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I am often asked by parents, “Dr. Tim, how can movement of the spine help strengthen my child’s brain [nervous system] now and in the future?” Well, half your child’s nerve impulses are sent from the brain to tell the body what to do (jump, sit, run, etc.), and then back to the brain, through the spinal cord. The sole purpose of these nerves is to stimulate the brain via movement. Movement charges your brain’s “battery” while also allowing you a greater opportunity to think more clearly, behave correctly, have more energy, and most important function better.
Each day millions of messages are sent to your brain from the nerves in your spine by the movements that you make. Just as sun and water are needed to make flowers grow, movement is an essential nutrient for brain function and development. Current research has proven what I believe chiropractic has known all along: that people who do not properly stimulate their brain with joint movement have deficits in learning and memory and in emotional, behavioral, and overall health.
This is especially important for children because spinal stimulation plays an integral role in the development of the child’s brain and nervous system. The effects of decreased stimulation of the brain in childhood have been linked to central motor impairment, developmental impairments, learning disabilities, problems with concentration (such as ADD and ADHD), behavioral problems, sleeping difficulties, colic, and increased illnesses such as ear, nose, and throat infections. Early brain development is crucial because the nerve pathways formed during the early years, like properly paved “roads,” carry nerve signals that allow us to process information throughout our lives.
One of my best recommendations to all of my patients and their children is to purchase an exercise ball to sit on while watching TV, reading, writing, or any activity that involves prolonged sitting. What’s the reason for this you may ask? While you are seated on the exercise ball vs. a chair or couch you are constantly firing the nerves in your spine that might be silent when seated, like cheerleaders with laryngitis. The legs on your chair give you stability, which robs your body of much needed information. It’s no wonder that children can’t sit still in class, and parents are exhausted at the end of the workday. Our body needs to be excited! One of the first things patients notice in our office is that each seat has an exercise disc on it. The sole purpose is to enhance our patients’ nervous systems. I recommend that to all of our patients.
In the book The 14 Foundational Premises for the Scientific and Philosophical Validation of the Chiropractic Wellness Paradigm, the author, Dr. Chestnut, explains that at first researchers thought that it was only exercise that improved the brain and overall health due to better blood flow and oxygen supply, etc. However, further research has shown that exercise is not what is responsible for these amazing health benefits; the real benefits come from the stimulation of these “nerve pathways” by moving joints. In other words, our body movement enriches our mind.