We know this one is a contentious subject – chiropractic care and ADHD. Currently, there is a little hesitancy to make any major claims about what chiropractic may or may not be able to offer ADHD sufferers in terms of relief or management. While this remains the case, there is one thing we can say: chiropractic care nurtures the nervous system through which every individual experiences life. What happens when that person experiences chiropractic care, which then addresses the subluxations that result from trauma, toxins or stress – well that is a story that can be written 7 billion different ways and with just as many unique endings.
Research continues to examine the ways in which chiropractic care may impact neuro-spinal function, mental health and the various manifestations of health and ease that may come with it. Likewise, research continues to examine the aetiology of ADHD, the symptoms of which include hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness, social behavioral and emotional difficulties among other presentations. Case report data has indicated that there have been instances of ADHD presentations improving concomitant with chiropractic care (1, 2, 3). But until larger studies confirm and explain if, how and why, case report data is best tool in our belt when it comes to continuing this conversation. (1,2,3)
So can supporting the nervous system reduce symptoms of ADHD, mood disorders etc? We need more research. But according to these case reports, and the one you are about to read of, it seems possible.
A 12-year-old male presented for chiropractic care with the primary concern of ADHD, a mood disorder, and growing pains. His ADHD symptoms included hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating. He had recently started experiencing ‘growing pains’ in his legs in the month previous. For 3 years, he had been taking Methylphenidate ER 30 mg, but had stopped taking it two weeks prior to presenting for chiropractic care. Other medications had been trialled, but they were not continued due to side effects which had left him withdrawn and depressed.
Aside from the psychological and emotional complaints, the patient and parent also reported a repetitive strep throat infection, beginning at the start of elementary school and continuing to the presentation. They also reported a few ear infections, a surgical history of a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy at age nine. The number of antibiotic prescriptions the had been administered over the years were estimated to be in the double digits, too many for the mother to recall.
When he first presented for care, the chiropractor utilised a range of tests to determine the appropriate approach to care. Nerve function tests were performed which included paraspinal thermography, surface EMG, and HRV analysis.
The important findings were a short right leg (half an inch) from a prone leg check, a taught right C1, positive right cervical syndrome, significant mid spine hypotonicity and significant imbalance in neural regulation which confirmed the chiropractor’s theory of dysautonomia driving the symptomatology.
The course of chiropractic care consisted of twice weekly appointments for twelve weeks. Torque Release Techniqueand analysis was used throughout care, as previous cases showed a benefit in using TRT for subluxation correction in individuals with diagnosed ADHD, and the treating chiropractor wanted to see if the positive results could be repeated in this case. At the end of the 12 visits, there was a re-evaluation.
The parent reported a decrease in leg pain, sneezing fits, itchy eyes, and a complete resolution of allergies and strep infections. There were also behavioural changes noted with a lessening of a confrontational attitude, and a more calm, affectionate, and happy demeanour.
The chiropractor found a substantial change in the upper cervical region at C1 and the mid spine hypotonicity returned to normal. This was said to indicate the nervous system was moving away from a state of exhaustion and toward a state of increased neuro-motor function, and neural nourishment. There was a reduction in vertebral subluxations, a significant change at the thoracolumbar junction, which coincided with the decrease in symptoms related to ADHD and allergic/immune dysfunction.
Overall, there seemed to be an increase in Nervous System balance/function, healthy autonomic function, a decrease in the behavioural and emotional symptoms related to ADHD, as well as a decrease in allergy and pain symptoms. We need further research to elucidate the mechanism behind this improvement, but it is exciting that a psychological/mood disorder improved concomitant with chiropractic care.
It’s always interesting to speculate on how this might have changed the course of a young person’s life over time. Of course, we will never know. But we do know that impulse control, attention, and the ability to regulate emotions and behavior can be vital not only for social and emotional wellbeing, but for other life outcomes too. We can’t wait until more research is done on this topic, but for now, it’s exciting to witness another chiropractic story with a happier ending.
- The chiropractic care of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a retrospective case series: Joel Alcantara, James Davis. EXPLORE. The journal of Science and Healing. Volume 6. Issue 3. May-June 2010, Pages 173-182
- Chiropractic management of six year old child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) [case report] Wittman R, Valone, SA, Williams K, J Clin Chiropr. Pediatrics. 2009; June: 10(1) 612-620
- Chiropractic management of a patient with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Muir JM. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2012; 11(3) 221-224
- Steinberg B, Postlethwaite R, McIvor C. Improvement in Physical Resilience and Management of ADHD in a 12-yearold Male under Chiropractic Care: A case report. Asia-Pac Chiropr J. 2022;2.6. URL apcj.net/papers-issue-2-6/