How can I tell if my child has a postural problem?
Your family chiropractor is best qualified to evaluate your child's postural health. Given all the natural growth developments and potentially serious conditions which can affect a child, it is not surprising that a recent study indicated children need chiropractic care for low back pain nearly twice as much as their parents. Just like the adult the child should have periodic postural evaluations; every six months to one year is usually sufficient.
What can a chiropractor do if my child has a postural problem?
Your child is a unique individual, of course, so the specifics of his or her care can only be determined by a health care professional - a chiropractor, for example. In general terms, your chiropractor may recommend a postural evaluation, examination of the feet, testing of any painful areas, X rays (to rule out more serious conditions), adjustments or manipulation where needed, spinal/pelvic stabilizers (foot orthotics), and rehabilitative exercise.
Why is a foot examination important?
The feet are the foundation of the body, and many foot problems can lead to stress or pain in other parts of the body. By about the age of six, the major structures of the foot are fully developed and resemble the adult foot. Before that time, however, your child's feet have undergone some important transformations. During the first 12 - 18 months of life, the structure of the foot is primarily soft cartilage - usually not strong enough to support the body. Around the time a baby begins learning to stand up, cartilage rapidly develops into bone. During the early weight bearing years, roughly between the ages of two to six, the legs and feet go through several stages of development. At about two years old, the bowed legs and "toed-in" feet of infancy straighten out as the child begins to walk. Then at about age three, a knock-kneed, toed-in stance may develop as a result of normal skeletal growth: this appearance usually straightens out by the age of six or seven.
So a child's feet and legs usually correct any postural problems they have by about age seven?
Unfortunately, not all conditions disappear. A recent survey of 52 five-year-old children showed that 92.3% had knocked knees, and 77.9% had hyperpronation.2 While noticeable knock-knees usually disappear by age seven, hyperpronation does not.
What is hyperpronation?
Pronation is considered the most common foot problem. In pronation, some of the bones of the foot drop to a less stable position because the foot arches are too weak to keep them in proper alignment. The arches themselves may be unnaturally stretched ("flat feet"), and stress on the entire foot increases. Another common problem - one that is often found along with pronation - is plantar fasciitis, a stress irritation to the sheath of elastic tissues running nearly the entire length of the foot. If not treated, either condition can lead to progressive development of foot malfunction and discomfort. Feet can become "tired and achy" or experience a burning pain, and walking can begin to feel "clumsy" as you try to move your foot in a way that avoids further pain.
What can be done to help the feet?
It is important that a child's feet be kept supported and in balance. Custom-made, flexible orthotics (also known as spinal/pelvic stabilizers) slips into a patient's shoes to help support the feet in a balanced, stable position. What's more, they also help absorb damaging heel-strike shock and provide gentle comfort while standing. Ultra Young Soles orthotics by Foot Levelers were especially created to help feet between the ages of five to twelve stay healthy and posturally stable. Young Soles work with your doctor's treatments to help keep a child's body in balance during the growing years. Ask your chiropractorr for more information.
What kind of exercises should my child be doing?
Again, your chiropractor can best answer that question. Rehabilitative exercise helps to strengthen muscles and other soft tissues which have been injured or weakened because of the effects of postural imbalance. Many doctors recommend specific exercise systems for different areas of a child's body, such as the Thera-Ciser™ Lite, for the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Depending on your child's condition, he or she may also benefit from specific neck or low back exercises.
Ask your chiropractor if Young Soles or rehabilitative exercise would be right for your child's condition.