How to Build a Brain

If you have ever seen a child taking their first steps, I’m sure you would agree that it is one of life’s great joys. Whenever we see this in the office we have an extra level of awe because we know what this means for the child. It means that their brain is physically changing, for the better

Walking isn’t a one and done learning process, it takes thousands of tries and many weeks to finally get it “right.” Our motor development is the result of strengthening positive and beneficial connections between brain cells and getting rid of incorrect connections, exactly like pruning a tree. All of those times a child falls while learning helps the brain prune away un-needed and incorrect connections between cells and strengthen correct connections and pathways so their brain finally learns. 

Our motor development (crawling, standing, walking etc.) is also intimately and inextricably connected to our cognitive development. This is why, unfortunately, many children who are suffering from a motor delay will also very likely be struggling with a cognitive delay as well. Skipping or delaying motor milestones can often signal cognitive delays to come. 

The control of the head, neck and spine drive our motor development right from the start. The reason we gently and specifically adjust the spine of children is because it is much more than just a stack of bones; it is a living, breathing communication superhighway between the brain and body carrying and relaying everything, including motor information. A fixated or improperly moving spinal joint distorts vital communication and gives the brain incorrect information. Gentle and specific adjustments to correct these fixations restore correct motor communication between the brain and body.

Healing is a Journey, Not an Event

How soon will I feel better? How long until this goes away? Will it get worse before it gets better?

We get these questions a lot, and I wish there was a quick and easy way to answer them. The truth is, I would love it if healing was linear, ie. if it looked like one of those “hockey stick” graphs of exponential growth and improvement from the beginning. Granted, we do take care of some cases who respond that way, but more often healing resembles a zig-zagged bumpy line with ups and downs, highs and lows, good days and bad. The bright side is that we are still trending UP overtime! Of course we want improvement in symptoms early and quickly, but as with anything, healing takes time. We monitor progress at every step along your healing journey to make sure we prepare for and deal with any bumps along the way. 

“Situational Awareness”

If anyone remembers the movie “The Bourne Identity” that came out in the early 2000s, there was a scene where Jason Bourne (a spy) rattles off a list of things he has unconsciously picked up since entering the restaurant where he and the woman were in at the time.. 

“I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you there are waitresses left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside. And at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half-mile before my hands start shaking….” 

What Jason did in that scene was to demonstrate his fantastic aptitude for “situational awareness.” Situational Awareness is our ability to determine where we are so we can adapt our behavior to match the situation at hand. 

This seems simple enough, but why do so many kiddos struggle to “read a room” or match their behavioral or energy output to their environment. Why are they loud when they should be quiet, or withdrawn when they should be engaged? Why do they hop from thing to thing, never finishing the thing they are working on? 

The ability to match behavior to our environment is completely under the control of our brain and nervous system. The brain and nervous system are constantly scanning and taking in sensory input to help us form a coherent picture of where we are and how we should be behaving. Kiddos who are struggling to self-regulate and match their behavior to their surroundings have a nervous system that is stressed out and no longer able to appropriately control their actions. In other words, their brain is “noisy” and they can’t make sense of things. 

Gentle and specific chiropractic adjustments to remove subluxations in the spine have been shown to impact the brain and nervous system, calming the “noise” and allowing for better regulation. Parents commonly report better emotional stability, better eye contact, less impulsivity, and better ability to “read the room!” 

Are Labels Everything?

Anxiety, ADHD, ASD, OCD, Depression, ODD.. the list could go on. 

Everyone knows a child with one of these labels or diagnoses. We could go into the intricacies of each of these until the cows come home, but then what?  At the end of the day, it’s how these labels show up in your child’s life; the nitty-gritty details fall to the wayside in light of what they mean to their quality of life. 

At the root of each of these diagnoses, we will find 3 things…

Disruption, Distortion & Disconnection.

Disruption in behavior, Distortion of health, and finally Disconnection from the life they were meant to have.

Disruption, Distortion & Disconnection NEED Release, Restoration & Reconnection.

When we sit down to review a child’s neurological scanning findings we have these 3 things in mind. Each and every care plan we recommend is designed to help achieve the: Release of stress, Restoration of balance & Reconnection to a better quality of life. 

Change is possible with these diagnoses, but we need a plan to get there. 

Brain-Body Balance

Low Tone, Clumsy, Uncoordinated. 

Many parents take their child to a pediatric chiropractor, an OT or a PT for “low tone” issues. So what exactly is “low tone?” 

“Tone” refers to the amount of activation or energy in our muscles. Kids with low tone have less than normal muscle activation or energy in their bodies. Low tone around the core can look like slouching or the inability to sit up straight, low tone in the limbs can look like tripping constantly, dropping things, or having one side of their body lag behind the other side in development. 

No matter what the presentation, low tone is a mismatch between the information the brain is getting from the body and the information the brain is sending to the body. The brain and body are in constant communication via the neuro-spinal system made of the spine, spinal cord, and nerves. The brain needs the information from the body to be crystal clear and without interference, so it can form a correct 3D map, if you will, of the body. Subluxations in the spine disrupt, distort, and disconnect the vital flow of information that the brain needs to accurately map the body and send signals out to the muscles for movement. For kids these disrupted signals manifest as low tone, tripping, falling, being clumsy, and the inability to control their bodies.

Gentle and specific chiropractic adjustments correct subluxations in the spine, restoring proper brain-body communication and coordination.

Honey, have you been drinking?

Does your child seem to have trouble with coordination? Are they clumsy, unbalanced, disorganized, have trouble learning or just seem to have trouble putting things together?

One of the most important areas of the developing brain in a child is the cerebellum. The cerebellum plays a huge role in cognition, emotion, immune and most importantly, motor skills. Most kids who are experiencing developmental and motor delays have a cerebellum that isn’t functioning correctly. They seem to have issues “putting the pieces together” we often refer to these kids, affectionately of course, as “Drunken Bulls.” 

“Drunken Bulls” have a cerebellum that isn’t receiving movement input from the body accurately. This happens when the neuro-spinal system isn’t moving correctly, commonly referred to as a subluxation. Subluxation in the spine alters proprioception, aka movement information to the brain. Fun fact: this is similar to what happens when we drink alcohol, which affects the cerebellum the same way. You might even see us doing some of the same tests police officers do roadside on some of the kids in here to look at the function of their cerebellum!

When we adjust a “drunken bull” kid our goal is to reconnect and re-coordinate the sensory input coming into their brains so they can make better sense of it. Chiropractic adjustments are incredibly powerful stimulators of proper coordination and movement, which is why we work great with the work that OTs and PTs do. 

If your child seems to be struggling with putting things together, we may be able to help. Our scans and exams can help determine if we can reconnect and recoordinate with chiropractic care.

“The more you know, the more you go”

Constipation in kids.. let’s cut the crap.. literally. 

How often should your child go #2? 

If you type this question into your local Facebook moms group you will likely hear many different answers as well as some quite frankly, horrifying home remedies you can do to make them go. Many parents are recommended to give adult doses of Miralax to their children as young as 2 years old for months on end. Should we have to be resorting to such drastic interventions just to make our kiddos poop? Bowel movements are such a basic biological process, as they say, “everybody poops.” But why do some kiddos struggle? If you have ever been constipated, you know how miserable it is. Kiddos feel the same way, and often constipation is intertwined with meltdowns, anxiety, and behavioral issues because it causes them so much distress. 

Diet can certainly be a culprit, gluten and dairy are commonly blamed. While our diet does play a role, we often forget that neurology is king in the function of our digestive system. The digestive system is made of muscular tubes that are designed to move food along until we ultimately eliminate it into the toilet. As with any muscle, the digestive system is controlled by a rich supply of nerves that stimulate the muscles to contract and move the food along. These nerves are profoundly affected by stress. A stressed-out nervous system is a stressed-out digestive system. A nervous system under stress is commonly known as our “fight or flight” response. Think of it this way, if you were running from a bear, would you take time to stop and poop? Or would you rather your body send any and all energy to your muscles so you can keep running? 

“Fight or flight” is great when running from a bear. However, if overactive because of stress in a kiddo’s life, whether physical, chemical, or emotional, it shuts down the opposite side of the nervous system: the “Rest and Digest” response. “Rest and Digest,” as you can imagine, stimulates among other things, calming, digestion and elimination. “Rest and Digest “ works via activation of the Vagus nerve (see other blog posts for an in-depth dive into the Vagus nerve). 

In order to break up the wound up “fight or flight” response, we have to stimulate the “rest and digest” response. Cue pediatric chiropractic care. Gentle and specific chiropractic adjustments stimulate the “rest and digest” response allowing the Vagus nerve to come back online and do its job more efficiently. 

Fun Fact: Dr. Randi at SFC is affectionately known as the “poop doctor” because so many kiddos come in struggling with constipation and end up pooping like champs! If your kiddo is struggling we would love to see if we can help!

It’s All About Their “Bucket”

For struggling kiddos, it’s all about their “bucket”

It’s no secret that there are A LOT of struggling kiddos out there today. Labels are everywhere and so many kids are just called ADHD, SPD, OCD, ODD, ASD. While each of these diagnoses is unique, they do have a lot of overlap. 

To a pediatric chiropractor, those labels mean one thing: a stressed child. Yes, children are stressed too, but in different ways than you and I. To a child, school can be stressful, bedtime can be stressful, so can certain foods, peer pressure, a sibling taking a toy from them, maybe they eat a poor diet or don’t exercise or get bullied at school. What all these things do is trigger their “fight or flight” response and cause them to act out of protection mode. Enough of these physical, chemical and emotional stresses built up over time leads to a child with a nearly full “bucket” where stress is all they perceive and all they know.  Think of the “bucket” like the baseline activity or stress level at any given time. To a child with only a few drops left until their “bucket” overflows they have meltdown after meltdown over seemingly trivial things. Tags on a shirt, slimy foods, loud noises, bedtimes, losing a toy, etc. So much stress has been wound in nervous systems over time that there is no room left, and little things set them over the edge and cause meltdowns. It’s like living your life with the gas pedal on redline 24/7, it’s pretty easy for things to spin out of control. 

Parents can limit stressors for kiddos by changing their diet, fixing their backpacks and limiting internet time. But if those things still aren’t helping the issue very much that’s where a pediatric chiropractor comes in. Adjustments help ease and release the pent up, stress-related tension in their nervous system to take some water out of the bucket, and give them slack. As much as we hate to see them stressed, children are going to be faced with stress for the rest of their lives, and how they respond and adapt to that stress is going to determine the quality of their lives. Our doctors use state-of-the-art technology to measure this pent up stress in their nervous systems which allows us to not only show parents what their children only wish that they could tell them but help us formulate a plan to help! 

Can You Turn That Down?

Music is great because it can influence our mood profoundly. Some leading neurologists have even argued that the human brain is innately and explicitly designed and tuned to respond to music. Our brains accurately tune into the rhythm and beat of the music and our actual physiology changes. Even when not exposed to external music, our nervous systems have a background “music” playing which determines our mood, behavior, physiology etc. This background music is influenced by many factors including stress, diet, sleep etc. Believe it or not our spinal alignment plays a huge role in the music going on in our brains and nervous systems. Because we are subject to gravity, our spinal joints have to send signals to the brain 24/7 to help our brain have accurate information to keep us upright. When spinal joints are moving correctly our brain is getting good, positive, calming music. Think classical music while sitting on the beach with a pina colada while your kids are with the sitter calming. 

Our brains crave this input and proper movement information, plain and simple.

Movement is such a calming influence to the brain that exercise alone is one of the most powerful and effective antidepressants in existence. However, when we experience stress, whether physical, chemical, or emotional, it can cause our spinal joints to get “stuck.” And when that happens, the record skips and the music changes. Instead of sitting on the beach with a pina colada while your kids are with the sitter music we get front row of a death metal concert music blasting into the brain. Which is stressful in and of itself, to say the least. The fancy $10 chiropractic word for this is a “subluxation.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I love death metal music, but only in the gym. It helps me get hyped up to lift heavy and workout hard, but every other moment of my day, I’d rather listen to something else. Death metal would be exhausting to listen too 24/7. When the spine of a child is subluxated, their brains have death metal music on in the background. How hard would it be to take a test, get ready for bed, focus on a task, or calm yourself down when faced with a stressful situation if you were at a Metallica concert? 

Gentle and specific chiropractic adjustments remove subluxations and restore good calming music to the brain. If your child struggles to calm down, regulate their behavior or has difficulty in school, pediatric chiropractic care may be able to help. We use state-of-the art technology to identify areas of subluxation and determine if your child may benefit from chiropractic care.

Ferrari Engines & Tricycle Brakes

Let’s pretend you have a Ferrari. What would happen if for some reason there was a complication during manufacturing, and they installed tricycle brakes instead of the right ones? What would happen as you were driving? The acceleration wouldn’t be affected, it’s still a Ferrari after all. In fact, that’s the biggest strength of a Ferrari. But when it came time for the brakes to stop and control that speed, some issues would arise, to say the least. If your kiddo struggles with ADHD, you have probably seen a similar phenomenon.

Kids who have ADHD have a brain like a Ferrari engine, but they have trouble calming it down. They are often extremely intelligent, yet paradoxically they struggle in school. They are seeing 10 miles down the road, but we only want them to look down at their homework.

ADHD is at its core a neurological phenomenon. Our nervous system is our body’s master controller and is profoundly affected by STRESS.

Stress comes at kids in many different forms, namely 3 main categories: physical, chemical and emotional. Stress activates our “fight or flight” system which is designed for survival above all else. In “fight or flight” our senses are heightened, our impulsivity goes up, and it’s hard to concentrate for more than a few seconds at a time. When our “fight or flight” system is engaged, our “rest and digest” system is cut off. The “rest and digest” system is where all the good stuff happens: self-calming, self-soothing, healing, growing, and repairing. When we are stressed, it’s like we are revving the gas and cutting the brakes at the same time. This explains the behavior of so many kiddos struggling with ADHD.

As pediatric chiropractors we use gentle and specific adjustments to calm the excessive stress response in the nervous system, breaking them out of “fight or flight” and stimulating the “rest and digest” response and a more balanced nervous system. A child with a balanced nerve system can use and direct their Ferrari engine brains when they need to, but also calm down and focus when they need to. Far from looking to fix or cure ADHD, chiropractic care is about balancing the nervous system, which often coincides with changes in the symptoms commonly associated with ADHD.