From orthopedic injuries to allergies, asthma and ear infections, suburban parents say the pediatrician's office isn't always their only stop on the road to wellness.
Pediatrics is a rapidly growing segment of chiropractic practice, according to Dr. Naveed H. Elahi, D.C., a board-certified chiropractor who sees patients at Health First Chiropractic Wellness Centers in Schaumburg and Oakbrook Terrace. "Once thought of as an alternative health treatment, the benefits of chiropractic care are becoming more well-known, recognized by parents, more and more medical professionals and insurance providers."
Top 10 reasons children go to a chiropractor1 Earaches
2 Neck pain
5 Upper respiratory infection
6 Low back pain
9 Enuresis (bed wetting)
10 Thoracic pain
Elahi's observation is on target, according to the American Chiropractic Association's Council on Chiropractic Pediatrics, an organization established in 2005 to support members who take care of children in their chiropractic practice. In 1997, children made an estimated 30 million visits for chiropractic care in the United States. Those numbers have risen dramatically.
"Studies are beginning to show that chiropractic care can help children with typical musculoskeletal complaints as well as issues like chronic ear infections, digestive disturbances, migraine headaches, breast-feeding difficulties, colic, bed-wetting and allergies/asthma," Elahi says.
Word-of-mouth brings most pediatric patients and their parents to Elahi, who says he is seeing a trend of increasing referrals from pediatricians.
"Most of my adult patients now see how chiropractic care can help their children," says Elahi, who treats children ages 3 to 11 for musculoskeletal problems as well as other common childhood ailments. "It can be scary for anyone used to the traditional medical model to consider more natural methods of care. Pediatric patients often are referred by another client whose ear infections resolved or whose asthma symptoms cleared."
Ear infections (otitis media) are the most common cause of pediatric visits and account for the frequent use of antibiotics use for complications of the common cold, sinusitis and sore throats.
"Just as mental or emotional stress can impair the immune function, physical stress on the central nervous system can lower resistance to disease," explains Elahi, who places special emphasis on physical therapy modalities and incorporates yoga, core strengthening, nutrition counseling and acupuncture in his approach to comprehensive health.
"After a thorough exam of the ears, neck, lymph nodes and determining bacterial or viral roots, we're able to use massage and chiropractic technique to drain the ear manually by mobilizing the area at the base of the skull," explains the chiropractor.
An important aspect of care, he says, involves a close look at diet and nutritional needs, eliminating congestion-inducing foods, potential allergens and those food items leading to possible inflammation.
"Reintroducing foods in a rotation manner is one way to pinpoint potential problems," he says. "It appears that many of the children seeking help for ear infections don't necessarily have an ear infection. They have an inflammation."
Elahi says he is seeing an upward trend using evidence-based medicine and chiropractic care for children with food intolerance and celiac disease, attention issues and for challenges facing those with an autism spectrum disorder. He's also seeing a bump in prenatal chiropractic care and nutrition counseling for moms-to-be to help ensure a healthier, more comfortable pregnancy.
Nearly 3 percent of American children were treated with chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation in 2007, making it the second most common form of complementary or alternative medicine for children, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the federal government's lead agency for scientific research on the diversified medical and health care systems and practices. The use of natural products such as fish oil and herbs ranked first.
"Those percentages have grown in the last few years," explains Elahi, who says he doesn't promise to cure any ailment in a particular child, but rather to optimize health by taking stress and tension off the nervous system and allowing the body to heal itself.
Dr. Chirag Shah, a chiropractic physician seeing patients in Hoffman Estates at AMITA Health St. Alexius Hospital, says he, too, is seeing a new rise in the awareness of benefits an alternative holistic approach to health can offer pediatric patients.
"Chiropractic care is restorative, designed to optimize health," explains Shah, who points to the increased information available to parents and families seeking to help their children with everything from athletic injury prevention to constipation, tummy troubles, ear infections, common colds, migraine headaches, sleep disturbances and teething.
"By optimizing health, building resistance and boosting the immune system response, children's colds may be shortened and other complaints mitigated," says the 25-year practitioner who welcomes children and families in a kid-friendly environment with vibrant colors and soothing lighting. "They also love seeing the photos and autographs of former patients including former Chicago Cubs players Carlos Zambrano and Bobby Hardy.
Shah says that by keeping the metabolism running on high, the body is able to cure itself, many times without antibiotics or invasive means.
"By helping kids restore health, allergies and asthma symptoms can subside," says Shah, who estimates children represent nearly 20 percent of his practice. "One sure method is to get kids moving. Movement is the key. Shallow breathing with lots of congestion means there is no movement."
High school athletes, according to Shah, are no strangers to the health benefits of chiropractic care. "Many schedule preseason consults. Athletes including gymnasts, swimmers, soccer and hockey players frequently stop in for treatment after practice."
In addition to movement to minimize aches and pains, Shah is a firm believer in the benefits of adequate hydration and water consumption, proper alignment even at rest to ensure proper spinal alignment and good nutritional habits. Turmeric, an Asian spice used in curry, is his personal "go-to" ingredient of choice due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and healing health benefits.
The best advice, he says, is to teach children to listen to their bodies and heed warnings.