following order: top to bottom (head control before shoulder control, etc) and midline outward (shoulder control before hand control). If there is Structural Shift that is preventing the infant from turning and stabilizing their head equally on both sides, milestones may begin to develop asymmetrically. For example, the infant may only roll from front to back and only to the left, because they have difficulty turning their head to the right to initiate the action of rolling to the right. If left uncorrected, this may lead to a cascade of asymmetries including asymmetrical spinal muscle development leading to abnormal spinal curvatures (also known as scoliosis), asymmetrical eye muscle development leading to visual difficulties, etc. If corrected early on, the infant has the best chance at developing and reaching their milestones on time, in the proper order, and symmetrically.
Toe Walking: To be clear, this is only of concern once the baby begins walking without assistance. If you hold your 6 month old up to toddle around occasionally and they are primarily on their toes, don’t worry. However, if you see this in your 14 month old who’s been walking unassisted for 3 months, pay attention. Interestingly, toe-walking has been associated with developmental delay.1 How might toe-walking be the result of uncorrected Structural Shift? To answer this, we first need to address a fundamental function of the nervous system. One of your brain’s top priorities is keeping your eyes in line with the perceived horizon. In order to accomplish this, there are thousands and thousands of involuntary muscle fibers in your eyes and all up and down your spine that act in response to any alteration of this orientation. If there is a structural alteration of the spine that threatens the brain’s ability to maintain this orientation, a common compensation is to walk on the toes to maintain the eyes in line with the horizon.
Aversion to Car Seats: Most parents swear by the ol’ car ride trick to put their baby to sleep if they’re over-exhausted and refuse to fall asleep. To some parents’ horror, their child will not sleep in the carseat - ever. In fact, many of these children scream and cry nonstop upon being put in a carseat, and typically only calm down when taken out of the carseat at their destination. Typically, these children are suffering from altered spinal structure, which simply makes it uncomfortable for them to lay in the carseat for any length of time. Think of it like this: most of us have a family member who has a “bad back” and absolutely cannot sit in a particular chair in their house, or perhaps they insist on having a booth at a restaurant because anything else hurts them. It’s a similar idea with the baby who refuses to lie quietly in their carseat. Learn more by booking a complimentary consultation in our office.