Dr. Kolleen Gregory specializes in infants, children and pregnancy at Focus Chiropractic, the family practice she founded with her husband Dr. Richard Gregory.
I met Dr. Kolleen and Dr. Richard during my second pregnancy, when I visited their practice due to pregnancy related discomfort. After experiencing sciatica and symphysis pubis dysfunction during my first pregnancy, I wanted to take preventative steps to avoid that happening again. Chiropractic care helped me stay pain free and active, so I could care for my young son, while pregnant with my daughter.
Many people do not associate body work or chiropractic care with infants. However, an initial assessment can benefit all newborns to make certain they aren’t restricted or misaligned. It’s more common than we tend to think. During my years working as a Doula, I have seen newborns with feeding issues, gassy tummies and reflux symptoms that improved after receiving gentle body adjustments. Often babies who have had difficult births, or who are twins, can benefit from this type of body work. Babies who feel comfortable in their bodies, are relaxed, and they transition into life outside the womb with more ease.
What type of education does a chiropractor have and what kind of special training do they receive to treat infants?
Most chiropractic colleges take about four years to complete, depending on whether they are on a semester or trimesters schedule. A Bachelor of Science is required before enrolling into a program. General chiropractic adjusting education covers how to treat patients from newborn to 100 year olds.
I trained under and have a fellowship with The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA). This is a postgraduate course, which we take in addition to our regular professional training. The course covers newborn to adolescent adjusting, as well as therapeutic techniques such as cranio-sacral therapy and the sacral occipital technique. In addition, we learn how to provide pregnancy and postpartum care, including the Webster technique.
We continue to train with the ICPA annually. Last year we traveled to Chicago, to train with one of the prominent pediatric specialists in Chiropractic, Dr. Martin Rosen, who specializes in cranial work with newborns. It is very exciting to continue to learn from the best in the field and this allows us to provide families with the very best care possible. Doctors of Chiropractic who are members of the ICPA have taken postgraduate classes on specific techniques for pregnant mothers, infants and children to enhance their knowledge and skills in this field.
What is a common misconception about chiropractic care you often find yourself educating people about?
The most common misconception about chiropractic care is that babies are adjusted the same way adults are. It’s just not true, nor is it true in any other health field. Children, especially infants, are physically and structurally different than adults. Adults have 206 bones, while infants are born with 300 bones! Adults have dense skeletal bones; children have malleable “softer” bones. These differences go on and on. Chiropractors who specialize in pediatric care use very gentle and effective techniques designed specifically for infants.
Common Newborn Issues
What are the most common issues you treat in newborns and infants?
We most commonly see newborns and infants for latching issues. Most of our Focus mothers bring in their newborns within the first 6 weeks for a newborn wellness check. This often catches any issues or asymmetry early.
The next most common reason newborns visit our practice is for colic and reflux which often results in excessive crying and exhaustion of the parents.
How many visits does it usually take to resolve the most common issues experienced by babies?
When working with infants less than 6 weeks, often, just one visit at our office or an in home visit will resolve the issue. However babies that are older and have had more of a chronic issue can take 2-3 visits to see improvement. This is a common scenario with difficult labors and delivery. Toddlers and preschoolers typically visit our office a few times a year or after a major fall.
Children with chronic health issues such as excessive colds, earaches, and asthma get adjusted every 4-6 weeks. With this treatment schedule, urgent care visits are reduced and the use of inhaler and medications is very limited.
Lastly in preadolescent ages, we check kids for proper growth and development. We check postural distortions like Scoliosis, care for sports injuries, and common growing pains of a young adult.
Signs That Parents Should Seek a Chiropractor Assessment
Are there any clues or symptoms parents can look for to know their baby might benefit from seeing a chiropractor?
Posture really is the window to a person’s spinal health. Ideally a newborn should be very relaxed. Signs of spinal tension in babies include; tenseness, their shoulders are high, excessively arching their back and head, or turning off the breast and crying. Spinal tension is often associated with difficulty latching due to TMJ dysfunction or torticollis (muscle spasm of neck muscles). If your baby exhibits these signs, their ability to simply open up the mouth for wide latch is restricted and reduced.
Any excessive crying would also be an indicator that your baby is uncomfortable or in distress. With chiropractic, we seek to balance out the nervous system by removing structural interference to that delicate system. By doing so, we create ease within their body which allows their bodies to function more efficiently. This often results in improved sleep, better digestion and general relaxation throughout their body.
Visiting the Chiropractor
New parents are often unaware that babies can receive chiropractic treatment. What can parents expect when they bring their baby to you for a chiropractic visit?
A visit in our office starts with a history of the pregnancy and delivery, and discussing any current health concerns.
Next, an examination of your baby or child will begin by checking all joints and their range of motion. Sometimes the baby will lie on an infant pillow that surrounds the baby but allows the doctor to easily palpate. This examination includes the spine, hips, ankles, shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
Then, any reduction in joint play as well as any muscular imbalance will be noted and discussed with you, as well as ways to monitor and prevent the imbalance from occurring again.
Lastly if necessary, an adjustment will be performed to correct any subluxation. Then we finish up with some cranial-sacral work.
Pediatric adjustments are applied a few different ways depending on the child. Spinal adjustments for infants and young children involve very light fingertip pressure to correct spinal misalignments. This amount of “force” is often not more than a finger touch. This is usually sufficient to restore mobility to spinal joints that have become locked and are causing interference to the normal nervous system function. This can include an adjustment applied along the soft palate (mouth) to improve cranial bone alignment/movement. This often helps with latching while breastfeeding and proper biomechanics of baby’s jaw and cranium. As a result, nursing and suction improves and the ability to open their mouth wider and more comfortably.
What is the difference between chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy?
Cranial-sacral therapy is one of the tools and techniques we use to help or compliment care. It uses light touch to release fascia, a connective tissue that wraps around every muscle (organs too). This allows the body to “unwind” and return to a more balanced state.
Chiropractic works with a child’s body to remove any pressure on the nervous system. For example, if a baby is having difficulty latching there can be many components as to why, but often times cranial-sacral therapy is enough to release tension to allow for a good latch. However, if there is TMJ (temporal-mandibular joint) dysfunction or loss of proper alignment/motion in the cranial area and neck, Chiropractic is an excellent option.
Caring for Families
Why is chiropractic care especially beneficial for families?
This population has limited options for pain and it can often be risky to take medications so we provide natural chiropractic care to help families. Chiropractic is a safe and gentle way for pregnant women and children to resolve health issues without the use of medicine. So many pregnant women are told that their pain and discomfort is “normal”, nothing can be done about it, or they must stay this way until delivery before it’s better. Instead, we empower these women by educating them on their bodies and as a result, they experience less discomfort and are able to enjoy their pregnancies more. This type of care translates and carries over into the postpartum period.
As you know, life with a newborn varies from child to child and things can be wonderful and extremely difficult. We really believe that taking care of mothers during pregnancy often translates into a better, more successful delivery and postpartum recovery. The mother and baby relationship is very symbiotic and we are lucky to be able to work with both often. It is such an honor to work with moms, preconception into their pregnancies, and all the way to delivery. Having a family with three children ourselves really allows us to relate to families in our practice in a meaningful and genuine way. We truly feel blessed to be able to help growing families. It truly does take a village.
All photos courtesy of Tiffany Luong Photography
This content is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider for questions you have regarding a medical condition.