Children, ADD/ADHD, and Chiropractic

This section was compiled by Frank M. Painter, D.C.
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FROM:   Reprinted with permission from The Chiropractic Journal

by Dr. Christopher Kent

Controversy surrounds the medical treatment, indeed the very existence, of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Psychiatrist Peter Breggin wrote, "Hyperactivity is the most frequent justification for drugging children. The difficult-to-control male child is certainly not a new phenomenon, but attempts to give him a medical diagnosis are the product of modern psychology and psychiatry. At first psychiatrists called hyperactivity a brain disease. When no brain disease could be found, they changed it to 'minimal brain disease' (MBD). When no minimal brain disease could be found the profession transformed the concept into 'minimal brain dysfunction.' When no minimal brain dysfunction could be demonstrated, the label became attention deficit disorder. Now it's just assumed to be a real disease, regardless of the failure to prove it so. Biochemical imbalance is the code word, but there's no more evidence for that than there is for actual brain disease." [1]

The use of psychotropic drugs in children has exploded in recent years [2]. The number of prescriptions written for methylphenidate (Ritalin) has increased by a factor of five since 1991. The production of Adderall and Dexedrine, also used to treat ADHD, has risen 2,000% in nine years. The increased use of these drugs in the U.S. is at variance with the rest of the world. According to the U.N., the U.S. produces and consumes 85% of the world's production of methylphenidate. [3]

The use of Class II controlled substances to alter the behavior of children is disconcerting to many parents and chiropractors, as is the issue of whether ADD/ADHD can be properly considered a disease.

While chiropractors do not "treat" ADD/ADHD, the effects of chiropractic care on children diagnosed with learning disorders and hyperactivity have been described in a growing body of scholarly publications.

A study published in 1975, compared chiropractic care with drug treatment in children with learning and behavioral impairments due to neurological dysfunction. It was reported that chiropractic care "was more effective for the wide range of symptoms common in the neurological dysfunction syndrome in which thirteen symptom or problem areas were considered." The author also reported that chiropractic care was 24% more effective than commonly used medications. [4]

Giesen at al conducted a study involving seven subjects. All subjects were of school age and had clinical findings evidencing vertebral subluxation complex. Following chiropractic care, 57% showed an improvement in chiropractic radiographic findings; 71.4% showed a reduction in overt behavior activity; 57% showed improvement in level of autonomic activity, and 57% showed improvement in parental ratings of hyperactivity. [5]

In addition to these small studies, case reports have been published which describe improvement of objective and subjective findings in children with ADD/ADHD and related disorders. [6-14].

More research exploring the relationship of subluxation correction to brain function is needed. Yet, the dramatic changes that have been reported in children medically diagnosed with ADD/ADHD following chiropractic care must not be ignored. Every child with a vertebral subluxation needs chiropractic care, regardless of whether or not symptoms are present. By correcting nerve interference, function is improved, with greater expression of human potential. Many report terminating drug therapy, and seeing the personality, will, and soul of the child unfolding.

As Maria Montessori wrote, "It is easy to substitute our will for that of the child by means of suggestion or coercion; but when we have done this we have robbed him of his greatest right, the right to construct his own personality." [1]


  1. Breggin PR:
    Toxic Psychiatry.
    St. Martin's Press.
    New York. 1991. Chapters 12 and 13

  2. Zito JM, Safer DJ, dosReis S, et al
    Trends in the prescribing of psychotropic medications to preschoolers
    JAMA 2000;283:1025

  3. Statistics confirm rise in childhood ADHD and medication use.

  4. Walton EV:
    The effects of chiropractic treatment on students with learning and behavioral impairments due to neurological dysfunction.
    International Review of Chiropractic 1975;29:4-5:24-26

  5. Giesen JM, Center DB, Leach RA
    An evaluation of chiropractic manipulation as a treatment
    for hyperactivity in children

    JMPT 1989;12:353-363

  6. Arme J:
    Effects of biomechanical insult correction on attention deficit disorder.
    Journal of Chiropractic Case Reports, 1993:1(1)

  7. Hospers LA:
    EEG and CEEG studies before and after upper cervical or SOT category 2 adjustment in children after head trauma, in epilepsy, and in 'hyperactivity.'
    Proceedings of the National Conference on Chiropractic and Pediatrics (ICA) 1992;84-139

  8. Barnes TA:
    A multifaceted approach to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a case report.
    International Review of Chiropractic Jan/Feb 1995; pp. 41-43

  9. Phillips CJ:
    Case study: the effect of utilizing spinal manipulation and craniosacral therapy as the treatment approach for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
    Proceedings of the National Conference on Chiropractic and Pediatrics (ICA), 1991:57-74

  10. Langley C:
    Epileptic seizures, Nocturnal enuresis, ADD.
    Chiropractic Pediatrics April 1995, Vol. 1, No. 1

  11. Thomas MD, Wood J:
    Upper cervical adjustments may improve mental function.
    J Man Med 1992;6:215

  12. Araghi HG:
    Oral apraxia: a case study in chiropractic in chiropractic management.
    Proceedings of the National Conference on Chiropractic and Pediatrics (ICA), 1994, beginning p. 34

  13. Manuelle JD, Fysch PA:
    Acquired verbal aphasia in a seven-year-old female: case report.
    J Clin Chiropr Ped 1996;1:89

  14. Peet JB:
    Adjusting the hyperactive/ADD pediatric patient.
    Chiro Pediatr 1997;2(4):12

(Dr. Christopher Kent, president of the Council on Chiropractic Practice, is a 1973 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. The WCA's "Chiropractic Researcher of the Year" in 1994, and recipient of that honor from the ICA in 1991, he was also named ICA "Chiropractor of the Year" in 1998. Dr. Kent is director of research and a co-founder of Chiropractic Leadership Alliance. With Dr. Patrick Gentempo, Jr., Dr. Kent produces a monthly audio series, "On Purpose," covering current events in science, politics, and philosophy of vital interest to the practicing chiropractor.)

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