Studies have shown that chiropractic care in conjunction with conventional medical treatment can lessen pain and enhance levels of functioning for some patients with musculoskeletal injuries or painful conditions. But could it useful for individuals with special needs?
A quick search of the internet will turn up numerous claims about how chiropractic is a beneficial treatment from everything from ASD to sensory integration disorders to multiple sclerosis to cerebral palsy. The problem lies in the fact that most of these claims are made on the websites of chiropractors and frequently without resources to back them up. That said, some scientists believe that chiropractic shows promise and that more research is needed on the effects of chiropractic treatment on patients with various disabilities. Here is what we know now:
- A small study reported by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in 2016 found a “decrease in wrist muscle spasticity after spinal manipulation in [young] patients with CP. Reduction in spasticity was further potentiated during the 2-week course of treatment.”
- In a 2018 study, there were similar findings. In conclusion, study writers said, “these findings suggest that SM (spinal manipulation) may, in the short term, help to reduce spasticity in participants with CP. Long-term effects of SM on muscle spasticity have yet to be studied.”
- A 2020 study reported in the journal Children found that “ankle joint mobilization [by manual chiropractic manipulation] can be regarded as a promising method to increase dorsiflexion and improve gait in CP-suffering children.”
The jury is out with regard to chiropractic medicine’s efficacy in treating MS pain. According to Everyday Health, “chiropractic care may help with chronic pain in patients with MS and most people who had chiropractic care for MS would recommend the treatment to other MS patients.”
Sensory Processing Disorder
A 2018 case study and literature review in Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health Chiropractic, Volume 2018 “presents the improvement in a child with SPD [sensory processing disorder], sleep challenges, and speech delay after reduction of vertebral subluxation [displacements of the spinal bones].” Based on their findings, study authors recommended further research.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics reported significant developmental advancements in a four-year-old boy with developmental delays over a five-month course of chiropractic care. Study authors concluded that their data showed “a possible association between chiropractic care and improvements in delayed development in a four-year-old child. Additional research is necessary to further understand the role chiropractors may play in caring for children with developmental delays.”
Though many chiropractors tout the benefits of chiropractic medicine for children with Asperger’s syndrome, there is not much research to support their claims. Indeed, many skeptics say that these claims represent nothing but “pseudoscience.”
That said, some patients insist they experience relief from particular chiropractic techniques. For example, a study published in Journal of Pediatric, Maternal & Family Health Chiropractic, reported that a 9-year-old boy with ASD who saw a chiropractor for back, neck and abdominal pain as well as anxiety found relief of musculoskeletal symptoms and behavioral challenges. Study authors concluded that “This study provides supporting evidence on the benefits of chiropractic care in patients with ASD. Additional research on this is recommended.” This study provides supporting evidence on the benefits of chiropractic care in patients with ASD. Additional research on this is recommended.
The bottom line? We can’t endorse chiropractic for disabilities based on the research we’ve found. But it’s worth watching what future research about this alternative treatment may discover.