Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ask My Chiropractor

Parents have a lot of questions about their kids and athletics.  How structured should the training be? What should I encourage? What should I discourage? How much is too much?

I posed a few questions to Dr. Ellen Jackson of Caring Chiropractic.  Dr. Ellen has been a practicing chiropractor for 11 years.  I'm pleased to say that she is my chiropractor and friend. 

(If you're not friends with a chiropractor, that's something you should work on.
 Every runner should be close with a chiropractic professional.)

1.  Do you see children in your practice?  How old is your youngest patient?
Yes, I see children in my practice. Other than my daughter, my youngest patient is 2 years old. I adjusted my daughter the day she was born. The youngest patient I've seen was three days old.

2. Is chiropractic care safe/effective for children?
Chiropractic is very safe and effective for children. Years ago, when one of my professors was researching the safety of pediatric chiropractic, he called all of the chiropractic malpractice insurance agencies. Not one of them had a case against a chiropractor for an injury due to adjusting a child. There was one complaint for an injury involving a hot pack.

3. Is any chiropractor qualified to treat children or is there special training involved?
As far as I know, all chiropractic colleges include some pediatric education in their curriculum, so all chiropractors are qualified and licensed to see children. I have an advanced degree, called a Diplomate in Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics, through the International Chiropractic Association.

4.  What do you see as the biggest challenge parents face in raising healthy kids? 
I see the 2 biggest challenges facing parents trying to raise healthy children as technology/media and our fear-driven culture. When I was a kid, my mom would send me out to play. Today, a lot of parents are afraid for their children to be outdoors unsupervised. Also, kids are more reluctant to go out to play when they can be watching TV, movies, playing video games, or surfing the internet.

5. To what extent do you think physical activity plays a role in combatting that problem?
Physical activity plays a huge role in raising healthy children. Enough physical activity can minimize the impact of even the worst diet.

6.  Are there any physical issues that parents should check for before they allow their child to begin running on a regular basis?
Parents should have their children's feet, knees, and hips checked for proper function before they begin running. If the child is overweight, the doctor should also make sure that the child's heart and lungs are healthy enough for running.

7. Are there any injuries that young runners might be particularly vulnerable to?
Kids who run are especially at risk of knee and foot injuries. Any runner who runs on the edge of a road is at risk for pelvic unbalancing because roads are sloped for water run-off and that uneven surface means one foot strikes the ground higher than the other, making one leg absorb more force. Most children's sneakers are not designed to support a running stride. Also, making sure the child has good technique and runs on a softer/more natural surface can minimize injury.

8.  What sorts of physical activity do you recommend for pre-adolescents?  How much is too much?
Anything that gets a pre-adolescent moving is great! Walking, swimming, dancing, any team sport, jogging - they are all great! Organized activity, especially training for a competitive activity, more than 5 days a week is too much. If the child complains of pain or soreness, reducing the frequency or intensity of the activity is advisable.

9.  What about adolescents?  How much is too much for them?
Adolescents are not miniature adults and should not train more than 5 days a week. Their bodies need time to rest, recuperate and grow! Adolescent athletes need an off season! 

We've seen a big shift in competitive sports recently- there is open gym/weight lifting any time the sport is not in season as well as a lengthening of seasons and creating more competitive seasons for the same sport. 

If the child complains of pain more than muscle soreness, or muscle soreness that lasts more than three days, it is time to reduce the activity level.

10.  Are there any physical activities that you'd warn parents NOT to do with their kids?
The only physical activity I discourage is weight lifting, unless under the direct supervision of a qualified trainer with experience with adolescents. It is very easy to overdo weight resistance activity and injure a child.

One more thing... What kinds of physical activities do you hope to do with Caroline someday?

 I'm not a terribly gifted athlete, but Caroline and I already enjoy taking walks together. I hope to share riding bicycles, roller-blading, and ice skating with her. I am open to trying something new if she is interested.

Do you have a question for Dr. Ellen?
Do you love your chiropractor like I do?

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