How Chiropractic Care Can Help with Your Child’s Sensory Disorders and Get Them Functioning at a Higher Level

Children with sensory disorders including autism and ADD, can be helped with chiropractic corrective care that focuses on improving neurological function by decreasing the stress and tension on the nerves in the upper cervical spine.

April is Autism Awareness Month so can you discuss how chiropractic care benefits children with autism?

Dr. Luke Stringer: April, as you just mentioned, is Autism Awareness Month. So, any kind of prevalent health topics that are being discussed in the general public we like to kind of focus on here in the clinic. Hence, why we’re on the podcast.

I don’t necessarily want to focus just on autism, I know we’re going to discuss just a plethora of kind of sensory disorders during this topic, ADD, ADHD, et cetera. But they all essentially form within a similar kind of realm of disability and it’s all due to developmental disability, which is caused by a difference in the brain, typically with that kind of sensory light, sound, behavior, social cues, et cetera.

I’m going to focus this really around what we do as chiropractors. So obviously a chiropractor’s specialty is the spine. The spine houses the nervous system, the nervous system controls everything we do, how the body feels, also how it functions. So typically for us when we have our kids, unfortunately there’s plenty of kids in the practice with different varying degrees of these sensory disorders, we’re always looking at what we call the three Ts, Thoughts, Traumas, Toxins. For kids thoughts can be stress that’s coming from school. So, we’ll discuss with the parent good ways that they can manage kind of stressful situations because that obviously has an effect on the nervous system, which has an effect on how the patient feels and functions.

Toxins, obviously diet stuff, right? Diets that are high in inflammatory foods, processed foods, color additives, et cetera, really tax the body and have a harsh effect on the nervous system, creating free radicals that pull oxygen out of cells and just essentially doesn’t allow us to function well.

But specifically, when it comes to traumas, the last trauma can be a big trauma. If you’ve been rear-ended in a car accident for example, or those micro stresses. So, as a kid it’s typically micro stresses. The kid is playing on a tablet, the chin is on their chest, they’re looking down. That’s a micro stress. Micro stresses create something called subluxation. There are several forms of subluxation, but essentially it means a joint or several joints of the spine globally can shift out of alignment. If the spine shifts, it can increase stress and tension in the joint, the tissue, and the nerves.

We always like to look and focus on the upper cervical spine. You have seven bones in your neck. The first two are the upper cervical spine, C1, C2, cervical bones, the top bones are called the atlas and the axis. And the skull sits on top of the atlas and then the atlas sits on top of the axis and essentially that’s how we rotate our head. Then look up and down a little bit too.

So, when these joints have shifted out of alignment, they can create stress and tension on the C1, C2 nerve route. Well obviously, you have your brain, you follow your brain stem and then out of your skull through the foramen magnum which is the hole in the base of the skull, comes the spinal cord. Well, if you are subluxated in that region, you’re going to increase stress and tension in the upper cervical area. There’s more nervous system activity in that area than anywhere else in your spine because you’re so close to the brain stem. So typically for us, kids that come in, not necessarily just with autism, but we’ve had kids come in with a patient with autism and done great with our care and then all the other plethora of sensory disorders, we’re always checking that upper cervical spine because it was subluxated in that upper cervical spine. And we’re compressing C1, C2 nerve route right by that brain stem can put us in something what we call sympathetic tone.

Your parasympathetic nervous system, which is rest and digest when you go to sleep. So, you get rapid eye movements so deep sleep you wash yourselves, how we kind of regenerate and recover. Then you have your sympathetic nervous system, which is fight or flight. So, getting in a car accident for example, eyes go wide, hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and we vasoconstrict. So essentially, we’re consistent or we’re full of adrenaline. So, if we’re subluxated in the upper cervical area, that’s going to put us consistently in this sympathetic tone. If we’re in a sympathetic tone, typically what we find are patients that are just struggling with those sensory disorders, autism, ADD, ADHD, all those type of sensory disorders.

So, when we focus on our sensory patients, we are focusing on the upper cervical spine. Cause if we can get that spine moving better, in better alignment, better balance, healthy muscle tone and strength, and it’s going to allow those two joints to move freely without compressing the nervous system, then typically what we see is a decrease in those symptoms. Obviously, each patient’s symptoms are different based on their case. So yeah, any kid that’s dealing with or an adult too, that’s dealing with kind those sensory disorders, getting in to see a chiropractor, you’re going to see some awesome, wonderful stuff happen through the chiropractic adjustment.

What symptoms of ADD and ADHD are targeted with chiropractic care?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Well, I wouldn’t say necessarily the symptom are targeted, but typically what can you get from the varying degrees of ADD, ADHD, it’s all sensory stuff typically. So, sensitivity to light, to sound, inability to concentrate, poor appetite, poor focus. So, we have patients coming in with autism all the way through patients that are undiagnosed and parents are “I’m pretty sure our kids got ADD, ADHD.” Again, we’re always checking the spine, specifically upper cervical spine, for subluxations. And more often than not, typically we’re finding subluxations present due to lack of curve, reverse curve and or joint shifts in that upper cervical spine.

So, once we start working with the patient on good joint function, and good alignment that’s going to decrease the stress and tension on the nervous system, then the patient typically improves and their “symptoms” or their dysfunction from a sensory disorder, poor sleep, poor mood, inability to concentrate, those things typically start to improve pretty quickly and pretty drastically too. We’ve got some awesome case studies in the office in regard to patients responding to care from kids picking back up their musical instrument that they gave up, from pulling their grade average way up from failing to being an honor roll student, to having the ability to sit in the canteen at school and actually socially interact with the friends due to their ability to absorb noise better. So yeah, it’s a wonderful thing when you’re working with kids and they receive chiropractic treatment and the benefits that it comes with.

Are there certain symptoms or behaviors that show the most improvement with chiropractic care?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, I think again, each case is case by case specific, right? We had a little girl in recently, chronic migraines, terrible sensitivity to sound and noise. Parents had to pull her out of school because she couldn’t literally deal with the sensory stimulation. So, her symptom that we were focusing on was primary migraines, but also her ability just to be able to compute sensory information. And she did awesome. She’s now not getting any migraines, she’s back in school, she’s loving it.

We had another little boy recently come in with really poor concentration, wouldn’t listen in school, quite naughty in school, too. Got pulled out of class, grades dropped, gave up his cello, lost his appetite, put him through a round of corrective care, similar treatment in regard to focusing on joint function, decreasing subluxation, stress in the upper neck, working on his posture, his neck curve, all those things improved. He got his appetite back. His mom said he tidied up his bedroom, which he’d never done before. He started playing his cello, he got back into normal class. His grade average went from a D to a B. So, it all depends on the case, but typically the symptoms that manifest in a sensory disorder are the symptoms that improve with chiropractic care, if that makes sense.

For the best results, should parents wait until their child is at a certain age to see a chiropractor or can children benefit from chiropractic care at any age?

Dr. Luke Stringer: Yeah, great question. We have a saying in our practice, “from cradle to grave”, you should be having your spine checked as soon as you enter the world. So, I’m talking about infant babies and then obviously all the way through to, you know, retired and you and you’re at the back end of your career, per se. Yes, so my kids were born, and both my kids were adjusted within an hour of being born. That’s pretty typical for a chiropractor that went to Palmer Chiropractic College, the fountainhead of chiropractic. You’ve got to remember too, the birth process is pretty difficult obviously for the mother and for the baby, right? You’ve got to fit through the pelvic inlet, so you’ve got to squeeze through that thing. Typically, babies that have an intervention, so forceps, the vac, C-section, typically what are you contacting when you are physically pulling a baby through the pelvic inlet or out the stomach? It’s their head.

And when you are yanking on their head, it’s going to create tension in their neck. So, if you’re creating tension and shifts in their neck and that baby’s an hour old or a week old or a month old, then obviously their nerves can compress. So those symptoms can manifest in an infant. Baby symptoms might show up as inability to latch, they can’t rotate the head well to contact the breast to take the food. Might be reflux, colicky in regard to their response to breastfeeding. That’s all upper thoracic nervous system function. So yeah, essentially should get your baby and/or kid checked out as soon as possible.

Now remember when you’re adjusting a baby, it’s a lot different than how you adjust an adult. Adjusting a baby is like putting pressure on your eyeball. Babies’ bones aren’t really bones, they’re cartilage, they’re kind of bendy. So, you’re not really thrusting on a baby, you’re just finding a shift. And if you find it and you apply just some really light pressure like you’re pressing on your eyeball and that bone just moves really easily and comfortably. So it’s a little different getting adjusted as a baby as it is an adult.

For parents who are bringing their children to the chiropractor for the first time, what should they expect during the first visit and subsequent visits?

Dr. Luke Stringer: It all depends on what’s going on, right? In regard to the patient, are the parents bring them in just for a wellness check? Did they have a specific complaint? For example, they’re not latching, colic, reflux or did they have a neurological issue that’s manifesting and actually delaying development? It all depends, but typically any chiropractor worth the salt, regardless if it’s an adult or a baby, get a real detailed consultation, right? Why are you here? What’s the dysfunction? How long’s it been going on? How often is it, how does it feel? How does it create disfunction? Then obviously some goal setting. Then you’re going to perform an orthopedic exam and or spinal exam based on the patient. For babies, it’s typically just a really light palpatory exam along the spine. Then there’s some specific orthopedic neurological tests that you can perform based on complaint; typically, those neurological complaints. Also babies can get x-rays. We typically don’t X-ray babies unless there’s been a big trauma or there is a neurological defect going on, we want to check where that spine’s at. And then obviously babies get going with an adjustment based on those findings typically on the first visit. So yeah, it all kind of depends, but a thorough evaluation before the baby or the kid gets treated is absolutely standard.

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