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Did you know that your child’s spine is a vital component of his or her health? The nervous system is so important that the first cells to differentiate at about seven hours after conception become the brain and spinal cord. Your child’s spine is literally his or her lifeline, because running through it is the spinal cord with its billions of nerve fibers sending messages and energy from the brain to all areas of the body.

The doctor of chiropractic reduces subluxation (misalignment of the spine causing interference in the nervous system) by providing a chiropractic adjustment. Adjustments are safe, gentle and effective. When applied to a baby or small child, adjustments are made with no more pressure than you would use to test the ripeness of a tomato. Many times a sleeping baby can be adjusted without even being awakened.

When should you take your child to a chiropractor?

• At regular milestone intervals during the first year of life, such as learning to hold the head up, sit up, crawl, stand and walk. Your child’s spine grows almost an additional 50 percent of its original birth length during the first year of life. Many experts believe that uncorrected spinal problems during the early stages of development cause the chronic, hard-to-correct subluxations seen in adults.

• When your child takes a fall. Youngsters take numerous tumbles while jumping or running around, when learning to ride a bike, and during their day-to-day activities at home and on the playground. And just as cavities develop in your child’s teeth without symptoms, subluxations can be present without causing pain. So it’s important to visit your chiropractor for a check-up at least as often as you visit your dentist.

• When your child participates in athletic activities. A tackle on the football field could twist a young spine. A softball pitcher could throw a vertebra or shoulder out of alignment. A soccer player could injure the neck while “heading” the ball. Regular spinal check-ups can detect underlying injuries such as subluxations, and early correction can reduce healing time and improve performance.

• When illness or disease occurs. Subluxations do not allow your child’s nervous system to function at its full potential, thereby lowering your child’s ability to fight disease.

• When you want to give your child a head start on good health. Doctors of chiropractic believe it is more important to prevent disease than to wait until a disease or illness occurs. With regular adjustments and counseling on proper nutrition, sufficient rest, exercise, good posture, and a positive mental attitude, the doctor of chiropractic can help you raise a child whose body is structurally and functionally sound. Your child also will learn good health habits that will be of benefit for a lifetime.

Cherie Marriott, D.C., D.I.C.C.P., is a 1986 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. She is a professor and has been a faculty clinician in the Palmer Chiropractic Clinics since 1990. She earned her Diplomate in Chiropractic Pediatrics in 1996.