Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Early Detection of Your Child's Postural Imbalances

© 2003 by Dr. Tim Maggs

Back to school usually involves a check-list; books, supplies, clothes, new sneaks, a school physical, etc. Unfortunately, what doesn't make the list is a structural exam for your growing child.

Structural exams, consisting of detailed back, neck, shoulder, hips, legs, ankles and feet exam, are not part of the standard back to school physical provided to our kids. The standard exams check eyes, ears, nose and throat, with possibly a cursory scoliosis screening. More structural emphasis should be considered on the standard exam.

Musculo-skeletal imbalances and fixations are the cause of the majority of injuries that occur in grade school and high school students. Currently, there is no structural prevention, evaluation or improvement program made available to the masses even though neck, back, shoulder, hip, knee and foot problems are near epidemic proportion. With all of the specialization available today, what's the deal?

In the eyes of the public, structure falls into the hands of orthopedists, physical therapists or chiropractors. Unfortunately, most of these professionals have geared their practices towards treating symptoms and not evaluating on a structural or architectural basis. Unless someone is hurting, most doctors wouldn't know what to do. However, with the proper testing, a tremendous amount of information can be detected, and a pro-active program can be designed, consisting of corrective treatment, exercise, lifestyle changes, etc. It is this author's opinion that very few professionals are fully qualified to structurally examine a young student, especially in the absence of symptoms. It's just not considered in today's complicated health care industry.

The Structural Fingerprint® Exam

The physical demand on kids today is great. Many participate in school sports, and a percentage of these kids play multiple sports. The backpack syndrome is also to blame for many emergency room and doctor visits, as the weight of the backpack far exceeds the ratio of student to backpack weight ratio that is recommended.

In spite of these demands, a comprehensive structural exam is still not routinely performed on our growing children. Consider that all people have unique structural characteristics, and just as the orthodontist recognizes the value in proper alignment and positioning of the teeth, so, too will the human structure last longer and perform better if there is balance and mobility in all of the joints and muscles. I pose the question-"Does everyone just assume that all kids have a balanced muscle system, skeletal system and nervous system? So many kids today need braces to correct the alignment of their teeth, yet teeth are not weight bearing nor do they have movable joints. To assume that these three delicate and critically important systems of the body seamlessly interact with no imbalances or abnormal stresses borders on insanity."

What modern healthcare has failed to provide is a comprehensive structural exam before injuries occur. It should be mandatory for all back-to-school exams to also address the many structural issues that can produce weaknesses and imbalances. These tests consist of range of motion of all joints, leg length measurements, a complete foot exam, muscle tests and most importantly, standing structural x-rays. The value of the x-rays cannot be emphasized enough, because with proper interpretation of biomechanical information found on the x-rays, corrective recommendations, including exercise, proper athletic shoes, treatment, etc., can be made. The recommendations should play a dramatic role in preventing many future injuries, thus reducing the number of future x-rays a student will go through over the course of their lifetime.

Valuable Information

The information found on this exam includes the determination of possible pronation (flat-footedness) of a child, or the exact opposite, supination (excessively high arches). Both can contribute to long-term structural problems and would benefit from custom orthotic support. This not only helps the feet, but helps to balance the entire human frame while also providing shock absorption benefits. If ignored, the center of gravity of all joints above the ankles may be imbalanced, leading to both acute injuries as well as long-term wear and tear type injuries.

Range of motion tests will show if there is any restriction in either muscles or joints. If found, normal mobility of the joint should become the goal, as restrictions of muscles and joints predispose these structures to future injuries. The structural x-rays show a wealth of information. Oftentimes, the doctor will tell you the x-rays are "negative", in spite of pain, stiffness and swelling. Keep in mind most doctors are looking for pathology and disease on an x-ray. Just as structural exams are not done, biomechanical information on an x-ray is not seen by most doctors. This can be proven by the fact that many doctors take x-rays with the patient lying down, removing gravity from the equation. This is because they are looking for disease, and if disease is not present, then they say the x-rays are negative. The truth is that x-rays are negative for pathology 99% of the time, but biomechanically, will never be negative. There will always be useful information.

Biomechanics looks at the human structure as an architectural structure, and the x-rays show in detail the many unique variables each of us have. This information plays a major role in recommendations, as specific exercises, corrective treatments, habits, weight control, etc. will help someone improve their imbalances rather than just waiting for an injury, and then treating the symptoms.

Early Detection

Colonel Deborah Campbell of the New York State Police has been a long time vocal advocate for fitness and conditioning. This year she has already completed the Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont and The Boilermaker 15k in Utica.

Her two children, Kelsey, 11 and Chris, 8, are following in her athletic footsteps. Colonel Campbell has long understood the importance of posture and structural balance as she has had her share of low back and neck problems in her lifetime. The very thought that she would ignore her kids and wait until an injury occurs just didn't make sense to her. That's why both Kelsey and Chris recently went through a Structural Fingerprint® Exam. These evaluations provided early detection in structural imbalances allowing her kids to work pro-actively in an effort to prevent injuries and have them enjoy exercise and sports more.

"It only makes sense to have your kids examined early, with or without symptoms, rather than just waiting for a breakdown", says Colonel Campbell. "The current approach makes no sense to a parent who wants her children to enjoy sports, fitness and life as much as possible".

Pay Now or Pay Later

Our entire healthcare industry, as well as insurance guidelines, work to provide care after injury occurs. With a little foresight and effort, all kids should be examined immediately with corrective measures provided. The cost of musculo-skeletal breakdown over the life of a person, in both industry and sports, is costing billions of dollars per year, not to mention needless suffering.

Parents should take note; early detection and active participation on the part of the patient will drastically reduce these costs. And, along the way, provide a more enjoyable and active life. Isn't that what it's all about?

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