Editorial by Dr. Brent Wells, D.C., Better Health Chiropractic

Despite living in a world filled with impressive medical advances, our children seem to be sicker than ever. Over 30% of kids today suffer from some type of chronic illness, including ADHD, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and congenital heart disease. These illnesses are caused by a variety of different things that range from environmental factors to poor nutrition. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can help your child if they have persistent health problems. One of these is physical therapy.

It may be difficult at first to tell if your child needs physical therapy; here are a few signs that indicate they may:

● They tend to trip when walking
● They prefer to use one side of their body more than the other
● They are behind in their developmental skills
● They walk on the balls of their feet

If you decide to have your child evaluated by a physical therapist, you will want to find a pediatric physical therapist, specializing in kids and common problems that plague them. Most pediatric physical therapists are also trained in helping kids develop gross motor and mobility skills. This will encourage their body to develop normally and can help treat any chronic issues they might currently have. In addition to developmental benefits, physical therapy intervention can help in the following ways:

Pain Reduction

Physical therapy has been shown to help reduce pain. Because  physical therapists understand how all body parts are interconnected, they are able to come up with a plan that helps to relieve pain by suggesting stretches and other simple forms of exercise. Most of the time, this is very successful and alleviates bodily pain caused by bone misalignment or compressed muscles. Over time, physical therapy will also strengthen the body which can help better protect it from potential injuries.

Increased the Range of Motion

Some children might have trouble moving their joints. A handful of kids suffer from bone or joint ailments, including arthritis. A few might also develop arthrogryposis which makes their bones and joints stiff. While this can sometimes be permanent, physical therapy can prevent this by strengthening these areas and training them to be flexible. This is often done with the help of stretches, like the butterfly stretch and knee-to-chest stretch.

Improved Posture

You’ll also find that physical therapy could improve your child’s posture. It’s crucial that they use correct posture to ensure their spine develops correctly. Otherwise, it could encourage their spine to abnormally curve which could lead to serious musculoskeletal pain. Some kids might also use poor posture when using electronic devices. This could lead to “tech neck” – a type of upper back and neck soreness caused by looking for prolonged periods of time at a device. Tech neck could make it hard for your kid to turn their head or could even result in headaches and muscle spasms.

Healthy Reflexes

The reason kids have reflex problems often differ. For example, c-sections could cause retained reflexes. This is because a baby’s reflexes are usually activated when passing through the birth canal. If this doesn’t happen, it could make it more difficult for their body to develop them. Other causes of reflex issues include chronic ear infections, head trauma, or vertebral subluxations (misalignments).

What to Expect at a Physical Therapy Session

Depending on your child’s needs, physical therapy sessions will vary. However, most use the same type of treatments to help fix problems. Some of these include adaptive play, water therapy, flexibility exercises, and strength training. If your child suffers from a chronic illness or injury, they might also use heat or cold therapy, ultrasounds, or massage therapy to help.

At your first visit, a physical therapist will usually do a quick check-up of your child. They might ask them to do a few exercises to examine their flexibility and strength. They might also request that they walk around. This will help them to identify areas of concern and where the treatments need to focus.

After coming up with a personalized plan, a physical therapist will begin helping your child. Many physical therapists will disguise treatments with the help of fun toys and activities, such as with slides or interactive video games. Some might also give you tips as to how you can help your child at home. For instance, a physical therapist might give you a list of exercises your child should do or refer you to a specialized doctor for extra help, such as a chiropractor. There are many physical therapy and chiropractic care similarities which make these two beneficial to use in tandem.

Depending on your child’s needs, physical therapy might be necessary for a few weeks or a few months. Most sessions also last about one hour so they won’t be overwhelming for your child. If you think physical therapy may be helpful for your child, an evaluation by a pediatric physical therapist will provide the clarity you need.