Most parents are familiar with the screams of a child with often excruciating pain in the middle of the night from an ear infection (otitis media). Studies from the American Chiropractic Association have shown that there are approximately 10 million new cases every year. This accounts for greater than 35% of all pediatric visits, making ear infections the most common illness affecting babies and young children. Statistically, nearly half of all children will have a minimum of one middle ear infection before they reach a year old. With two children of my own under five years of age, I was appalled by these statistics. My children have been adjusted since they were a few days old and neither of them has ever had an ear infection.
Some factors that contribute to the development of ear infections include a virus or cold that causes swelling and blockage of the nasal passages, bacterial invasion of the Eustachian (drainage) tube. Additionally, many chiropractors believe that there is a strong link between the birthing process and recurrent ear infections. Research shows that during birth a child’s spine, especially the skull and cervical (neck) vertebrae, can be subject to 30-90 pounds of pressure (even more when vacuum extraction and forceps are used). This force can lead to misalignments of the vertebrae, disrupting the nerve function to the Eustachian tube, which can lead to fluid build-up in the middle ear and possible development of infection. Symptoms can include: excessive tugging at the ears, irritability, ear pain, runny nose, waking in the night and fever.
The most common treatments for these often painful infections are usually a prescription for antibiotics (which only works when the cause of the infection is bacterial and not viral) and tympanostomy (ear tubes). These treatments have clear risks ranging from the development of antibiotic resistance to possible complications from general anesthesia for the tube insertion surgery. Furthermore, many parents administer Motrin/ibuprofen with the good intention of decreasing their child’s fever and/or pain and suffering, which can have side effects of its own and can damage the child’s stomach and liver and set them up for a multitude of gastrointestinal disorders later in life. Frequently, these forms of treatment have also been shown to be inadequate and many children have multiple bouts with otitis media by the age of three.
Many parents are now looking into alternative treatments to break the cycle of pain and infection for their children. Chiropractic adjustments can and do help with both treatment and prevention of the development of middle ear infections. Safe and gentle adjustments to the base of the skull (occiput) and cervical spine mobilize drainage of the Eustachian tube. Additionally, if the tube is able to continue draining, the child’s body can build up its own antibodies and recover from the infection more quickly. And when regular maintenance adjustments are performed, the incidence of repeated infections declines as well.
A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics shows a strong correlation between the chiropractic adjustments and the resolution of ear infections. There were 332 children with reportedly chronic ear infections in the study. Each child, ranging from 27 days to 5 years old, was given a series of chiropractic adjustments. Within the 6 month period following their initial visit, with maintenance treatments every four to six weeks, 80% of the children did not experience another infection.
Although more studies need to be done in this area, chiropractic treatment is a safe, conservative and drugless approach to consider if your child has a history of chronic ear infections. The chiropractors at Total Health Systems of Macomb County are trained to assess the spine and nervous system to detect and reduce the effects of spinal misalignments which can cause neurological stress and dysfunction to the Eustachian tube and subsequent ear infections in children.
Getting your child a head start in good health is up to you. Regular spinal adjustments are extremely important as a child’s spine and nervous system are developing. Call today for an appointment with any of the skilled chiropractic physicians at Total Health Systems of Macomb County if your child has a history of chronic ear infections, other health issues, or simply to have their spine and nervous system examined to make sure that they are structurally and functionally sound.
Rosner, A L., Ph.D., LL.D