What is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a hands-on therapy based on the theory that subluxations (dislocations/misalignments) in the spine may cause many medical disorders (especially disorders of the nervous system). The primary theory behind chiropractic therapy is to help the body heal itself by correcting subluxation of the joints, particularly the bones of the spine (vertebrae).
Chiropractic treatments usually involve adjusting the joints and bones in a person's spine using twisting, pulling, or pushing movements. Some chiropractors use heat, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound to help relax the person's muscles before doing a spinal adjustment.
Chiropractic Medicine and Autism
Chiropractic care should be the cornerstone of the sensory integration treatment plan for the PDD child. Chiropractic care differs from many of the other therapies used with autistics in that it is directed to the heart of the problem: the lack of homeostasis in the body, which can, in turn, produce a disease state. Treatments are directed to the imbalances in the nervous system which inhibit sensory processing. By directly affecting the nervous system, chiropractic care for the autistic child can begin to change the many sensory integration issues by facilitating input into the organs and areas of the body involved in sensory integration, including the skin and the nervous system.
The chiropractor administers an adjustment as the mainstream portion of care. An adjustment is applied to the spine, most often by the hand of the doctor. Occasionally an adjusting instrument is employed. The adjustment is administered in areas where there is the presence of a SUBLUXATION. Subluxation occurs where a segment of the spine consisting of two vertebrae and a disc between them, has lost their juxtaposition. Proper juxtaposition is necessary to maintain the integrity of the various systems that are located there, not the least of which is the nervous system. The presence of SUBLUXATION can cause illness as well as a host of other problems for the child.
The adjustment will affect the child/adult with autism in three ways.
Many autistic children who communicate verbally say that deep pressure is very important to them. The child may often be tactile defensive and shun any type of contact except deep pressure. The lateral spinothalamic tract of the nervous system, which is sensitive to pressure, can be activated in the child through the deep pressure applied in the adjustment. This aspect can significantly diminish tactile defensiveness, and has a remarkable effect on the child. Parents find it to be an effective alternative to traditional occupational therapy exercises, or using a squeeze machine to get a child to accept deep pressure treatments. Once the child becomes accustomed to the deep pressure, light touch appears less noxious to them.
Many children with autism have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or OCD-like behaviors as part of their functioning. These repetitive actions not only impair their quality of life, but they can be injurious to the child. Tics, flapping, echolalia, head banging etc. can often prevent the child from learning and from participating in activities. In addition to being a self-soothing mechanism, OCD activity is done in order for the child to feel where his body ends and the rest of the world begins (proprioception). The chiropractic adjustment allows the child to receive input from the outside to the spine, then to the brain and again back to the spine. This feedback loop can begin to replace the OCD activity. An interesting note: in chiropractic literature there is ample history with respect to OCD activities, such as head banging on the crib, as being an attempt by the child to self-correct a subluxation which may have occurred at birth.
There is evidence within chiropractic that performing an adjustment will increase the neurotransmission within the body. Increased neurotransmission can help the child perform higher cortical functions, including executive function activities. This increase in neurotransmission also can elevate the immunoglobulin levels in the child, which can give the child immunological protection from illness. While these results are presently being noted and explored within chiropractic, the evidence is strong that these changes do occur.
*I take Annie to see a chiropractor at least once or twice a year. I tried taking her every week for a while. After one particular adjustment, Annie went from walking on her toes to walking completely flat footed! However, a few days later, she fell down while we were at the park and immediately went back to walking on her toes. Even though I took her back to the same Chiropractor, he was never able to get her to walk flat footed again. I think chiropractic care is a good way to keep energy flowing throughout the body as it should.