Head banging - Is it a normal reaction?

As parents it has happened to all of us.  We are in Target for toilet paper and coffee filters.  The 3-year-old sees it – a big, bright, shiny fire engine with buttons.  It makes such cool noises!


Him: Mama, this is the best toy ever!  I neeeeeed it.  *pushes all the buttons*


You: Honey, not today.  We just need a couple of things.


Him: But Mamaaaaaaa!

You: Lets go, not today.

Him: *still pushing buttons – on the toy and you*

You: Time to go. *attempting to pick him up*


At this point he is screaming.  In public.  But it doesn’t end there.  He throws his body on the floor.  He kicks his arms and legs as you pick him up.  You get him in the cart – but it doesn’t stop.  In fact, it gets worse.  He starts hitting his head with his hands, on the cart.  He is in full blown tantrum mode, and you are in full blown panic mode.


You leave the store with nothing.  Maybe your husband can pick it up on the way home, so you can have coffee tomorrow morning.


What just happened?  How did asking for a fire engine escalate to him banging his head on the shopping cart? It’s just what three-year-old’s do, right?  Maybe, but it didn’t feel right.

Maybe it is just a matter of learning how to work through emotions.  Maybe you need to help him keep his cool.  But what if it is more than that?


When a child is subluxated, they become stuck in a flight or fight state.  He is always moments away from a meltdown.  This puts him on edge and you on edge, making parenting beyond difficult.

But what about the head hitting and banging?  Why would he do that?


It all comes back to the nervous system – the master control.


The first bone in the neck has the densest concentration of proprioceptors in the whole body.  (Proprio = one’s own, (re)ceptor = to receive information) This means that we sense the most motion and input in this area.  When your child hits his head, rocks his body, or creates excess motion in his head and neck in any way, he is telling you that the first bone in his neck may be subluxated.  We know this because he is trying to create motion.  A subluxation is a stuck bone that doesn’t move as it should.  The body responds to this with inflammation.  Inflammation leads to pressure on the nervous system and dampened proprioceptor signals.  Head hitting, body rocking, and head banging increases input into the proprioceptors and nervous system.


Whew!  Well, there you have it, head banging is NOT a normal reaction.  It is an adaptation to a subluxation.  Chiropractors are the only health care professionals trained to eliminate subluxations from the spine.  If you are looking for a chiropractor for your child, visit icpa4kids.org and click “Find a Chiropractor.”


- Dr. Camille Berger

Camille Berger