They will grow out of it, right?
Updated: Apr 30, 2019
How many times have you heard “they will grow out of it”? Have you ever wondered if that was true?
While the human body is quite amazing at its capacity to adapt and shift to changes, imagine what it would happen if our physical development was happening on a structure that was misaligned, maybe not moving freely or weakened in some way? We can ask the question; Would the body be able to adapt? The simple answer is yes; likely it would BUT would it make adaptations that perhaps, over time would lead to more significant changes? Ones that might actually present like an injury or wear and tear.
Over years of practice, Jennifer Spak DOMP has had many unique opportunities to meet patients that were aware of a childhood issue like a torticollis (neck restriction). It was noted, but never treated. Fast forward 35 years and sitting in front of her is a patient complaining about chronic neck pain, migraines and difficulty with neck movement. While they sit chatting, Jennifer notices the patient cannot hold her head up straight and there is a faint hint of a side-bend to the left. When she continue to assess, she find a mild scoliosis and pelvic torsion. As I begin to share my findings and to explain how all areas of the body are connected, she jumps in to tell me how she had a torticollis as a kid and that it was visible in her old photos. Nothing was ever done for it, she was told she would grow out of it.
Could this patient's complaints today be a result of years of adaptation done by the body in attempt to correct (or at least function to the best of its ability) with a head that is slightly tilted? We have a mechanism called The Righting Reflex where the is a reflex that corrects the orientation of the body when it is taken out of its normal upright position. It is initiated by the vestibular system (balance and spatial orientation), which detects that the body is not erect and causes the head to move back into position as the rest of the body follows. If there is a restriction in the ability of the head to correct its position, then the rest of the body will not make it back to its correct position. We have all heard endlessly how if we are not in an ideal posture, our muscles and ligaments are working much harder than normal and increased injuries often occur as a result. Having an untreated torticollis has forced her body into a less ideal posture, which now, after years of compensations has resulted in painful symptoms.
Now imagine she was treated as an infant. In the case of torticollis, restrictions are often found throughout the body that cause pulls in the tissue that result in altered neck postures. Infants have wonderful new tissues that are not full of old holding patterns. They respond incredibly fast to treatment because you aren’t looking at years and layers of compensations. By correcting problems when they are small, we can help set children up for a solid foundation to grow from. Early treatment does not mean they will be free of injuries in the future, life happens and bumps and falls will happen. But we can reduce the compensation the body will go through if we return them to their most optimal movement and alignment.
I give the example of torticollis because it is quite common today, but this applies to numerous findings in children. Anything from feeding and digestive issue, soft tissue tension, poor recruitment of on area of the body (always reaching for things with one hand) to pre/crawling coordination and tummy time difficulties just to name a few.
So will they grow out of it? Maybe, but personally, with my child, I want to provide her with the best body she can grow within, not out of.
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Disclaimer - Everything shared is for informative purposes only. It is not intended for assessment, diagnosis or treatment purposes. If you feel there needs to be further investigation, please seek out a qualified health care professional for a proper assessment.