Spinal Development 101: From Infants to School Age

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Chantilly Chiropractic Center

Did you know that an infant’s spine will double in size in their first two years of life?

Chiropractic care for children is essential to a child’s optimal development. More and more parents are seeking chiropractic care for their children because of the positive effects it has on a child’s spine and nervous system. As the child begins to participate in regular childhood activities such as running or riding a bike, small yet, significant spinal misalignments/subluxations may occur. If neglected, the injuries during this period of rapid growth may lead to more serious problems later in life. Subtle trauma throughout childhood will affect the future development of the spine leading to impaired nervous system function. Any interference to the vital nerve system will adversely affect the body’s ability to function at its best.

Development of Spinal Curvatures in Infants

Stage 1
When infants are born, they do not yet have the muscle structure to hold their heads up, crawl, or walk. Thus, they are born with only one “C”-shaped curvature in their spine. You will also notice your newborn will tuck his or her legs into a frog leg position, thighs pulling up toward the chest, while laying on their belly or when you pick them up. This “fetal tuck” allows your baby to maintain their primary curve alignment, reducing the pressure on the spine and hips.

This spinal alignment develops in utero and can be seen throughout the first few months of life. The “fetal tuck” is also the most calming position for your newborn, since the baby will use less oxygen and conserve energy, in addition, waste fewer calories and digest food better. It is important in this phase to have your baby checked by your pediatric chiropractic physician if you notice any abnormal movements with neck (favoring one side or the other), leg strength uneven while kicking, or if he/she is having colic or ear infections. All these could be signs of joint misalignments that could hinder proper development in the spine.

Stage 2
After a few months, you will begin to notice your child being able to hold his/her head up. During this time, your infant is developing the muscles necessary to support the “cervical lordosis” (neck region) in their spine. The best way to encourage your baby’s cervical curve is plenty of tummy time. To create a tummy time environment, your baby will enjoy:

• Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of tummy time daily
• Encourage your baby during tummy time
• Tummy time = Play time
• While learning to walk or crawl, limit onesies or baggy clothing
• Get check-ups by your chiropractor to ensure proper spinal development!

• Rush your baby through any stage of spinal development
• Avoid overusing swings, bouncy seats, and even strollers
• Avoid too many toys when your baby is starting to crawl or walk — your baby needs space to move!
• Don’t place your baby in jumpers or non-supported baby seats before they are able to hold their heads upright

Stage 3
During this stage, your baby is beginning to crawl which usually occurs between 6-12 months. During this phase, your baby has developed the structure necessary to hold up their head as well as use their upper back, arms, and legs simultaneously. The final spinal curve that is developed is called the “lumbar curve” or the low back curvature. This allows the hips and low back to move in combination with the mid and upper back. In order for the lumbar curve and the surrounding muscles to develop properly, give your baby as many opportunities as possible to crawl and play on his/her tummy.

Stage 4
Congratulations! By this stage, your baby has formed all four spinal curvatures (cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral) and is walking upright. Usually, this stage occurs from 7-17 months. These natural curvatures will remain throughout adulthood and will support the body and musculoskeletal system as it adapts to gravity. During this stage, gait patterns will develop as well as the arches in their feet.

Abnormal Curvatures of the Developing Spine

The definition of Scoliosis is an abnormal sideways spinal curvature such as a “C” or “S” curve that is 10 degrees or more over at least three vertebrae. Scoliosis changes the structure and function of the spine as well as the paraspinal soft tissues and muscles. It is commonly diagnosed in adolescence but can be found in adults as well from undiagnosed adolescent scoliosis.

“Hyper” meaning “more or excessive,” implies a curve within the thoracic and/or lumbar spine that is excessive. Abnormal curvatures can potentially lead to altered biomechanics and a delay in walking or crawling.

Is Chiropractic the Right Treatment?
Yes! Chiropractors are experts in detecting deficiencies within a developing spine. They are experts in spinal health and the neuro-musculoskeletal system. Chiropractors can help ensure that your growing child is developing on track and can keep his/her nervous system operating effectively. Every time your child comes to the office, not only will their entire spine and posture be examined and treated, but any other injury to their ankles, hips, feet, shoulders, and wrists.

Pediatric chiropractic adjustments are specific, safe adjustments that can help improve the function of the body as a whole, which will improve development with your child. If you have any concerns about your child’s proper spinal development, a chiropractic assessment can help you get answers and develop a successful plan of management for your child’s spinal health.

Dr. Christina Wellner has specialized training in pediatric care as well as host educational seminars around the area about how chiropractic can play an important part in happy, healthy families. For questions, additional information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Christina Wellner at Chantilly Chiropractic Center, please call (703) 378-2698 or email her at [email protected].

Dr. Wellner, Chantilly Chiropractic CenterDr. Wellner, a Chiropractor at Chantilly Chiropractic Center, received her Doctorate of Chiropractic Degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic and is the recipient of the James Buerkle Memorial Award for leadership, service, and commitment to Palmer College and the chiropractic profession. As a physician, she strongly believes in patient education and empowering patients and their families to improve the quality of their lives through a multidisciplinary approach. Dr. Wellner works with local OBGYN offices, general practitioners, orthopedic doctors, neurologists, personal trainers, and other healthcare professionals to administer optimal care to her patients.

For her pediatric patients, Dr. Wellner believes in allowing a child’s natural healing abilities to shine through by using a combination of gentle spinal adjustments and nutritional/lifestyle recommendations. In her quest to educate others about the role of chiropractic in children’s health care, Dr. Wellner hosts classes and lectures in Northern Virginia about the importance of a healthy lifestyle for expectant mothers, babies, and families. Dr. Wellner is also a member of the Unified Virginia Chiropractic Association, American Chiropractic Association, Dulles Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the Dulles Chamber Health and Wellness Committee as well as the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Christina Wellner, please call (703) 378-2698 or email her at [email protected]. Chantilly Chiropractic Center is located at 3910 Centreville Rd., Ste. 202, Chantilly, VA 20151. Connect: Online | Facebook | (703) 378-2698.

Kirkilionis, Evelin, and Susanne Krauss. A Baby Wants to Be Carried: Everything You Need to Know about Baby Carriers and the Benefits of Babywearing. London: Pinter & Martin, 2014. Print.
Montagu, Ashley. Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. New York: Columbia UP, 1971. Print.
Anrig, Claudia A., and Gregory Plaugher. Pediatric Chiropractic. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health, 2013. Print.
Wellness Media-The Healing Series. Spinal Development. Wellness Media-The Healing Series, Print.
Baudin-Griffin, Jessica. “From C to S: How to Nurture Your Baby’s Spinal Development.” Blog post.Intellidance. N.p., 2016. Web.
Todros, Panattoni. “Fetal Motor Activity and Spine Development.” PubMed.gov. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1989. Web.
Ohm, Jeanne, DC. “Why Should Children Have Chiropractic Care?” Why Should Children Have Chiropractic Care? | Childhood Wellness Articles. International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, 01 Mar. 2005. Web.

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