Wednesday, January 22, 2014

HENRY GOES TO THE CHIROPRACTOR

When Henry was about two months old, I noticed his head was starting to look a little lop-sided, and that he only ever looked to the left. You can sort of see the flat spot on the left side of his head, which resulted in slight protrusion on the right side (flat spots/lopsided head is called plagiocephaly). I mentioned it to Henry's pediatrician at his two-month appointment, but was disappointed in how he dealt with my concern. He brushed me off immediately and told me to go see the physical therapist (where I would have had to pay specialist fees) when all I really wanted was for him to talk to me about it and explain what was happening before I was pawned off on another doctor.

Really what I felt was offended. It was like I was a hormonal postpartum woman or something! Pay attention to me! Don't brush me off like what I'm saying isn't valid! It also doesn't help when you're worried that your baby has a problem that could affect their development (most of the time, plagiocephaly is merely cosmetic). I vented to a girlfriend about my woes (right?), and it happened that her husband was a chiropractor. She told me he often adjusted their kids' backs, and that he learned how to correct such flat spots in school. I didn't even know chiropractors worked on kids and babies. He told me he'd help me and Henry, and we started having weekly visits.*
OK. So before I get a bunch of comments accusing me of mistreating my son, know that holding babies upside down briefly is a normal way to see the spinal alignment. And also, this was the only time out of more than ten appointments that Henry was upset. He happened to be hungry and tired, which, as you may know, is a recipe for crankiness. Henry's main problem was a tightness of the muscles in one side of his neck which caused him to always turn that way. We would try to get him to look the other way, even physically move his head, but it would spring back like it was difficult for him to turn it.

Each appointment, the doctor checks his spine to see if he is turning his head to the side by hanging him upside down for up to eight seconds. He adjusts his neck and back as needed, then manually applies pressure to his skull to help the shift the plates into their proper place and correct any bulges or flat spots. It is essentially what a corrective helmet would do, but with more pressure over less time. In the first several appointments, we also did some roof-of-the-mouth pressure. I would apply pressure (essentially push lightly while Henry happily sucked on my finger) to the roof of his mouth where his head was forming incorrectly. It was really weird - the asymmetry of his head was evident in his mouth, and I could feel it moving while the doctor pushed on the outside of his head.

We were told that we could safely prop his head with a firm pillow so that when he laid down, the pressure was on the non-flat side of his head. The neck and back adjustments helped with his flexibility, and his preference for the left side went away.

We've noticed a huge improvement, and are anticipating only a few more appointments! The goal was not to entirely fix the problem (because, duh, nobody's head is perfectly symmetrical), but to get it to a point where Henry's own strength would prevent it from flattening more, and self-correction would begin as he grew. We're almost there! If you have any questions about the subject, feel free to ask! If you had a different experience with plagiocephaly, feel free to comment and share your story! I'd love to read about it.

*Note - there are many effective ways to correct plagiocephaly in babies. In Henry's case, the problem was in his neck and back muscles and not just in his skull. In some cases, a helmet is necessary to help reshape the bones in the head. For Henry, this would have helped, but would not have corrected the actual problem in his muscles. Chiropractics was also the more financially friendly option for us. If you are concerned your baby has plagiocephaly, explore all your options and make the best decision for you. All decisions we made were the best thing for our baby, as decided my me, Conrad, and the doctor. Comments telling me how wrong it is to prop his head or hang him upside down will be removed. Nothing harmful was done to Henry. This post is intended to help parents make the best decisions for their babies, even if they differ from mine. 

2 comments:

  1. Cool! My Axel boy has that and no one could tell but me so I didn't worry about it too much. I'll have to look at him when he wakes up, but I think he might have evened out. I never thought about going to the chiro for it. I took my daughter to the chiro for her spit up. I think it helped a little, but I think it was really just something she had to grow out of.

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  2. That is a really interesting way to get the spine to do what you want. I am wheelchair bound and sometimes I wish I could dangle upside down like that. It sure would un-kink my spine.
    http://www.spinewise.com/

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