Can Chiropractic Help with Autism Spectrum Disorders?


Honestly, the simplest answer is yes.  Chiropractic helps autism, research, has shown to help with many neurological imbalances in children with autism1.  While every case of autism is different, there is a set of core symptoms that have to be there for the diagnosis of autism.  These include problems with social skills, empathy, communication, and a lack of flexible behavior. However, the level of disability and the combination of symptoms varies tremendously for each person.  In fact, two kids with the same diagnosis may look and act completely different when it comes to their behaviors and abilities.

Neurologically speaking, most of these behaviors are related to an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex.  This is the part of the brain that helps with impulse control and is related to ADD/ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome and OCD, which all can be included with the imbalanced neurology associated with autism spectrum disorders. The simplest analogy I have for this is that their nervous system, specifically the part that controls impulse, empathy and social skills, is irritated, out of balanced, and inflamed.  In the model of Chiropractic and Applied Kinesiology that I ascribe to, those imbalances are caused by a decrease in spinal motion and neurologic input to the brain from the spine and cranium.   To understand how the Chiropractic adjustment re-balances the brain, you have to understand just a bit of functional neurology.

There are little receptors in all of your joints and muscles called proprioceptors.  These receptors send input to the brain telling us where we are in space, if we are moving, or if we are sitting at a computer typing, etc.  If these receptors aren't firing properly because muscles are out of balance or because the vertebra isn't moving properly, it sends too much or not enough input to the brain.  This disparity of input causes imbalances in the brains neuron pools and can affect the ability of that part of the brain to fire properly and to coordinate with other parts of the brain.   In my opinion, this imbalance in the spine and input to the brain is what is going on below the surface of a patient suffering from autism spectrum disorders.

When a properly trained Chiropractor (hopefully utilizing Applied Kinesiology) determines which vertebra or muscles are out of balance, makes the proper adjustment, and restores the balance to the central nervous system; the patients tend to get more functional, happier and have a better outlook on life. 2

While the Chiropractic adjustment is essential for the patient, it is far from the only thing these patients needs.  Often there are nutritional deficiencies and cranial motion imbalances.  This is why finding a qualified practitioner of Applied Kinesiology is essential because through the manual muscle test we can determine which nutritional product may work best for the patient. Applied Kinesiology can also discover if the problems might be related to a food allergy or sensitivity, along with which vertebra and cranial bones need to be specifically facilitated.

While the jury may still be out on the cause of autism, there is no doubt that the incidents of this neuro-behavioral imbalance are on the rise.  In fact, the increase of these childhood neurological disorders has risen so fast that in 2007 the CDC called it a “major health threat.”  This is such a massive understatement.  The incidents of autism are not only increasing, but it is increasing at an alarming rate.  In 1999 Autism was considered rare because it affected only 1 out of 10,000 children.  In 2009 the rate was closer to 1 out of 150.  This increase doesn’t seem to be slowing down either; today it is closer to 1 in 88!  Chiropractic may not be the cure or even a "medically" approved treatment for autism, but I can tell you from experience in my practice and from the academic  literature, the autistic patients that seek properly done chiropractic, nutritional counseling, and proper neurologic exercises, experience more relaxation, feeling of well-being, and enjoyment of life.

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