by Caroline von Fluegge-Chen
This is an excellent article written by Dr. Sabrina Chen-See, a personal friend and family chiropractor practicing in Vancouver, BC.
Learning starts even before Day 1. Research has shown that babies in the womb can already hear and recognize their mother’s voice. They are also learning to swallow, pump blood, move around and maybe even how to suck a thumb. Out in the world, babies are inundated with massive amounts of sensory input, learn to make sense of them and discover motor skills as well.
When we think of sensory input, what commonly comes to mind is what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, touch with the skin, smell with the nose, and taste with the mouth. We also sense joint position, body movement, temperature, pain, hunger, thirst, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, bladder fullness, urge to defecate, stress, tension, relation, moods, other people’s feelings, weather conditions, and much, much more. These sensations travel through nerves to different parts of the brain in order to connect with memories, logic and reasoning. Only then does one make sense of what is felt or noticed, so an appropriate response can be determined. Messages pass through other nerves to make multiple connections in the brain and spinal cord on the way to the glands or body parts that then take action.
Ideally, the majority of messages travelling along the nerves are neutral ones, conveying information of joint position, movement, coordination and balance. We call this “proprioception”. Examples of proprioceptive messages are “right biceps contracting”, “right triceps relaxing”, “left elbow is bent 30 degrees”, “right foot is contacting the ground”, “head is translated 1.5 cm forward”, “whole body is decelerating”, etc. Other neutral messages can come from organs, such as, “blood pressure is 120/80”, “thyroid hormone levels in normal range”, “oxygen levels are stable”, etc. With neutral messages as the background, nerves don’t need to work hard. The brain is then free to make new connections when learning about the world, remembering consequences from the past, creating new ideas, and making rational decisions. Children with this state of mind are relaxed, curious, open-minded, quick to learn new skills and concepts, imaginative, happy, patient, rational, attached to others, and generally a joy to be around.
Nerves can also get easily upset, since their purpose it to relay abnormal sensations as well, in order to respond to the abnormality. If there is an infection, nerves must be alerted to turn on the immune response. If there is pain, nerves must coordinate a response to remove the person from danger, isolate the pain, reduce pain on the affected area, compensate for the pain if possible, and tolerate the pain if need be. Sounds like a lot of work? Yes. And it is.
The source of pain could be a physical injury, such as whiplash, falling on the buttocks, sprained ankle, bumping against a wall, bicycle accident or birth trauma. It can also be more subtle – chronic slouching, carrying a heavy back-pack, sedentary lifestyle, or overuse from sports. Pain can also be in the organs, related to poor diet, pollution, pesticides, chemicals in skincare products, medications, plastics and radiation (from wi-fi, computer screens, microwave, cellular devices, cosmic, etc.). These kinds of pain are often subconscious and therefore go unnoticed for long periods of time. A third source of pain felt through the nerves is from mental or emotional stress. This can include feeling pressured, overwhelmed, criticized, unloved, bullied, abandoned, violated, unjustly treated, unimportant, used, unappreciated, incapable, undeserving, despised, etc.
With all these types of injury or stress, how much it impacts a person is very subjective and is related to how much the person is already suffering, how vulnerable they feel, how severe the insult, and how it is perceived in the brain. A brain that is already having a difficult time managing day-to-day issues will have a harder time dealing with any more added stress.
Similarly, nerves that are already irritated from spinal misalignments (subluxations) can become hypersensitive and then exaggerate painful messages to the brain. Spinal joints that are fixated also reduce the amount of valuable neutral proprioceptive messages, also allowing negative pain messages to appear greater than they are. There is a reason why some people need to pace to think better, or fidget to concentrate better. Subluxations actually form in response to the other stressors to purposely short-circuit and lessen nerve activity to minimize the pain messages. However, this action also prevents healing of the nerve and affected areas. The purpose of chiropractic is to release the subluxations so that nerves can heal, send proper messages again and help the brain and body regain proper functioning. Structural damage, including subluxations, don’t always cause noticeable pain, especially in children.
Chiropractic care does a better job than any other modality to reduce painful nerve irritations and increase spine mobility for ideal brain functioning. This is the case whether a child complains of spinal discomfort, or not. Nerve irritation or distress in kids is more likely to show up in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. These include emotional changes, or outbursts, personality changes, behavioural problems, learning difficulties, sensory processing issues and immune dysfunction. These are signs of a compromised nervous system.
All these areas are directly related to nerve function and dysfunction. Nerves at ease allow a child to feel at ease, therefore emotions are more comfortable and the child’s innate personality shows through. Nerves at ease also means the child does not need to participate in compensatory behaviours or act up to call for help. When the nerves are at ease, it is easier to learn patterns, such as for reading, music, athletics, social cues, and routines.
If the nerves are compromised or in distress, then adding more stimulation (piano lessons, extra tutoring, competitive sports, video games) may stress them further, resulting in more frustration. In today’s competitive world, it may feel counter productive to take a step back from the enrichment programs to get ahead, but sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to address the underlying problem. Then, with a properly functioning nervous system, the child can thrive and learn with ease.
As a community service, Balance Atlanta is offering free Baseline Health Assessments for kids and teens to determine if a compromised nervous system is causing problems for your child. Visit www.balanceatlanta.com or call 404.261.4848 for more information.