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Chiropractors Treat Babies by Michael O´Connor

June 7 2010

Jennifer Brewer's baby boy could hardly keep a bottle of formula or breast milk down. Up it would come, a half-dozen times in an hour, and it wasn't just spit-up. Brewer said medical doctors couldn't completely solve the problem, so she took her son, Trent Schultz, to Omaha chiropractor Dr. Bill Bruening. He used his fingers to gently adjust the vertebrae in Trent's spine, which Bruening said restored proper nerve function in the digestive system. Brewer's son, now 7 months old, throws up occasionally but keeps most of his food down and has gained weight. “I think,” Brewer said, there “has been a huge improvement.'' ABOUT CHIROPRACTIC CARE What it is Health care that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system, and the effects of those disorders on general health. Main use Most often used to treat neuro-musculoskeletal problems such as back pain, neck pain and pain in the arm or leg joints. Chiropractors also have training to treat conditions that are not neuro-musculoskeletal such as allergies, asthma and digestive disorders. Most common procedure It's known as “spinal manipulation” or chiropractic adjustment. The purpose of the manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force to joints that have become restricted in their movement. Education Chiropractors must complete four to five years at an accredited chiropractic college. The complete curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. Source: American Chiropractic Association When people think of chiropractors, they often think of adults getting care for back pain. But they aren't the only patients receiving help these days. Some parents are taking children — even babies and infants a few days old — to chiropractors, and there's evidence that the number is growing. The care isn't limited to muscle and joint problems. Chiropractors provide care for kids' stomach problems, earaches and even asthma. Some parents say chiropractors can solve problems that medical doctors can't. Pediatricians say there is little of what they consider to be convincing research showing that chiropractic care is effective for kids. “I don't endorse it,” said Dr. David Kaufman, a pediatrician with Children's Physicians in Omaha. Chiropractic care generally would be safe, he said, but parents first should talk with their child's primary care doctor. Dr. Karen Erickson, spokeswoman for the American Chiropractic Association, said chiropractic care for kids is safe and effective. She emphasized that pediatricians and other medical doctors are still essential for kids. Chiropractors, for example, are not permitted to prescribe medicine or perform surgery. Brewer said she hadn't realized that chiropractors treated children. She was seeing Bruening for injuries from a car crash when a family member suggested asking him if he cared for kids. Erickson said chiropractors nationally report that they are seeing more children than they did 10 or 15 years ago, although the association does not track numbers. She said one sign of the trend is that more chiropractors are seeking additional pediatric training. Locally, Bruening said he has had a slight increase in pediatric patients over the past decade who receive treatment for earaches and other nonmuscular problems. In the past, most of his young patients were children of parents who were also his patients, he said. Now he is increasingly seeing children whose parents aren't patients — a sign, he said, that chiropractic care for kids is gaining acceptance. Erickson said rising health care and insurance costs are among the reasons that more parents are trying chiropractors. Parents want to make sure their money is spent on treatment that is effective and, in some cases, that means chiropractic care, she said. “Parents are interested in what works,'' she said. But plenty of pediatricians are not sold on the treatment, including the one who has cared for Brewer's son. Dr. Chitrita Roy, an Omaha-area pediatrician in private practice, started seeing Trent when he was about 4 months old and still sees him for vaccines and other routine care. Roy, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said she doesn't think the chiropractic care that Trent started receiving when he was 5 months old has made a difference in his digestive problems. Roy said the baby suffered from a reflux condition that involves a weak sphincter muscle in the esophagus, a tube that connects the back of the throat to the stomach. A weak sphincter allows food to come back up the esophagus after eating, leading to spitting up and vomiting. The condition is very common in infants. Babies begin growing out of the condition by about the age of 6 months, Roy said. That's what she believes happened with Trent. Roy said her treatment for him included thickening his formula with rice cereal, positioning him upright after feeding and prescribing acid-reducing medication. He has maintained weight gain with that management, she said. Bruening, the chiropractor who has cared for Trent, said he has no doubt that the chiropractic care helped the boy's digestive problem. Dr. Gregg Hoogeveen, an Omaha chiropractor, said he has treated babies with similar digestive problems. He said a newborn's vertebrae can become misaligned during long or difficult deliveries. The misalignment can pinch nerves exiting the spinal column, he said, and nerves that aren't working properly can affect the digestive system. Hoogeveen and Bruening say they also have had success treating children for chronic earaches. Erickson, the chiropractic association official, said a tube between the ear and the back of the throat fills will fluid and becomes infected, causing earaches. Gentle adjustments of misaligned vertebrae improve nerve impulses to the tube, stretching it and allowing the fluid to drain, Erickson said. Kaufman, the Omaha pediatrician, said he does not think chiropractic care can help solve an ear infection. He said the tube is more horizontal in children under age 3, so any amount of stretching would not make it drain any better. By the time a child reaches age 3 or older, the tube becomes more vertical and then begins to drain on its own, he said. Brewer, the Omaha mom, said she realizes that there can be disagreement among chiropractors and pediatricians about the best care for kids. She said she feels fortunate: She has a good pediatrician she plans to keep seeing and also will continue taking her son to the chiropractor. “As a mother,” she said, “you are going to do whatever it takes to make sure your baby is taken care of.'' Contact the writer: 444-1122, michael.oconnor@owh.com Reference: http://www.omaha.com/article/20100607/NEWS01/706079929/0
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