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Research Wednesday: ADHD and Chiropractic

Welcome to Research Wednesday! Every Wednesday we will dive into some of the latest research when it comes to chiropractic and raising healthy families. We encourage you to read, learn, ask questions, implement and share. At Tree of Life Chiropractic - Seattle, it is our passion and calling to serve you to our up most ability.

Joel Alcantara & Jim Davis​

Introduction: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioral disorder of childhood. Prevalence estimates indicate that between 3-11 percent of children are affected by this disorder. The diagnosis of ADHD is based on a subjective evaluation of the core symptoms of impulsivity, inattention, and motor overactivity. The most well-studied and effective medical treatments have been psychostimulants such as methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine. Given the controversy with respect to the dubious diagnosis of ADHD and the questionable effectiveness and safety of psychotropic medication in this pediatric population; parents are spurred to consider “alternative” forms of treatment for their child with a diagnosis of ADHD. Parallel to the increase use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in adults, CAM use in children has also become more prevalent.

Chiropractic, with its holistic and conservative approach to patient care has become the most popular choice of all the alternative therapies. Anecdotes and testimonials abound on the success chiropractic care in patients with ADHD but the scientific literature is virtually non-existent in the documentation of such successes. To the best of our knowledge, we are only aware of the following. In a single subject research design (N=7) found five of the seven children showed improvement in mean behavioral scores from placebo care to chiropractic treatment, four of the seven demonstrated improvement in arousal levels, and the improvement in the group as a whole was highly significant. Agreement between tests was also high in this study. For all seven children, three of the four principal tests used to detect improvement (i.e., parent ratings of activity, motion recorder scores, electrodermal measures, and X-rays of spinal distortions) were in agreement either positively or negatively.

Recently, another study described the successful chiropractic care (i.e., symptom improvement with medical withdrawal of medication) of a 5-yr-old male with ADHD and facial ticks. Pre-treatment and comparative cervical spine radiographs revealed changes from a 12° kyphosis (C2-C7) to a 32° lordosis, and concluded that an improvement in cervical lordosis in patients with ADHD may be a desirable outcome.

To further contribute to the knowledgebase on the conservative care of patients with ADHD, we present the successful chiropractic care of patients with a diagnosis of ADHD.

Methods: A prospective cohort of pediatric patients comprised the study population. Inclusion criteria required a medical diagnosis of ADHD and that spinal adjustments were not contraindicated. The patient population underwent chiropractic care that may be characterized as a combination adjustments and a nutritional supplementation program. Main outcome measure was a survey instrument for parents and teachers of ADHD patients to score a patient’s behavior/ performance at home and at school. Additionally, the types of medication prior to, during and following a period of chiropractic care were noted.

Results: Nine patients (8 males and 1 female) comprised the study population. The average age of the patients was 9.2 years (range: 2–15 years). A parent for each patient agreed to perform the questionnaire. Although the patients have variable lengths of care, ADHD symptoms based on parent survey for each patient demonstrate a steady improvement. Comparison of the initial and latest parent scoring for ADHD symptoms as a group demonstrated a 53% reduction. Teacher ratings were available for 4 of the 9 patients. Similarly to the parent survey, teacher ratings of these 4 patients demonstrated improvement in ADHD symptoms over time. Comparison of the initial and latest teacher ADHD symptom scoring demonstrated a 45% reduction. Of 5 patients under ADHD medication prior to chiropractic care; 3 patients were no longer on medication due to symptom improvement while the 2 remaining on medication were at decreased dosages.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that patients with ADHD may benefit from chiropractic care utilizing a combination of fullspine spinal manipulative therapy and nutritional supplementation. Additionally, this study provides information vital for higher- level research designs investigating the effectiveness and safety of chiropractic care in patients with ADHD.

Dr. Moe's Commentary

Parents often bring in their children for pediatric chiropractic care with ADHD and behavioral problems and there is nothing better than hearing stories about improvement in behavior, sleep, and school.

How does chiropractic care help with ADHD?

The autonomic nervous system is separated into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system, also known as the gas pedal is your body's stress response (fight or flight). The parasympathetic nervous system, known as the brake pedal, is responsible for rest, relaxation, digestion and immune function. This is really important for your child's development. Any pressure or subluxation to a child's nervous system puts them into a dominate sympathetic state (fight or flight) which takes away from their rest, relaxation, digestion and immune function abilities and therefore ability to focus and behave accordingly. Balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is key. Therefore, any trauma or stress on the brain stem and/or spinal cord that can compromise the nervous system and its balance will have a huge affect your child's overall health and well-being.

Where does the trauma and stress come from that can compromise our nervous system? We call them the 3 T's: thoughts, traumas and toxins.

  • Traumas (physical)

  • Birth trauma, in-utero constraint, falls, injuries, car seats, baby bjorns, etc.

  • Toxins (chemical)

  • Vaccines, prevacid, antibiotics, soaps, lotions, cleaning products, formula, etc.

  • Thoughts (emotional)

  • Time in the hospital/NICU, medical testing, stress on the mother and family, etc.

These trauma's and/or stresses to our nervous system can create subluxations which are misalignments in our spine affecting the ability of our nervous system to function properly and adapt to our environment.

As a pediatric chiropractor, we specialize in finding and correcting your child's subluxation in order for them to function and behave optimally.

Here is a link to an upcoming FREE webinar taking place April 25th at 6:00 pm from the comfort of your own home.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions and /or concerns or schedule and initial consultation to see how chiropractic can help your family.

Be Blessed!


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