Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral illness common in school age children, characterized by a lack of concentration and the inability to control impulsive behavior. Whereas many parents of small children may view such activity as typical, in the ADHD child they are at such an extreme end of the spectrum that learning becomes difficult. Disruptive actions may also threaten the education of other students as teachers struggle to contain the affected individual.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over 5 million children in the US (nearly 10%) have been diagnosed as having ADHD, this statistic having risen by 22% between 2003 and 2007. Prevalence is two to three times more common in boys than girls. Since it is normal for many children to display some of the signs of ADHD, diagnosis is very much at the discretion of the treating doctor. As such, a large number of professionals within both medicine and education have voiced concern that many highly imaginative and energetic children may be wrongly labeled as having the disorder. Untreated ADHD may linger into adulthood, giving rise to problems in obtaining and keeping employment and increasing the risk of other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Social exclusion is also a very real concern.
Current medical treatment strategies for ADHD include behavior management, parental education and often medication with stimulant drugs such as Ritalin. While Ritalin has had some short-term success, medicating school age children using a drug with similarities to both cocaine and amphetamine understandably troubles many parents and health professionals. Long-term evidence of its efficacy remains unproven and several problematic side-effects have been recorded, including slight delayed growth, cardiovascular problems and withdrawal reactions. From a holistic perspective, stimulating an already hyperactive child with psychoactive medication is viewed as a counter-productive measure.
With its emphasis on the health of the spine and nervous system, chiropractic care has justifiably been sought by many parents as an alternative to conventional medical treatment. In addition to correcting any postural and structural misalignment that may adversely affect nervous system function, chiropractors are also able to offer a range of advice on lifestyle choices and nutrition that can both help to manage the symptoms of ADHD and sometimes resolve the problem altogether. As a holistic system of treatment, chiropractic therapy looks at all the systems of the body to provide a complete picture of health and, since ADHD often co-occurs with other medical and behavioral problems, this may provide important evidence for the underlying physical or neurochemical causes behind the illness.
A recent review of chiropractic treatment of ADHD at one clinic suggests definite benefits of chiropractic care for a range of symptoms including hyperactivity, attentiveness and impulsive behavior, as well as improving both emotional and social well-being. With this in mind, and given the lack of a safe and proven medical alternative, it is believed that chiropractic therapy, along with other complementary and alternative approaches to the treatment of ADHD, will become much more widely used in coming years.