How Might Chiropractic Care Affect My Child’s Immune System?
This is a common question among parents and the answer to it has, unfortunately, been shrouded in misinformation both within and without the healthcare and parenting communities. A common observation among parents who bring their children in for care is that they become overall healthier. Most people know someone who brought their child in for care and now the child doesn’t suffer ear infections, asthma, or chronic respiratory infections that have plagued them their entire young lives. The misconception that often arises is that chiropractic “cured” or “treated” these conditions – or conversely, that the resolution of these conditions was purely coincidental and had nothing to do with their chiropractic care. Both of these conclusions are inaccurate, however it is understandable how one would arrive at such a conclusion – there is a shortage of accurate information available to parents regarding how the immune system of children develops, functions, and how it is regulated and influenced by their nervous system. The following is a basic introduction to the development, function, and regulation of your child’s immune system and a simple explanation of current scientific understanding of the affect chiropractic care may have on your child’s immune system.
The first thing to review is the relationship between the structure of the spine and the function of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves). The brain is responsible for regulating nearly every organ, system, and cell within the body. In order to do this properly, the brain relies on information it receives from the tissues and cells it regulates (This hurts! Too hot! Too cold! I’m falling! Etc). Based on the information it receives, the brain then tells the appropriate organ, tissue, and cells of the body what they need to do to maintain proper function. If these messages are inaccurate, you can see how the entire body can easily be compromised. Imagine you’re talking on your cell phone with a bad connection and you’re trying to make dinner for your friend who’s coming over. If you can’t tell whether they said “I’m allergic to sesame seeds” or “I’d like to have pizza, please,” chances are, something is going to go wrong with your dinner plans. It’s the same concept with the brain. If it’s not getting the proper information, it can’t do its job. One of the main ways the brain receives information is through the movement of the many joints that exist between the bones of the spinal column. Because of this important relationship, chiropractors are able to affect the nervous system by working with the musculoskeletal system. This is why we focus on Structural Correction at Precision Chiropractic – because maintaining the proper structure of the spine ensures that the brain is receiving the correct information and therefore better able to do its job of regulating how the body works.
Now that we have established a basic understanding of how Structural Chiropractic care influences the nervous system, let’s take a look at how the nervous system affects the immune system. Most people understand the concept that when you’re stressed, you’re more likely to get sick. Think back to your college days. Remember during midterms and finals the otherwise silent classroom was nearly always punctuated with sniffles and sneezes from everyone who had a cold? This is a classic illustration of how closely tied the brain is to the function of the immune system. Animal studies have even shown that when the part of the brain that handles stress is removed, immune system function skyrockets. Obviously this is a terrible idea for human application, however, the principle still holds that if one can optimize their brain function to keep that part of the brain “in check,” so to speak, that the immune system should function better.
With the understanding of how the brain works and how it helps to regulate the immune system, we can now begin to correct the misconception that chiropractic care “cures” ear infections, asthma, and respiratory infections along with the misconception that the resolution of those conditions under chiropractic care is purely coincidental. As you may have already realized, when we adjust an infant, whether they suffer any of the above conditions or not, our goal and purpose is to restore the proper structure and function of the spine. We are never treating any condition other than their Structural Shift. What typically happens, however, is that when the spine is returned to its normal structure, it resumes its normal function. As illustrated above, it is easy to understand how, when the spine resumes its normal function, so might the brain, and as a natural corollary, so might the immune system. When the immune system resumes normal function, the child is better able to resist infections and other conditions associated with diminished immune function, resulting in a healthier, happier child.
This is why we focus on returning your child’s spinal structure to normal and not on treating the various secondary conditions, because when spinal structure and function is optimized, the body is better equipped to function at its highest potential.