(WMC-TV) – It's one of the latest trends in keeping babies happy and healthy: trips to the chiropractor. Parents say instead of popping open a medicine bottle, a good pop of the neck or back will do.
But is it safe?
"She was colicky, she was real fussy, but she's my first baby so I didn't really know," said mother Megan Lewallen.
And because Lewallen didn't understand what was happening with her newborn daughter Bria, she went looking for answers outside of traditional medicine.
That's when chiropractor Tyler Schwanz stepped into the Lewallen's lives.
The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association says pediatric visits to chiropractors jumped from 30 million in 2000 to 68 million by 2009. The same doctors who pop, crack and put adults back into place use much gentler techniques on babies.
"It's a very minimal amount of force necessary to adjust an infant," Dr. Schwanz said. "Just to supply a sustained amount of pressure in a particular vector or direction to be able to realign that bone and stimulate the nervous system to the point where it can function properly."
Bria is one of many babies and young children Dr. Schwanz says he's helped in the past with problems like eating issues, which he says tend to surround the Vegus Nerve that exits out the base of the skull.
"The Vegus Nerve controls all the digestive function of that infant," he said. "And so if you can remove that pressure off of that Vegus Nerve you can help with gird, colic, constipation, diarrhea and digestive issues."
After four chiropractic sessions, Bria's mom says her baby's hiccups and eating problems have gotten better.
"I've noticed hiccups maybe once a day, normally not even once a day anymore," Megan Lewallen said. "She doesn't bring up as much if she does have digestion issues. She's keeping a lot more food down.'
At two years old, Sebastian Peck is a veteran of the chiropractic visit.
Dr. Michelle Rupe-Switzer uses what's called a Pro-Adjuster on Sebastian to tap vertebra into place, taking pressure off the nerves.
"Pressure in this region goes to the lungs, and kids with asthma, those types of things, those vertebra can really get stressed," Dr. Rupe-Switzer said. "Bowel movements, nursing, earaches. I have a lot of parents who have done rounds and rounds and rounds of antibiotics and are just wanting to add something different into the--to see if it can help. Very very good response with that."
A very different response comes from medical experts on the other side of this trend, who warn one wrong move could actually injure a child.
"The biggest concern that I have is that some chiropractors, probably all chiropractors are trained to do high velocity movements, but I think that some chiropractors have used them on children and that's very, very dangerous," Children's National Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Sally Evans said.
Safety studies show injuries are rare, but those studies also recommended more studies.
The bottom line: do your homework. As for the parents we spoke to, they say these visits are just what the doctor ordered.
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