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A Comprehensive Approach to Alleviating Fight or Flight Stress in Children

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February 22, 2024

As parents and dedicated pediatric chiropractors at Pinnacle Chiropractic, we have witnessed the struggles that countless children face – battles against unresolved anxiety, poor sleep, low immunity, and inflammation, despite the tireless efforts of you parents striving to support your child’s health. This struggle leaks into their behavior, marked by frequent meltdowns and an inability to self-calm or regulate. These persistent challenges may be indicative of a constant activated stress response causing struggles for their delicate nervous systems.

The alarming truth is that over 77% of today's youth suffer from chronic health conditions, with neurological and mental health disorders standing out as the most prevalent. The latest clinical research points to dysfunctional nervous system patterns that serve as the main drivers when it comes to these conditions.

Specifically, when your child becomes stuck in "fight or flight" mode, the cascade of stress hormones disrupts vital processes like digestion, immunity, and development. The restorative parasympathetic "rest and digest" activation becomes suppressed, spiraling into a relentless cycle known as the "Perfect Storm."

If your child is stuck in the "Perfect Storm" of symptoms, leaving you feeling helpless in your pursuit of solutions - rest assured this is a scenario that resonates with so many parents, and it's crucial for you to recognize that you are not alone. Understanding that these challenges are linked to the nervous system is pivotal in navigating the journey toward better health for your child.

How Kids Get Stuck in a Fight or Flight Stress Response:

Your child’s nervous system, like a switch, goes between active and relaxed modes. When there's a short-term danger, it goes into "fight or flight" mode. But problems happen when the stress reaction stays for too long.

The Vagus Nerve's Function

At the heart of nervous system regulation is the vagus nerve, controlling the activation of the body's "rest, digest, and regulate" parasympathetic nervous system. This critical nerve regulates digestion, breathing, heart rate, and inflammation and is more tied to restoration. We also know that the vagus nerve is essential to social and emotional regulation, speech, and so much more. 

Impaired vagal tone traps your child in fight or flight, leading to a condition called dysautonomia. Dysautonomia (or out-of-balance autonomic nervous system) can then lead to a host of other chronic health challenges in kids.

What Getting Stuck in Fight or Flight Looks Like in Kids

Here are signs that your child may be stuck in fight or flight mode: 

  • Heightened baseline anxiety, worry, and panic responses
  • Frequent emotional meltdowns and outbursts
  • Disrupted sleep and nightmares
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Increased food sensitivities and allergies
  • New onset headaches or body aches
  • Overreaction to minor frustrations
  • Poor focus and concentration troubles
  • Frequent illnesses and decreased immunity
  • Persistent fatigue or hyperactivity

When your child’s nervous system gets overloaded and stuck, churning out stress chemicals, it turns into a range of symptoms that can disrupt health and development. Leading to: 

  • Anxiety and Mood Changes
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges
  • Physical Hurdles (including): Headaches, body tension, abdominal pain, low energy, and immune weakness
  • Growth and Development Delays

How to Get Our Kids Out of Fight or Flight Long Term

Parents, you hold immense power in nurturing your child's well-being at home. It’s always a great idea to engage daily in breathing exercises, helping with the relaxation response. You can try gentle movements like yoga to process cortisol. Ensure optimal nutrition to replenish drained reserves, and consider natural supplements for gentle inflammation modulation. Prioritize restorative sleep for holistic health.

However, time and again, we meet parents who have tried everything under the sun to help their child learn to calm, regulate, and balance their emotions and nervous system, but to no avail. 

In cases where the nervous system seems stuck in fight or flight, the crucial first step is Neurologically-Focused Chiropractic Care

These adjustments target vagus nerve stimulation and release pent-up stress within the sympathetic nervous system, proving way more impactful than traditional methods.

As adjustments start to help restore better sleep patterns and enhance neurological health for your child, you can then introduce breathing exercises, calming activities, and nutritional programs. 

So, if your child is expressing symptoms tied to a stuck-on, fight-or-flight nervous system, and you’ve exhausted every avenue without success, consider addressing nervous system dysregulation and subluxation as the missing link. 

Reach out to us at Pinnacle Chiropractic today. If you are not local to us, check out our PX Docs directory to find a local office near you. We want to help empower you to guide your child toward a healthier, more balanced life and help your child reach their pinnacle potential!

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After Dr. JJ worked on him just one time, he has been able to enjoy laying on his back more.
Dr JJ and the team did an incredible job with my baby boy. After he worked on him just one time, he has been able to enjoy laying on his back more, whereas before he would just HATE being on his back. My baby boy has reached a new level of ease! With less pressure to the nervous system. Even answering so many questions as a first time dad and giving advice for healthy development! Can’t wait to see how more he develops under care. Thank you to the Pinnacle team you are amazing!
Finally, we decided to try a chiropractor. After a couple treatments she is a completely different baby!
Highly recommend!! Our 8 week old was dealing with reflux and digestive issues and she had episodes of screaming and crying every evening and we would battle for hours to try and get her down for the night. Everyone including her pediatrician just said she will grow out of it, but finally we decided to try a chiropractor. After a couple treatments she is a completely different baby! She is so happy and no more screaming and crying episodes 🙌🏻 Also the staff is absolutely incredible!! They are amazing at explaining everything to you and happy to answer any questions you might have.
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