The Potential Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Patients with Autism

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At the end of April 2018, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new report suggesting that the rates of autism in the United States are significantly higher than experts previously believed. According to the new statistics, an estimated 1 in every 59 children is affected by autism. That figure is 15 percent higher than the estimate of 1 in every 68 children that the CDC reported just two years ago, in 2016. The data were collected from eleven communities around the country, including on here in Georgia. While experts are not entirely sure whether the prevalence of the condition is actually rising, or whether the larger number of diagnoses is simply due to the fact that autism is being diagnosed more often as awareness levels rise, one thing is clear: more parents than ever are looking for ways to help their children effectively manage this complex and challenging condition.

There are a wide range of therapies available for children with autism. In a previous post, we talked about the possible benefits of massage therapy, including both traditional massage modalities and Thai massage. Today, we are going to talk about another therapy option you may want to consider as a parent of a child with autism: chiropractic care. Through a combination of spinal manipulation and nutritional counseling, chiropractic care has the potential to offer considerable benefits for a child with autism.

The Relationship between Spinal Alignment and Sensory Processing

When you think about the possible treatment options for a child with autism, your mind might not immediately jump to spinal manipulation, but chiropractors around the country have reported seeing positive results in autism patients of all ages, including children. Although there is not yet a clear scientific explanation for how spinal manipulation helps patients with autism, experts have theorized that it has to do with the way the brain receives and processes sensory information. When the spine is out of alignment, it can interfere with the nerve signals that the brain gets from other parts of the body. That, in turn, disrupts the way the brain processes sensory information. These problems with sensory processing are known to play a role in autism and may exacerbate symptoms. Therefore, by keeping your child’s spine in alignment, a regular chiropractic adjustment has the potential to help improve sensory processing, which can reduce the overall stress on your child’s nervous system.

In both clinical cases and early research studies, improvements in sensory processing through spinal manipulation have led to noticeable improvements in patients’ symptoms. According to a systematic review article published by a group of researchers from the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association in 2011–in which the scientists evaluated the available case reports, cohort studies, and randomized trials published in clinical journals–chiropractic care can promote improvements in sensory processing that effectively address some of the core symptoms of autism. The studies they evaluated showed that many patients who receive chiropractic care show improvement in social interactions, communication, and repetitive behavior.

Nutritional Counseling as Part of Chiropractic Care

More than ever, patients with autism and their families are considering nutritional therapy as an alternative to the standard pharmacological and/or behavioral therapies that are commonly prescribed. Some families are choosing to completely revamp their diets by cutting out certain foods and/or emphasizing others. Another option is to choose a dietary supplement, like a probiotic or vitamin D, which early studies suggest may help address symptoms in children with autism. However, with so much information available on the internet today, it can be hard to figure out what information is reliable and what is simply an advertisement for a high-cost supplement that will have little effect. As a parent, it’s helpful to be able to rely on the expertise of a chiropractor who can help you sort through the information and figure out what might be the most effective option for your child.  

Indeed, one of the best things about consulting your chiropractor for nutritional advice is that he can offer individualized nutritional counseling. For patients with autism, a personalized approach to diet is particularly important because the symptoms of autism vary so widely between individuals. As a result, some nutritional therapies work well for certain patients but have little impact on others. For instance, a gluten-free diet can help resolve both gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms in some patients. For other patients, a probiotic supplement may make a more significant difference. When your family is working closely with a chiropractor, you get the individualized attention you need to develop a dietary approach that helps resolve some of your child’s most challenging symptoms and fits in with your family’s lifestyle.

Whether you’re looking for chiropractic care, massage therapy, nutritional supplements, or other complementary treatments, Atlanta Chiropractic and Wellness is here for you and your family. Contact us today for more information!

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