Pediatric chiropractic is growing by leaps and bounds and the results we are getting are astounding.
One of the areas our practice focuses on is helping children with autism and other spectrum-related disorders. In order to better answer to the question “Well, how can chiropractic help with autism?” I want to write out a general summary and make it available on the website!
Warning – this is a very lengthy explanation, but if there is one thing I have learned in my years of helping parents whose children suffer with autism, it is that “no amount of information or help is too much”!
How can Pediatric Chiropractic Care Help with Autism?
Anyone who knows anything about autism knows that the nervous system is greatly affected in this disorder and the challenges this brings about are responsible for many of the issues seen in children with autism, such as hyperactivity, attention issues, sleep challenges, behavior problems, social issues, sensory processing issues, and more. In addition, the nervous system is so intimately linked with the digestive and immune systems (the other two systems most commonly affected in autism) that it can also contribute to things such as bowel and bladder problems, autoimmune challenges, and more. Let us look at how the central nervous system can be affected in so that it causes problems.
Ways the Nervous System can be Damaged or Injured
The primary mode of injury we see in our office is what we would term Traumatic Birth Injury. For many of the children who undergo this trauma, their nervous systems have been damaged right from the beginning of their life due to birth injury.
Here in the United States we have levels of birth intervention that even the World Health Organization has termed to be at “epidemic” levels. One of the worst examples of this is the use of Cesarean delivery. The WHO states that C-section rates around 10% are normal and necessary, while anything above 15-20% “likely does more harm than good” – in the US 33-50% C-section rates are the norm for most hospitals.
It must also be realized, that even most vaginal deliveries are now induced or “augmented” as well. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed an increase in autism later on in life for induced births, confirming what we’ve been talking about in pediatric chiropractic for a long, long time.
The area that is most commonly injured during the birth process is the upper neck and skull. The risk of injury to these areas, go up exponentially as intervention levels go up. C-sections, forceps, vacuum extraction, and prolonged pushing all lead to greater risk of traumatic birth injury to the infants head and neck.
Unfortunately, no one in the medical system is really trained to check (or address) injuries to the nervous system, so most of the time they go completely unmentioned to the parents… If these injuries were addressed by a pediatric chiropractor shortly after it occurred, most of the neurological injuries associated with it could be prevented. If we are truly going to win the battle for autism in this country, we must learn how to prevent it, not cure it. This area would be a vital first step.
Effects of these Injuries
Once that injury occurs, pressure can be placed on the brain stem and spinal cord, as well as the spinal nerves in the vicinity causing all types of problems. What is more, by creating a misalignment and joint fixation complex (subluxation) in the area, it leads to improper neurological communication into and out of the central nervous system. It is believed that this challenge to the communication system of the body is one of the primary reasons so many children with autism have difficulty with sensory processing, social interaction and behavior, and learning.
All of this eventually puts the nervous system into a chronic or permanent state of stress. This is often referred to as the stress response, or fight/flight response. The fight/flight response is vital for short term reactions to stress in a normal human life, but when the body is stuck in this response for extended periods of time, it can be very detrimental to their wellbeing. Most children with autism have been in fight/flight from their first moments. This is why we see such a high correlation in autism with infantile colic, ear infections, and digestive disorders.
If our health care system were designed to address these challenges immediately after they happened rather than waiting for the symptoms to appear, far fewer children would be suffering with autism and related disorders. Simply observe a child with autism and you can see the “stress and fear” in their eyes. It is such a joy to see this look change in their eyes as they progress through care in our office.
This chronic state of stress that is created when the nervous system is traumatized from things like birth injuries wreaks havoc on the immune and digestive systems as well. Both of these systems are “down-regulated” during chronic states of stress which means they are slowed down. Speaking specifically about the digestive system, prolonged neurological stress responses can lead to decreased motility, constriction, cramping, and inflammation of the digestive tact. When the digestive system is in this state it does a very poor job of breaking down foods and other substances, which brings about even more inflammation and irritation that can spill over into the bloodstream and cause an immune response and more problems.
The immune system faces the same challenges… when we are in a constant state of neurological stress the immune system doesn't work correctly and leaves a child susceptible to allergies, asthma, eczema, and other inflammatory reactions. All of this leads to more and more inflammation and irritation.
This is why so many of these reactions and challenges are what we refer to as “viscous cycles” that essentially continue to feed each other and lead to greater and greater challenges for the child. Somewhere, this cycle must be broken, and that is where chiropractic adjustments come into play.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
By addressing the injury and resultant subluxation, a specific chiropractic adjustment restores proper balance and alignment to the body, and thus can help restore balance and function to the central nervous system. Depending on the severity and duration these injuries have been present, sometimes repeated adjustments can create positive change in a step-by-step process that leads to an improvement in behavior, digestion, immunity, learning, sleep, and more. The sooner we start, the better our chances of having success with such care.
In summary, most every child we see with spectrum disorders has one primary major challenge at the root of their issues: An overstressed nervous system that is in protection mode or in other words stuck on the “gas pedal” right from the beginning of life, or even before. Dr. Bruce Lipton summarizes both the cause behind the issue, “You can’t be in growth and protection at the same time.”
Translated to our analogy, a child’s nervous system cannot be on the “gas pedal” (stress/protection) at the same time as it’s trying to create growth/development/organization/healing. A subluxation to the upper neck and brainstem area “locks in” the nervous system to that stress mode. A specifically trained pediatric chiropractor is the only provider on the planet trained to find and locate that subluxation, and, if found, can correct and resolve it which can get the growth, relaxation, and healing system working again!
We believe that when a family has a child who is challenged by something like spectrum disorders, the number one thing they need is someone who can support them and help them make the proper decisions. Unfortunately, despite the enormous growth in this disorder, most pediatricians are quite lacking in their understanding of spectrum disorders and how neurology, nutrition, and toxicity play a role in it. Thankfully, Pediatric Chiropractors are experts in this area, and you can be rest assured that you will get the support and care your child needs to overcome these challenges and lead a brighter and promising life!