What to know about Toe Walking

What causes Toe Walking?

Toe walking is a sign of a brain/balance developmental problem. The upper neck plays a major role in the health of this system. Clear Chiropractic is an upper cervical specialist practice in Spokane, Washington that is a natural choice in healthcare without twisting, stretching or cracking.

Toe walking is a common but abnormal condition that most commonly appears during early childhood. It associated with a variety of neurological and brain developmental disorders.

Toe walking is causes by dysfunction of the proprioceptive system. Proprioception is the body’s internal sense of balance and coordination. The major players include

  1. The upper neck
  2. The vestibular organ (inner ear)
  3. The eyes
  4. The ankles
  5. The cerebellum and vestibular nuclei (primary processing centers)

In this way, toe walking is a sign that the brain is not developing the way it is meant to. As a result, it may set the stage for neurological or developmental problems later in childhood or even into adulthood.

Although toe walking by itself is not considered medical pathology, it is nevertheless an important sign that your child’s brain and body are not developing the way they are supposed to.

So, what can you do to help them so that they can grow up to be as healthy as possible?


The Upper Cervical Spine and Toe Walking

The muscles that support the vertebrae in the upper neck are a major source of proprioceptive input to the brain.

Birth trauma (e.g., forceps, vacuum, difficulty deliveries, etc) is a major source of strain on the upper neck, which can affect the normal function of this delicate area. The upper neck also has a profound impact on brain circulation and the vagus nerve, which coordinates messages between the brain and the vital life organs.

If your child has a history of a difficult birth, head or neck injury – and especially if they experience colic, torticollis (a head twist), headaches or scoliosis, their toe walking could be linked to a problem with their upper neck.

If so, a craniocervical specialist (such as what we do in our practice) can help.


The Vestibular-Cerebellar System

The vestibular system and cerebellum are key players toward the normal development of higher brain and learning centers. (Again, the upper neck plays a major role in the function of the cerebellum due to its impact on circulation).

At birth, a child’s brain is 25% of its full adult size. By only 18 months, it is already 50% of its full size. And by the age of 6 years, it is 90%. The question is, “Is the brain developing the way it is supposed to?”

When a child’s brain does not develop properly (i.e., they experience systemic developmental delays OR they skip through certain developmental milestones without developing the neurological infrastructure to support normal function), they can retain primitive reflexes.

Primitive reflexes are spinal reflexes that normally disappear within the first few months (or years) of childhood. When they persist, they can present in a variety of different ways including toe walking.

If so, a reflex integration specialist can help.


Neuro-optometry and Toe Walking

The eyes also play a major role toward normal brain and balance development. The eyes are the proverbial window to the soul. Taken literally, they are direct extensions of the brain.

Of interest, the processing center for the eyes is actually located in the back of the brain and influenced heavily by the function of the cerebellum as well as circulation from the upper neck.

When the eyes, nerves that control eye movement or visual processing centers of the brain are not coordinated, they can disrupt the cervico-ocular reflex, which produces a compensatory “head tilt.”

In such a case, the problem may not actually be coming from a child’s neck, but instead from their eyes. Either way, a disruption to the alignment in the upper neck can produce a knock-on effect, which produces changes in spinal tension. The results can include scoliosis, bad posture and toe walking.

If your child spends an inordinate amount of time in front of a TV, computer or phone screen – and especially if they report blurry vision or hypersensitivity – their eyes could be a major factor.

If so, a neuro-optometrist can help.


Toe Walking is a measure of Brain Health

There is not just one simple thing when it comes to toe walking. However, it is not just something to be ignored or to be accommodated with special shoes.

Toe walking is a sign that the brain itself is not as healthy as it can be.

As we see, there is not just one portal of entry either. A parent can take their child to a craniocervical specialist, reflex integration therapist and/or neuro-optometrist for a thorough assessment. Each within their own field will be able to offer their opinion to identify what they can and what they can’t help. In this way, helping children with toe walking is not a one-size fits all solution, but often requires a team.

The good news is that by identifying the problem early in a child’s life, they don’t have to grow up to experience problems later in life.


What is the Blair Procedure?

The Blair procedure is a special division of craniocervical or upper cervical specific healthcare. It is a specialty of chiropractic that does not involve any neck twisting, stretching or cracking.

I repeat: no twisting or cracking.

The procedure involves a detailed assessment of the structure and alignment of the joints in the upper neck. This includes low-dose diagnostic images that show the exact location, direction and degree of neck misalignment. With this information, a Blair practitioner designs a custom-correction to restore the normal function of these neck joints. Because the procedure is so specific, it is like designing a custom-fit key to unlock a door. The procedure is gentle and safe for children of all ages.

If you are looking for a chiropractor in Spokane, visit our home page more information. To schedule a new patient appointment with our Mead (north Spokane) or South Hill offices, complete a new patient request form here or call us direct at 509-315-8166.