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  • Writer's pictureDr Michael Tebbe


Updated: Nov 17, 2018

When I tell people I’m a baby Chiropractor they give me a weird look as if I was a talking dog.  I know it sounds weird before studying over 500 hours in the field of children and Chiropractic I would have agreed.  My goal in this article is to cover the reasons why a baby should have a baby Chiropractic check up after birth and the benefits of doing so.  Hopefully at the end this will help you when making decisions regarding health care for your baby.  

We live life through our nervous system

Our Brain and nervous systems are constantly taking in information through our senses and coordinating our responses to the world.  Nothing happens in our body without being controlled by the nervous system.  Our movements, digestion, immune system, hormones are all being directed through the brain.  While this is true for all of us it is especially important for a newborn.  One could argue that the transition from life inside the womb to outside of it is the biggest transition we will ever experience.  Quite staggering when you really think about it.  We have to start breathing, eating and basically doing everything on our own.  Yes Mom and Dad are there helping us along the way but it is our brains directing all of the activity and helping us to adjust to life outside the womb.  Obviously we want the brain and nervous system to be in top working order to help make that transition as smooth as possible. 

Proprioception the “6th sense”

I just said that the brain is constantly taking in information from our senses.  How many senses do we have….?  5 right?  Actually there is 7 and even some neurophysiologists would say up to 21.  

The sense I want to focus on is Proprioception.  What is proprioception exactly?  It is the unconscious awareness of where our body is in space.  Try this experiment so you understand.  Close your eyes and then touch your finger to your nose.  How did you know where your finger was and how to make your finger reach your nose.  Obviously you couldn’t see, touch, taste, smell or hear it but you still managed to touch your nose.  That is what proprioception is.  Another way to think about is proprioception allows us to smoothly bring a forkful of food to our mouth and chew the food without biting our tongue….most of the time.  

The really important thing about proprioception is it is necessary for optimal brain function.  You all have experienced the benefits of  increasing your proprioception and how it helps your mood and overall well-being.  For example you had a stressful day at work which left you feeling tired and irritable.  Then you motivated and went to the gym or took a yoga class.  How did you feel afterwards?  More relaxed, loose, energized, happy?  Yes you experienced some kind of positive change.  When we don’t have enough proprioception our mood is down, we feel stressed and our body feels stiff.

Where does proprioception come from?  It comes from special nerve cells in our joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and other areas.  How does that connect to a baby.  Well a baby is born they need the bones of their head and spine to be moving properly to supply the proprioception to the brain to help keep the brain happy.  

Fight/Flight vs Rest/Digest scared baby / happy baby

I mentioned proprioception helps keep the brain happy.  What do I mean by that?  Our nervous system has 3 parts: Sensory, Motor and Autonomic.  Sensory is the senses including proprioception, Motor is movement (walking, sports, texting) and the Autonomic is all the stuff going on in our body we don’t think about.  Autonomic is: digestion the breakfast you ate, immune system responding to your co worker coughing their lungs out, liver detoxing the body from those yummy french fries.  

The Autonomic system is divided into two parts Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.  The sympathetic is our flight/fight system or gas pedal.  The parasympathetic is our rest/digest system or brake pedal.  The two systems work like a see saw.  When one increases the other automatically decreases.  Ideally they are balanced and that is when our mind/body works best.  If the two systems are out of balance then health problems arise.  

When a newborn's head bones or spine doesn’t move properly it is causes an increase in the Sympathetic system or Gas Pedal.  How it affects a baby is different for each baby. Here are some of the common symptoms of too much Gas Pedal: colic, constipation, spitting up, failure to thrive, persistent crying, diarrhea, sleeping difficulties, difficulties with breastfeeding to name a few.

Bad Movement

When things don’t move properly in our body with have an increase of nociception.  The root of nociception is nocere from Latin meaning “to harm or hurt”.  It is a signal to our brain telling that something is wrong in the body.  The brain is aware of this and starts to turn on alarms or the Sympathetic system.  

Dr. Seaman in a paper he wrote for the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics documented that increased nociception into the brain causes hyperventilation and increased release of stress hormones.  He states that this can happen without us being aware of it.  That means nociception and pain are not the same thing.  The increase in stress hormones over time decreases our muscle and bone mass, reduces our quality of sleep, weakens our immune system, and further activates the Sympathetic nerve system causing a bad cycle.  

Birth Trauma

How does nociception happen?  What causes these amazing little newborns to have a problem with their spine?  


One of the areas ways it can start is in the womb.  Yes I know Mom’s you probably worried about many different things while pregnant and here is one more to add to the list.  One of the changes a woman’s body goes through during pregnancy is their body releases a hormone called relaxin.   This softens all the ligaments especially in the pelvis.  This means the pelvis moves a lot more and can become misaligned or lose normal motion.  This is important because there is a sacro-uterine ligament that helps support the uterus.  With abnormal motion this can put increased tension on the ligament and the uterus.  Meaning there is less space for baby to move around in the uterus and they become stuck in strange positions.


The next place is birth itself.  There is a lot of research out talking about how the birth process can affect babies.  For example

The atlas fixation syndrome in the baby and infant. Gutmann G. Manuelle Medizin 1987 25:5-10, Trans. Peters RE.

This was an examination of 1,250 infants five days after birth. Over 25% of the infants were suffering from vomiting, irritability and sleeplessness. Examination showed that 75% of these infants had cervical (neck) strain. Treatment frequently resulted in an immediate relief of the symptoms.

This is another study discussing birth process and birth trauma

Kinematic imbalances due to suboccipital strain in newborns. Biedermann H. J. Manual Medicine 1992, 6:151-156.

More than 600 babies (to date) have been treated for suboccipital strain. One hundred thirty-five infants who were available for follow-up were reviewed in this case series report. The suboccipital strain’s main symptoms include torticollis, fever of unknown origin, loss of appetite and other symptoms of Central Nervous System disorders such as swelling of one side of the face, asymmetric development of the skull and hips, crying when the mother tried to change the child’s position, and extreme sensitivity of the neck to palpation/touch.

Most patients in the series required one to three adjustments before returning to normal. “Removal of suboccipital strain is the fastest and most effective way to treat the session is sufficient in most cases. Manipulation of the occipito-cervical region leads to the disappearance of problems....

This is an excerpt from a Neurosurgeon’s book

Spinal Injury 2nd Ed., David Yashon, MD., FACS, FRCS(C),

Professor of Neurosurgery, Ohio State University, 18, 347-352, AppletonCentury-Crofts.

In this textbook, Dr. Yashon, in Chapter 18, "Birth Injury," comments that it is possible that spinal cord injury at birth is more common than has been thought. Dr. Yashon specifically delineates excessive longitudinal traction, especially when combined with flexion and torsion of the spinal axis as a cause of spinal injury at birth.

He also reports that spinal injury should be considered in the presence of neonatal distress, apnea, and flaccidity.

Apnea is difficulty breathing and flaccidity is a baby with poor muscles tone meaning you lift up their arm and it is like a wet noodle.  

As Dr. Yashon states this more common than is realized.  Unfortunately these problems can even go unnoticed by a pediatrician because they are not trained to look for the signs indicating stress on the nerve system.  Correcting these problems can have profound impact on your baby’s health.


I hope that this article has given you some insight into why I recommend all babies be checked at birth by a baby Chiropractor and the benefits to doing so.  In future articles we will talk about some of the specific challenges that babies can face how Chiropractic can help them.  The bottom line of this whole article is a Healthy Spine makes a Happy Brain.  

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