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Please don't do this to your child...

PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2007 11:27 pm
by Michael Jen
I write this in hopes that the parents who read this will learn from the mistakes of others.

My nanny's youngest son is about 3.5 years old. He was born with a congental defect in which his right foot is always pointed and when he stands on that leg, he is always on the ball of his foot. This defective leg can function, but is much weaker than the other leg. He actually has many other things going on with his body, that is the most obvious thing that even the untrained eye can see.

When he was 1 years old, doctors sent him to physical therapists and the physical therapists put braces on this legs. The PT's wanted to use the braces to force his foot to flex back. He boy wore the braces for about 2 years and then his mother started to take the braces off because she saw that it had not helped one single bit.

When I met her and the boy, he was not wearing the braces and was able to run around and move like any other child. Yes, he leg looked odd, however, he had no pain and could do everything that any other child could do.

Because of pressure from the PT's, she later decided to put the braces back on her son believing that it might work to correct his problem. He suddenly went from a boy that could do everything that any other child could do, to a boy who could barely run and move around. I advised her that she should not have him wear the braces and told her that it would not fix the problem. She continued to have him wear it until she began to see that it began to make him worse. He was slightly pigeon toed before, however, after wearing the braces, he started to become even more pigeon toed.

I continued to advise her to take the braces off and she eventually did. I told her that the best "therapy" for her son was to simply allow him to run, walk, and play- allow his body to move as naturally as possible. I told her that you cannot increase the function of the body by decreasing its function. In addition, I said that her child's ability to function and do the things at all other kids can do was far more important than the cosmetic appearance of what was going on with his leg.

Many months past and just from playing like a normal child, the boy's body began to correct itself from the problem that the braces had caused. His congental defect was not corrected, however, the increased problems from the braces cleared out.

For some odd reason, my nanny decided to go back to the physical therapists thinking that they could fix his problem. I advised her against doing this and explained exactly why the PT's methods wouldn't work and would make his worse (which I will explain to everyone later). Going against my advice, she went back to the PT's.

Now the PT's put a cast on this leg to force his foot to flex back. With the cast on his leg, the boy once again could barely move around. I told the mother that putting a cast on his leg was even worse than the braces because it could not be removed. Since the braces did not work since he was 1 year old, I ask her why she thought a cast would work. She had no answer besides that the PT's said it might work.

The boy wore the cast for 6 weeks. When the cast came off, the boy would barely walk. He hobbled on his one good leg. The way his hips and upper body moved when he walked changed in a terrible way. Wearing the cast for 6 weeks completely altered his entire body for the worse and the foot is just as pointed as before. The boy now moves like a gimped cripple and PT's want him to do certain exercises for his foot and leg.

I asked my nanny what it would take for her to stop going to the PT's. Was she waiting for her son to only be able to crawl on his hands and knees? She once again had no answer and only said that she thought it would work.

I wanted to talk about why the methods that the physical therapists used did not work and I hope that no other parent will do to their child what my nanny did to her son. I told all this info to my nanny, but she didn't listen and now her son has paid the price.

1. The son's congental defect is a misalignment of his posture. The only thing that most people, including the MD's and PT's, saw was his leg. However, he also had many other problems. For example, one of the reasons why he walked on the ball of his right foot was because his right hip was incredibly elevated. He also walked a bit pigeon toed because he has a huge amount of counter rotation in his body (his left hip is rotated forward and his right torso is rotated forward). The braces and leg exercises given by the PT's would have no effect on him because the problem is on his entire body, not just his leg.

2. The alignment of the boy's posture/body is controlled by his neurology. Simply put, your brain controls your muscles and your muscles determine the position of your bones. At his age (3-4), the child's brain, especially his mid-brain, has not fully developed. Because the mid-brain has not fully developed, no amount of leg exercises or stretches will fix the "problem" that we see in his leg and body. Attempts to unnaturally alter a child's body, especially when they are not in pain and it is not life threatening, while they are so young and when their brains are developing can have very bad effects.

3. The PT's told my nanny to tell her son constantly to drop his heel to the ground when he walks. They said that the constant reminding will get his to change the way he walks. This does not work because the alignment of your body is controlled involuntarily. Just like your breathing, you can alter it for a short period of time if you are thinking about it, when when you stop thinking about it, your body will go back to what it does naturally. In order to make a permanent positive change, connections must be made between certain muscle groups and the mid-brain. But as stated in point #2, the child doesn't have the mid-brain development yet.

4. The brace and cast attempted to stretch the boy's achilles tendon and put his foot in flexion. For a stretch to be effective, there must a balance between the muscle that is being stretched and all the muscles around it, especially the one on the opposite side. For example, when you stretch your hamstrings, you must activate your quads. Attempting to stretch his foot with the brace and cast does not establish any muscular balance. In fact, it causes all the muscles to become inactive and atrophy. The boy's legs were in braces or a cast for almost 3 years. That's a lot of inactivity and atrophy. That another reason is why his foot did not gain one single bit of flexibility.

5. Because the muscles of his leg were deactivated by the braces and cast, the boy's body began to depend on the brace and cast for support. Because braces and the cast did not allow the boy's body to move naturally, it began to negatively alter the way he moved. Once the brace and cast were removed, the boy's body did not know how to function without it and therefore, he was barely able to walk. In addition, the problematic right leg was originally weaker than the left. The braces and cast weakened the right leg even more, so now the boy is compensating even more and depending even more on this left leg.

I hope that others will learn from my nanny's mistake. Though I explained why the PT's methods were wrong and did not work, I told my nanny that she shouldn't take my word for it, but rather use some common sense and look at what was happening to her child. She used the PT's methods of exercise, braces, and the cast for 3 years and if you compare his ability to function from Day 1 in comparison to today, is he better or worse? He is far worse.

So if your child has some sort of congental defect or acute injury, what is the best form of therapy? Just let them walk, run, play and be a kid as much as possible. There are some other things that can be done when the child is older and the brain is more developed, but when they are really young, just take them out to the jungle gym and play.

PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2007 5:36 am
by Bill Hotter
Thank you Mr. Jen. I teach second grade and haven't seen a case like your nanny's child. If I see a simular situation I will pass along your advice.

Sometimes the best solution is the one most simple.

PostPosted: Fri Feb 16, 2007 6:07 pm
by Michael Jen

My wife used to be an elementary school teacher and I believe she taught 2nd - 4th grade. With that she has learned from me, she says that if she were a teacher again, she would structure her class completely different. She says she now feels so bad for making those kids it in their chairs and not move for so long. She says that she would mix a lot more movement throughout the entire day for the kids into her teaching. Not only would be be better for their bodies, but my wife thinks more movement would help a lot with some of the behavior problems.

As a teacher, you can make a big difference in both the minds and bodies of these kids. It may take a little bit of creativity and it would different from what other teachers are doing, but I believe you would see some noticable benefits. Just something to consider.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 12:40 am
by Bill Hotter
Mr. Jen, (Bolo)

I am certainly not your typical second grade teacher. I’m 6’1”, 215 lb. ex semi-professional hockey player. I am a kinesthetic person and many of my lessons have movement built in. For example, in the study of physics, my students design paper helicopters. We then go out to the jungle gym and let them fly from the highest slide. Of course teaching science, especially physics, leads to many movement lessons. I also try to have kids move around during math and reading (sitting and standing in different areas like the floor, different chairs, the carpet, ottomans, and the 6’ leather sofa)

As a part of p.e., we do stretching, yoga, brain gym, breathing exercises, some obstacle courses and much more.

More importantly, as an athlete who played so many organized sports, I teach them how to play soccer, kickball, tennis-racket baseball, basketball, football, and of course street hockey.

My new sport is Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I started about 10 years ago and have about 5 1/2 years total experience. I’m just a blue belt, but that’s pretty good at Cesar Gracie’s school. I think that martial arts should be a part of a school’s curriculum. It’s probably a legal nightmare but I think it can be done.

Since my injury and our email exchanges I have been walking 30 minutes per day, biking, swimming, sitting on my exercise ball, stretching/yoga and developing lower body strength,. I‘m only teaching/light drilling at my bjj class on Tuesdays. In my past life I would already be back training, but now I know to listen to my body. I’ll be back when I’m ready.

Thanks for helping me change the way I think.

Here is a link to Brain Gym:

PostPosted: Sat Feb 17, 2007 1:53 am
by Michael Jen
That's great. Those kids are lucky to have you as a teacher.

Thanks for the link to Brain Gym. Check out his link when you have the chance:

PostPosted: Mon Feb 26, 2007 12:34 am
by Michael Jen
Here's a update on my nanny's kid.

The physical therapist gave my nanny a brace that was made of the cast material to put on her son at night and also gave her several exercises to have him do. She is no longer using any brace, is not having him do those PT exercises, and has cancelled all future appointments with the PT.

Instead she has let him go out an play every day. He has been playing on the jungle gym, riding his "Big Wheel", walking, running, etc... He has been activley playing for numerous hours every day and in 2 weeks, a lot of the problems caused by the cast has cleared out. The problems aren't 100% gone, but the function of his body has improved dramatically. Thank god!