Chiropractic Care for Managing ADHD Symptoms


What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral developmental disorder defined as a “persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity/impulsivity.” ADHD used to be known as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Currently ADHD affects up to 12% of school-aged children in North America with symptoms starting before age 7. It is the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorder in children and is diagnosed twice as frequently in boys. The classic signs of ADHD become more noticeable once the child begins school.

  • Inattention, hyperactivity and being easily distracted
  • Inability to control impulsive thoughts and behaviors
  • Always moving – fingers, hands, arms, feet or legs; always ‘on the go’
  • Procrastination, especially with tasks/activities that require concentration or extended amounts of time to complete
  • Inability to stay focused in conversations; frequent shifts from one topic to the next when speaking
  • Difficulty keeping emotions in check – prone to angry outbursts, tantrums

40 to 60% of those individuals diagnosed in childhood continue to have symptoms into adolescents and adulthood.

ADHD Causes

The single cause of ADHD has not been identified, but risk factors linked to ADHD include; smoking during pregnancy, premature delivery, very low birth weight and injuries to the brain at birth. However, we do know that ADHD is caused by changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These chemicals help send messages between nerve cells in the brain. The neurotransmitter dopamine for example, stimulates the brain’s attention centers. Therefore symptoms of ADHD are prevalent in a person with low amounts of this chemical and also when subluxations (what chiropractors find and correct) are present. A subluxation is the result of spinal bones with improper motion or position affecting nerve communications between your brain and your body.

A spinal biomechanics expert form the University of Colorado Chang ha Suh, PhD states that subluxation is real. ‘We have documented it to the extent that no one can dispute its existence. Vertebral subluxations change the entire health of the body by causing structural dysfunction of the spine and nerve interference. The weight of a dime on a spinal nerve will reduce its transmission by as much as sixty percent. “

ADHD Treatment: Medication or Manual?

Your child has been diagnosed with ADHD. So now what?Some turn to medication to control symptoms that have us just as worried about the side effects as the disorder it is treating? Do you chose drugs, such as Addarall and Ritalin with unknown long-term side effects or instead chose a natural approach? Many parents are now turning to Chiropractic care for natural, drug-free approach that may actually address the underlying causations of ADHD, and moving beyond merely suppressing the symptoms of ADHD with medications like Ritalin and Adderall may.

Is Chiropractic beneficial for a child with ADHD?

ADHD is a neurologically based disorder and should therefore be treated by experts in functional neurology- doctors of Chiropractic are leading the way in this field. Understanding functional neurology is a key principle in the management of ADHD. Those with ADHD are intelligent, creative, and energetic, but possess an underdeveloped ability to inhibit their impulses and control their behaviour. Children with ADHD have a Porsche for a brain, but they only exhibit bicycle brakes. In other words their “go” pathway is on in their brain and their “no go” system has been dampened. Their overall governing system (brain) is out of balance. Chiropractors reduce and remove functional vertebral malpositions which stress body functions, including nervous system efficiency (subluxations), which in turn optimizes the function of the nervous system allowing the brain and body to be in better communication with each other.

The chiropractic adjustment is the perfect tool to affect change in the nervous system. When consecutive adjustments are used for the care of someone with ADHD it affects the vital relationship between the neurosensory receptor networks found in the spine, spinal cord, dura, joints and muscles and cerebellum, changing brain function. When the function of the spinocerebellar tracts affects the brain through the cerebellum improvements in the quality/quantity of information travelling into the cerebellum are noted. This stimulates the mid-brain, limbic system and prefrontal cortex, which results in improvements in executive functioning (attention span, ability to concentrate, decision making, memory), improved mood stability, decreased kinetic activity, better emotional control and improved impulse control. Children with ADHD under chiropractic care show improvements in behaviour, hyperactivity and executive functioning. For an example of how chiropractic care can help with ADHD and behaviour problems check out this awesome video with one of our patients after 4 weeks of care

When children with ADHD are adjusted regularly we have observed many of their symptoms reduce in frequency and severity. Chiropractic adjustments may do more then improve biomechanics, they just might help to optimize the function of the nervous system and allow the brain and body to be better able to communicate with each other. Chiropractic and ADHD have a long history together – for decades clinical case studies have reported on the effectiveness of Chiropractic care for children with many kinds of neurological conditions.

Helpful tips for children with ADHD

  • Remove the most common food allergens from the diet because of the brain-gut connection; hence, a gluten-free, casein (dairy) free, food additive/dye-free, aspartame-free diet filled with low-glycemic index whole foods containing adequate protein is recommended for a minimum of 90 days. These food allergens cause an increase in sympathetic nervous system. A sympathetic/adrenergic response in the brain down-regulates executive functioning and as outlined above, this manifests in a poor ability to plan, problem-solve, pay attention and regulate behaviour
  • Limit screen time from all sources: TV, video games, cell phones and tablets.
  • Outdoor playtime is of great value. A minimum of 60 minutes a day is recommended for energy outlets, creativity, strength, timing and co-ordination.
  • In addition, a regimen of supplements should be considered, including high-quality, soil-based probiotics, pure and high potency EFAs, vitamin B6, vitamin D, and magnesium.
  • Functional movements, exercises and games help! These focus on improving balance, proprioception, primitive reflex integration, core strength, timing and co-ordination, crossing the midline and oculomotor function. They are used to activate core neurological pathways and facilitate improvements in academic scoring, behaviour, hyperactivity and emotional control.

We serve children and families living with these challenges by helping kids to better integrate their sensory experiences in their bodies. This happens through a very gentle style of chiropractic care. When we dissipate the tension within the spine and nervous system, children can more effectively navigate their world in a physical, emotional and behavioral way.

A leading pathologist at Harvard Medical states that “Spinal cord and brain stem traumas often occur during the process of birth but frequently escape diagnosis. Infants often experience lasting neurological defects. Spinal trauma at birth essentially attributes to longitudinal traction especially when this force is combined with flexion and torsion of the spinal axis during delivery” – Abraham Towbin, MD

As a chiropractor, I am interested in the spine as it houses the delicate nerve tissue of the spinal cord and brain, the main communication and sensory pathways in the body. It is researched that over 60% of all neurological development occurs after birth in the child’s first year of life. This is why it is important for your child to get adjusted during the first year of their life.

This information is authored by Jenny Noordmans, DC and provided as a service of Pro Chiropractic. Pro Chiropractic serves patients in Bozeman, Belgrade, Big Sky, and Manhattan Montana, as well as surrounding communities of SW Montana. If you know a family who is searching for a responsible, safe and alternative way to manage and treat ADHD, please contact our Bozeman Montana Chiropractic Clinic at (406) 219-2462.

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