Benefits of Being Barefoot!

As the gray days of winter start to pass and the temperatures warm, I find myself itching to ditch my shoes and head outdoors. I love being barefoot and how my feet (and my legs) feel when I get to spend more time sans-shoes.Dr. Sharonrose Samelak is your source for wellness information! (1).jpg

Walking barefoot is great for adults, but utterly essential for our little ones.

The human foot has 33 joints as well as tons of tiny muscles and nerves that provide information to the brain about where your body is in space- proprioception- and balance- dictated by the vestibular system. When we walk barefoot, our feet are alive with information. Think of walking on a pebbly beach. Our feet interact with the ground and there is a massive amount of data sent to the brain.

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When barefoot we are truly interfacing with our environment.

Let’s take a moment and think about what happens when we place our feet in shoes- particularly stiff and restrictive ones. You are basically placing a blindfold on your feet!

  • Your nervous system is not getting as much information from the ground.
  • The joints in your feet don’t get stimulated. (Joints get nutrition through motion, so they starve when they are restricted)
  • The muscles of the foot don’t get exercised.
  • Your balance and your proprioception suffer.

These same principles apply to the feet of our children. When they learn to walk, stand, and even when they play with their toes, children are building and programming their nervous system. They are patterning the way their muscles will fire for proper gait and spinal stabilization. Kids earn every milestone that they make. All of this happens from the ground up. Some neurologists even prescribe thinly soled shoes or barefoot time for children with developmental delays.

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According to an article in the Washington Post, “Going barefoot helps a child develop body awareness.” I love how succinctly they boil this all down.

Have you taken your shoes off yet?

Do you feel like your feet have been blindfolded your whole life?

Do your feet need to wake up?

Dr. Samelak is passionate about helping people wake up their feet and improve the way that they interact with the ground- improving balance, preventing injury, and starting to correct long standing structural imbalances.

Check out our Events Page to learn about when Dr. Samelak will be teaching her next Love Your Feet workshop with Jodi Boone!

 

Are walkers bad for my Baby? What about other upright toys?

Quite often I have friends and patients who ask me about walkers, exersaucers, and Bumbo seats (along with a huge list of other infant toys). There is a lot of confusing information on the internet regarding these and some of it is very misleading from manufacturers. I hope that here I can clarify some of the information and give you some facts.

The place to begin is normal child development. When a baby is born, they have no curves in their spine and they have no understanding of the physical world. These things are learned and skills are earned through experience and exploration. Motor and mental development are often broken down into “milestones” which are a series of behaviors and skills that we expect children to have at different ages.

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Spinal development is completely formed through activities. Tummy time causes the little one to lift their head up, forming the cervical (neck) curve. The curve in the lumbar spine (low back) is formed when the child begins to rock and crawl. The muscles and bones of the spine develop in response to these activities and the basis of the adult spine is formed.

The same activities that help to form the curves in the spine stimulate the brain and help your child develop a sense of where they are in space (proprioception). Crawling, scooting, pulling up, walking, and tummy time help in vestibular (balance) and sensory development. Movement stimulates a circuit called the Reticular Activating System which links motion to the cerebellum and helps the brain to learn posture and balance (and a whole lot more!).

Walkers:

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Walkers are one of the most dangerous babysitters. A 2006 study looked at ER data from 1991-2001 and found 197,200 ER visits related to walkers. This study does not take into account those who saw a pediatrician, other health care practitioner, or stayed home for self-care. Walkers allow little ones to move quickly and often they can tip when they encounter the edge of a rug, door sill, or staircase.

Actual physical injuries aside, it is important to take into account the mental and motor developmental delays associated with walkers. As we mentioned above, many skills are dependent upon motion and experiencing the environment. It is easy to see how a parent may think that a walker is a great way for their little one to experience the world. However, this is a false environment. In a walker, children cannot see their feet which changes how the brain develops proprioception, children do not have to learn balance, and their future gait (walking) patterns may be affected.

In 1999, a study was performed with 109 infants where some were placed in a walker and others were allowed to play on the ground. By a landslide, the walker infants sat, crawled, and walked later than the other group. It is also important to note that the walker group also scored lower on the Bayley scales of mental and motor development.

In 2004, Canada banned baby walkers.

Upright Bouncers:

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Upright bouncers like the Jolly Jumper are very hard on the developing spine of the infant. The stress of being held prematurely in an upright position, when the bones and muscles have not developed the proper strength can damage the infant spine. Spondylolisthesis can occur in the lumbar spines of infants in these types of devices from the repetitive stresses delivered through an undeveloped spine. Spondylolisthesis occurs when the front part of the vertebra (which stacks) is separated from the posterior elements which surround the spinal cord and most often occurs at the lowest bone in the lumbar spine.

 

Exersaucers and Bumbo chairs:

These upright devices promote abnormal postures and can lead to the altered formation of the curves of the spine. For example, when an infant is placed in a Bumbo chair, their pelvis often tips backward, thrusting the ribs forward, and promoting anterior head carriage. This is a reversal of the curves we see in a normal spine- indicating that increased spinal stress is present when children sit in these positions.

While the Exersaucer is much safer (less likely to tip) than a Walker, it still promotes weight-bearing through the spine in an abnormal and premature way and should be used with caution.

What is the take home? Children need to experience their environment in order to learn. It is essential to have a lot of exploration time for our infants and little ones. The development of their brains and bodies depend upon it. As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I am committed to sharing knowledge with parents so that they can  make informed decisions regarding their children.

References:

http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/the-dangers-of-baby-walkers/?_r=0

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10533994

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16510623

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-15/health/ct-met-bumbo-posture-20120315_1_physical-therapists-developmental-benefits-babies

http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/maximizing-infant-development.html

Chiropractic Care for Kids

Wait… You adjust kids?

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This is one of the questions I get most often in practice. People are more and more accepting of chiropractic for adults and conditions like headaches and low back pain. In fact, statistically, chiropractic is a top treatment for these things. However, it seems that people are taken aback at the idea of children getting adjusted.

Let me tell you a little bit about pediatric chiropractic.

Why would a child or infant need an adjustment?

Birth is a traumatic process. When you think about it, the last days and weeks of pregnancy the baby does not grow very much, most of what is occurring at this point is development of the lungs and other organs. This means that the baby is tucked into a little ball inside of mom. Then, when labor happens, they are pushed out through a small hole and someone grabs their head and pulls them out. If you have questions, try watching a video of a C-Section.  Often times the birth process causes the upper neck or the tailbone to be subluxated, causing nerve interference. Some more extreme cases result in shoulder dystocia or torticollis.

Subluxations from birth can cause issues with many things such as the latch in breast feeding. The baby’s face may appear asymmetrical or their head always tipped to one side. Others are very subtle and may result in colic, difficulty sleeping, etc. Pediatricians are not trained to evaluate the spine for the subluxation, so it is recommended that parents take their children to a chiropractor to be checked.

As children learn to crawl and walk, they fall upwards of 25 times per day. It is important for them to be checked regularly at this time to ensure that they do not develop subluxations from these falls. The trips and tumbles of childhood often result in muscle tension and imbalance in the spine. Many parents bring their children to be checked on a regular basis during the toddler years. Then child and adolescent sports throw yet another variable into the mix!

How does a Chiropractor check a child?

When I evaluate an infant or child for subluxation, I take a history of the child from pregnancy through present to learn as much as I can about their live- down to food preferences and developmental milestones. In my exam, I check all of the little one’s reflexes and evaluate ranges of motion and balance in the body. The amount of pressure that is used both in evaluation and adjustment is less than you would be comfortable with on your own eyelid. Many babies sleep through the whole process!

What is a pediatric adjustment like?

Pediatric and infant adjustments are very gentle and, like the evaluation, many infants sleep through them. Using gentle pressures and muscle stretches, I restore normal motion to the bones and restore balance to the muscles. Sometimes, I will ask the parents to assist by laying their child on their stomach or holding them while they are adjusted.

Toddler adjustments are always fun to watch. Many children enjoy laying on the table to be adjusted and relax for the whole thing, while others play on the floor and get checked on the move. I always feel that it is important to make sure that kids are comfortable and engaged in their adjustment, so I meet them on their level.

Adjusting little ones is vastly different from adjusting adults. The pace is much slower and it often looks like playing to onlookers.

How do I know if my child needs to be checked by a Doctor of Chiropractic?

Many parents bring their children in to be checked when they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Spinal or facial asymmetry
  • Difficult latch in breast feeding
  • Colic
  • Reflux
  • Delayed or absent milestones
  • Ear pulling
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Sleep issues
  • Bedwetting
  • Trips and falls

It is important to understand that chiropractors do not treat colic, reflux, ear infections, or other medical conditions. However, interference in the nervous system from subluxations can present in these ways. By restoring motion in the spine and removing the interference, the body has the opportunity to heal on its own.

Looking for more information? Check out ICPA4kids.org or contact our office at SeedOfLifeChiro.com