Hyperactivity and attention disorders (such as ADD, ADHD) in children have led many doctors, parents, and school districts to look at medical solutions and pills to resolve the behavior and learning issues that result from these diagnoses. There are alternatives treatments, however, that don’t lead to side-effects and other problems that medications can cause. Chiropractic care can be one of these alternatives.
What are ADD and ADHD?
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can start in childhood and persist throughout the lifetime. The symptoms affect all aspects of the patients’ lives, including learning, working, and relationships. While the causes are unknown, genetics are considered to be a strong factor, especially the genes that control neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. In addition, drinking and smoking during pregnancy, and other “obstetrical complications” can also be linked to ADHD. Children with head trauma, babies with low birth weight, and exposure to lead and PCBs, or other toxins, also seem to increase the risk. “ADHD always begins in childhood…[some are] not diagnosed until adulthood.” In ADHD, dopamine in the brain, might behave “sluggishly”, therefore treatments tend to involve stimmulants.1 Those with ADHD have trouble paying attention and listening, tend to be forgetful and off-task, and can display hyperactivity and impulsivity such as fidgeting, running at inappropriate times, and interrupting.2 With ADD, the hyperactivity component is removed. Patients may be emotionally sensitive and “perseverate”, with concrete thinking patterns, and they also tend to be distractible. They may appear to be shy and withdrawn and anxious, and they also have learning difficulties.3
Traditional Treatments for ADD/ADHD
The most common medical treatments for ADHD, which don’t even cure the problem, are the use of stimulants. They are used to reduce the distractibility and impulsivity so that the patient can focus more. The purpose of the stimulants is to get the brain to produce more of the neurotransmitters needed. Stimulants carry many side effects, such as headache and digestive issues, irritability, insomnia, and decreased appetite. Ritalin and Adderall are the most frequently prescribed medications for this disorder.4 Some medications prescribed are amphetamines, which risk abuse or addiction, and they even have been sold illegally. Not all people benefit from the medications, and they are not necessarily a “forever” solution. All medications need to be paired with coping skills.5
There are risks in jumping to the conclusion that ADD/ADHD need to be medicated. Aside from the side effects and risks of medication, some practitioners question the validity of the diagnoses. Dr. Peter Breggin stated, “Hyperactivity is the most frequent justification for drugging children…it’s just assumed to be a real disease, regardless of the failure to prove it so. Biochemical imbalance is the code word.”6 Instead of a first line of defense, medications may even be avoided by trying chiropractic. “Chiropractic care was 20 to 40 percent more effective than commonly used medications” in a study. Chiropractic adjustments, used to resolve subluxations (misalignments), can be paired with nutritional changes. Fresh, unrefined, and unprocessed foods, and reducing foods that cause inflammation (such as sugars and Omega-6 fatty acids) can help some patients.7 A published Mississippi State University evaluation of chiropractic manipulation in hyperactive children also showed promise.8 ADHD can be difficult to diagnose. This can lead to the over-prescription of serious medications. Alternative treatments can benefit many patients, without the risk of side effects. “Anything affecting postural muscles will consequently influence brain development…adjustment changes the brain function.”9