Case Study: 15-Month Old With Motor Developmental Delay Improves Under Chiropractic Care

Happy preschool age children play with colorful plastic toy blocks. Creative kindergarten kids build a block tower. Educational toys for toddler or baby. Siblings having fun playing together.

Motor developmental delays in infants and young children are often the domain of dedicated therapists such as speech, physical and occupational therapists. However, chiropractic care for infants and children does appear to be gaining acceptance as research and public awareness increase. Research focused on adults has revealed significant impacts on sensorimotor integration, but similar research involving children is emerging much more slowly.

This makes a recent case-study involving a 15 month-old male with developmental delays a significant one. An added perk of the study was that the subluxation definition used by the authors was the Australian Spinal Research Foundation’s definition, thus adding to the academic literature featuring the term.

Prior to commencing care, the 15-month-old male could not crawl, pull himself up to standing, stand or walk alone [1].  He had been able to sit unassisted, and had been breastfed up until six months after a full term pregnancy. He had no obvious speech delay, making the motor skills the main cause for concern.

A lack of tummy time in his first twelve months and early use of a sitting aid were noted by researchers and parents. He also had difficulty supporting himself when placed on his hands and knees. Following initial consultation, researchers noted:

“Chiropractic examination revealed restricted joint play of the right sacrum, restricted joint play of the T5/T6 area with increased paraspinal muscle tone bilaterally, and decreased left lateral flexion of C7 and restricted joint play, increased right paraspinal muscle tone.”

Vertebral subluxations were detected using commonly used clinical indicators, and care given using the Diversified Technique (Activator Instrument assisted). This occurred over 16-weeks, decreasing from weekly to bi-weekly visits.


After the commencement of care, progress in the boy’s motor-function was impressive. After the second visit, he began to crawl unassisted. After the third, he pulled himself up to stand. At the sixth visit, his crawling ability was improved and he “began letting go of assistance while in a standing position.” From just the seventh visit he was taking steps unassisted [1].

Being that this is a case study, it has its limitations, and we don’t know what would have happened over the course of those seven weeks should chiropractic care not have occurred. We do know that in the 15 months leading up to this moment, he had failed to meet those milestones, and that progress was remarkably fast once chiropractic care commenced. No adverse events were noted.

In the accompanying literature review, McCormack and Russell note that there is a paucity of literature around this topic, with only three other case reports and one clinical trial found to be comparable. This presents us with both a challenge and an opportunity. It is a challenge in that there isn’t a lot of evidence to compare and generalise, and the lack of clinical trials in this age group is indeed a much-felt absence. However, it does mean that every case study published is a significant addition to existing documentation on the topic.

Imagine what a difference chiropractic care may have made in the life of this 15-month old. It’s benefits are potentially substantial.

“Early motor development is important because it forms the basis for the development of verbal and non-verbal communication. Walking, for example, results in the child developing better social interactive skills with their caregivers,” the study’s authors noted [1].

This gives us all the more reason to investigate the impact of chiropractic care on our smallest practice members, and shows us once again that chiropractic care can make a difference right across the lifespan.

Make sure you check out the original report at the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics. (Reference provided below).


[1] McCormick J, Russell D, (2018), “Improvement in Motor Developmental Delay in a 15-month old male following chiropractic care to correct vertebral subluxation: A case report,” Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics,

 [2] The Australian Spinal Research Foundation. The Vertebral Subluxation: Conceptual Definition for Research and Practice. [Online] Available at: The Australian Spinal Research Foundation, 2017:6. Accessed on 2 August 2017.

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