ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed neuro behavioral disorder in children today with 1 in 10 kids being diagnosed. This prevalence has sky rocketed over the past generation. Following diagnosis, children are commonly given a prescription for Ritalin. This medication is a schedule II controlled substance that has effects similar to both amphetamines and cocaine. As more parents are learning about the effects of medication on their children, they are looking to alternative treatments for ADHD. Pediatric chiropractic care can be an effective, natural, and very safe option for parents.
In his book Talking Back to Ritalin: What doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for children, Dr. Peter Breggin states that the United States uses 90% of the world’s Ritalin. This is more than five times the usage of the rest of the world combined! In additon, Dr. Breggin reported that, “Emergency room visits by children ages 10-14 involving Ritalin intoxication have now reached the same level as those for cocaine, which indicates escalating abuse of this highly addictive drug.” In the United States, Ritalin is commonly prescribed to children as young as 3 years old as identified in a recent publication by Rappley et.al. (2) The warning label on Ritalin clearly states, “Ritalin should not be used in children under 6 years, since safety and efficacy in this age group have not been established.” (2) Between 1990 and 2000 the FDA MedWatch, a voluntary reporting program that accounts for no more than 10-20% of actual incidences, reported 186 deaths from Ritalin use. Since this time, ADHD diagnosis and Ritalin use have dramatically increased, so it is logical to conclude that this statistic would be higher today. (5) Many parents have begun to educate themselves on the side effects of Ritalin as well as other medications that may be prescribed for their children. Unfortunately, this information is not commonly given to parents by their pediatricians. As parents question the safety and efficacy of medicating their children, they are turning to alternative treatments for their kids’ behavioral problems.
Many of the alternative approaches and providers focus on reducing external stresses both in diet and in the environment. Altering diet to avoid common triggers like gluten, dairy, preservatives, and high fructose corn syrup are very helpful for many kids with ADHD. Drs. Quintin and Katie Sleigh often discuss diet, supplementation, and other environmental stressors with parents of children in their office. However, Drs. Quintin and Katie Sleigh, as pediatric chiropractors, are able to offer a unique approach that traditional alternatives cannot address. The chiropractic approach involves calming the child’s nerve system.
“While other professions may be concerned about changing the environment to suit the weakened body, chiropractic is concerned with strengthening the body to suit the environment.” -BJ Palmer, DC (One of the founders of chiropractic)
How Can Chiropractic Care Improve Behavior in Kids with ADHD?
The foundation of chiropractic care is restoring optimal function of the nerve system. According the Grey’s Anatomy textbook, “All functions of the body are controlled by the nervous system.” ADHD is a known central nervous system disorder. When there is stress and tension in the nerve system, caused by common childhood occurrences like birth, falls, and sports, behavior problems may arise. The way that Drs. Sleigh describe the effects of nerve system tension in these children is that it is as if these kids have Metallica blaring in the background all the time. It causes them behave erratically, have difficulty concentrating, seem overly sensitive, and have meltdowns for no apparent reason. Chiropractic care turns down the Metallica by calming the nerve system. The end result is that the child behaves and functions at a higher level. Since the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and spinal nerves) is protected by the skull and moveable bones of the spine, pediatric chiropractors are able to use gentle spinal adjustments to affect the nervous system. Because the nervous system is the underlying control system for every function of the body, changing diet, supplementing, and removing environmental irritants will only get limited results if there is stress and tension in the nervous system. Chiropractors, especially trained pediatric chiropractors, are the only doctors that are experts in evaluating and improving nervous system function.
While there have not been a lot of research studies on this topic, there are many case reports that indicate that chiropractic is an effective treatment for ADHD. In the October 2004 issue of the peer-reviewed publication, the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, a case report about ADHD and chiropractic was published. The case involved a 5 year old boy diagnosed with ADHD at age 2. He was prescribed Ritalin, Adderall, and Haldol for 3 years. The chiropractor that he visited at age 5 uncovered birth complications that resulted in a 4-day stay in the hospital. The chiropractic examination showed stress on the nervous system especially caused by severe distortion of the normal curve in the neck. The child began treatment and the mother reported improvement in behavior within 12 visits. After 27 visits, the child showed ‘considerable improvement’ so the mother approached the child’s pediatrician about his medications. The pediatrician determined that the child was no longer exhibiting behavior of ADHD and discontinued use of all medication. (1) One of the only research studies published by Giesen, et al. showed improvement in the majority of the children in the study with chiropractic care versus placebo care. The study concluded that further investigation is warranted. (4)
If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or if you are questioning if your child has this condition, Drs. Quintin and Katie Sleigh recommend getting checked by a pediatric chiropractor. Drs. Quintin and Katie Sleigh are located in Arlington Heights, IL but if this is not a convenient location, use this website to find a pediatric chiropractor in your area.
1. Bastecki, Anthony V., DC, et al. “Cervical Kyphosis Is a Possible Link to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2004; 27(8): 525.
3. Breggin, Peter, MD. Talking Back to Ritalin: What doctors aren’t telling you about stimulants for children. 2001.
4. Giesen JM, Center DB, Leach RA. An evaluation of chiropractic manipulation as a treatment of hyperactivity in children. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1989;12(5):353-363.