Improvement in Autistic Behaviors Following Chiropractic Care: A Case Series
Today we are going to discuss a 2011 Case Series titled, Improvement in Autistic Behaviors Following Chiropractic Care. This case series was published in the Journal Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health, in December of 2011.
As many of you are all too well aware, the rate of Autism is rising at an extremely alarming rate. In the United States, as of 2021, 1 in 44 children are being diagnosed with Autism! In the 1990’s the rate was 2 out of 1000 children and in the 1980’s it was 10x’s less than that, just .1 – .4 children per 1000 were being diagnosed with autism!
We need all hands on deck to tackle this massive health issue. Today’s discussion is NOT focused on the likely causes of this massive increase, rather I want to focus on a case series that showed improvement in autistic behaviors following chiropractic care.
As noted in the introduction in this paper, Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by abnormal social interactions and communication concurrent with repetitive behaviors and mannerisms.
From the paper’s Abstract, Methods & Outcomes sections:
Clinical Features: This case series involves two case studies. Case one involves a 20-year old autistic male who displays aggressive behavior towards others. Case two is a 17-year old autistic female who abuses herself.
Intervention and outcome: Both patients received a trial of chiropractic care for 5 and 4 months respectively with visit frequency of once per week. Both patients responded favorably to chiropractic care with the male patient decreasing in aggressive behavior and the female patient decreasing in self-abuse and improved socialization.
For the case involving the male, he attended a total of 20 chiropractic visits and was adjusted using a low force Activator adjusting tool. He began showing signs of improvement after his 4th adjustment that involved being more co-operative, having a longer attention span and he even began to watch tv which he had not previously done.
For the case involving the female, she attended a total of 16 office visits and was adjusted using a combination of low force Activator tool adjustments and drop table adjustments. She began to show signs of improvement after her third visit in the form of sleeping through the night, which was unusual and she demonstrated less self-abuse.
Conclusions: Each had favorable results after undergoing chiropractic care. This case series provides supporting evidence that individuals with autism may benefit from chiropractic care. More research is warranted in this area.
Now let’s talk about the likely mechanisms behind chiropractic care and the results from this case series. As we discussed recently in another neurodevelopmental disorder and chiropractic paper summary, the MAIN goal of chiropractic care is to improve brain-body, body-brain communication. We do that by analyzing the spine for abnormally positioned or abnormally moving spinal segments, known as vertebral subluxations. Vertebral subluxations are corrected by specific chiropractic adjustments. Because vertebral subluxations, by the stress caused to the surrounding spinal cord and nerve roots, cause nervous system interference, it should make sense that correcting vertebral subluxations reduces nervous system interference and therefore could help those suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders. I will cover the more technical aspects of exactly how this works but first;
It is very important to note: people alway ask, does chiropractic cure this or can chiropractic fix so and so conditions? The answer is no, chiropractic is designed to do one thing and one thing only: correct vertebral subluxations which enables the body to better do what it was designed to do! Of course, by helping the body to better do what it is designed to do, this results in improved health & healing which explains why so many health challenges and perhaps why the two individuals with autism as described in this case series responded well to chiropractic care!
Now, to get technical about how chiropractic care improves brain-body, body-brain communication. The authors describe one likely mechanisms of action:
Recent research has demonstrated that spinal adjustments to vertebral subluxations can lead to neural plastic changes in the central nervous system (As demonstrated in the 2010 paper Haavik, Taylor, Holt, Murphy, Exploring the neuromodulatory effects of the vertebral subluxation and chiropractic care in the Chiropractic Journal of Australia). Plastic changes in the brain can alter the way the brain synthesizes and releases neurotransmitters. This may be significant as abnormal levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin have been found in individuals with ASD. Serotonin has been shown to play a role in social and emotional behavior. If chiropractic adjustments alter serotonin levels this may in turn cause changes in autistic behaviors.
I will add one more paragraph that discusses another possible mechanism behind chiropractic care helping these two individuals. This comes from the conclusion of the 2015 paper, Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Chiropractic: A Systematic Review of the Literature:
If we consider the new research that shows chiropractic adjustments having a direct effect on neural plasticity of the central nervous system (as demonstrated by the breakthrough research paper by Haavik-Taylor published in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology in February of 2007) and other research linking abnormal stimuli to plastic changes within the central nervous system along with the case studies herein which show associated benefits from chiropractic treatment with regards to neurodevelopmental disorders. The mechanisms by which this could happen appears plausible. Further advances in neural plasticity research may yet reveal stronger connections to chiropractic treatment.
So as you can see, there are multiple mechanisms that may explain the positive results these two individuals with autism had following chiropractic care.
Therefore, I want to wrap up today’s discussion with the following key takeaway.
Chiropractic is a safe, drug-free approach to helping the body function better and should be considered for those individuals that have autism as part of a multidisciplinary approach to care. I hope you found this information helpful, please share this episode with anyone you feel may benefit from hearing it.
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Finally, Thank you very much for listening and until next time, have a Fantastic Day!
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