Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Outcomes Improve with Chiropractic Care
A report on the scientific literature
Mark Studin DC, FASBE(C), DAAPM, DAAMLP
Sangwoo Mah DC, DAAMLP
William J. Owens DC, DAAMLP
As a family practitioner of chiropractic, I, the first author, have treated many children who were diagnosed with a spectrum of hyperactivity disorders in the 1980’s. Each of these diagnoses revolved around children being uncontrollably hyperactive and their ages ranged from 3 years through 10 years old. In most of the cases, under chiropractic care, I witnessed that most of these children, according to their parents, demonstrated calmer behavior over a short amount of time with chiropractic care and this scenario became a regular pattern in my office. These clinical observations by a single practitioner is by no means a scientific answer, nor one that should garner conclusions to suggest an entire populous migrate towards this specific potential solution. However, over time, these results have been reported in many chiropractic offices by both parents and chiropractors alike and research is now catching up to these observations in a formal setting.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, has become a major concern to parents everywhere as of late. It seems that more and more children are being diagnosed with ADHD as time passes and has the hallmark characteristics of hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity according to Alcantara and Davis (2010). They go on to report that parents are concerned regarding the causes of ADHD in children and what kinds of treatment are available should they become diagnosed with ADHD. Although the definitive cause of ADHD is unknown, genetics and the environment seem to have strong effects. Medical treatment of ADHD involves use of psychiatric medications and behavior therapy. However, there are growing concerns for long-term use of psychotropic drugs for children. Again, according to Alcantara, 10 years ago it was estimated that 20% of all white males were taking some type of psychotropic drug for behavioral disorders and based upon the potential for serious side effects, conservative alternative medical approaches were sought. With regards to the practitioner-based alternative therapies for children, chiropractic has become the most popular and highly utilized for ADHD.
In their literature search, Alcantara and Davis (2010) reported that 4 case studies recounted successful treatment of ADHD. There appears to be, in those cases, a strong connection between the neuro-muscular-structural connections. This suggests to the authors of this article that there is a resultant neuro-chemical imbalance as a result.
Such a case was four children treated with chiropractic adjustment in a single-doctor’s office. The parents of these children reported a 50% improvement in behavior of their children after 5 months. These results were collected via questionnaires.
Another significant case in the same study was a 5-year-old boy with seriously poor neck posture. This caused him to go for chiropractic treatment, but after 8 weeks, the boy’s behavior improved so significantly that his pediatrician declared he no longer exhibited symptoms of ADHD. During this time, his neck posture also improved dramatically, suggesting a link between the neck posture and ADHD.
Perhaps even more significant, a 9-year-old child who suffered for years from multiple chronic conditions including asthma, headaches, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, depression, insomnia, and neck pain also improved dramatically with chiropractic care. The child was taking multiple strong medications. This child was also found to have significantly stiff joints in the neck. After six weeks chiropractic care, the child no longer displayed any symptoms and all medications were discontinued except for a half dose of Wellbutrin. After 5 months, at the conclusion of the treatment, the child remained symptom free.
Muir (2012) reported:
Parents of a 5-year-old boy with diagnosed ADHD brought him for chiropractic care to address his subjective signs (acting out, ability to follow instructions, and poor home and school performance), which also included waking at night due to asthmatic symptoms and low self-esteem. Palpation revealed hypertonicity and trigger points in the paraspinal muscles at the thoracolumbar region with local pain. A preliminary diagnosis included cervical and thoracolumbar facet joint irritation with concurrent muscle hypertonicity.
Intervention and Outcomes: Treatment including spinal manipulative therapy, soft tissue therapy, and stretching was provided. Treatment began on a thrice-weekly basis and declined to twice weekly over the course of approximately 12 weeks. After 1 year of treatment, subjective improvements were noted in episodes of acting out, ability to follow instructions, and general home and school performance (p. 221).
Although much more research is indicated, these examples, along with our personal observations suggest that chiropractic should be considered to be included in comprehensive treatment of ADHD. Chiropractic is one of the safest treatments currently available in healthcare and when there is a treatment where the potential for benefits far outweighs any risk, it deserves serious consideration. Whedon et al. (2014) based their study on 6,669,603 subjects after the unqualified subjects had been removed from the study and accounted for 24,068,808 office visits. They concluded, “No mechanism by which SM (spinal manipulation) induces injury into normal healthy tissues has been identified. (Whedon et al., 2014, p. 5)
If your child suffers from symptoms of ADHD, consider having a chiropractor evaluate your child.
1. Alcantara J., & Davis J. (2010). The chiropractic care of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A retrospective case series. EXPLORE, 6(3), 173-182.
2. Muir, J. M. (2012). Chiropractic management of a patient with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 11(3), 221-224.
3. Whedon, J. M., Mackenzie, T. A., Phillips, R. B., & Lurie, J. D. (2014). Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69. Spine, [Epub ahead of print] 1-33.