Autism and Chiropractic Care

As pediatric Chiropractic care becomes more understood and influences the lives of thousands of kids each day, the results continue to astound parents and professional alike.”
~ Dr. Nathan Wall

Pediatric Chiropractic Care Can Help with Autism

As with many things that have to do with the complex working of our body the answer to this is multifaceted. Although it is tangled with many aspects of the body the focus or “reoccurring theme” we concentrate on is the Central Nervous System.

If you have done just a small bit of research on autism you know that the Central Nervous System is greatly affected by this disorder and the difficulties this brings about are responsible for many of the issues seen in children with autism, such as hyperactivity, attention issues, sleep challenges, behavior problems, social issues, sensory processing issues, and more.

The other two systems most commonly affected by autism are the digestive and immune systems and this is because of how intimately linked the Central Nervous System is to both of them.

As many parents who have children with autism know it can wreak havoc on such things as the bowel and bladder as well as causing autoimmune issues, and more.


Possible Way the Nervous System can be Damaged or Injured

There are numerous ways to discuss, so we will focus on the major one for purpose of this article. The primary mode of injury we see in our office is what we would term Traumatic Birth Injury. For many of these children their nervous systems have been damaged right from the outset due to this birth injury, or even prior to that due to in-utero constraint issues (i.e. breech positioning).

Unfortunately, in the United States we have levels of birth intervention that even the WHO has termed to be at “epidemic” levels, especially the use of Cesarean delivery. The WHO states that C-section rates around 10% are normal and necessary, while anything above 15-20% “likely does more harm than good” – in the US 33-50% C-section rates are the norm for most hospitals.

It must also be realized, that even most vaginal deliveries are now induced or “augmented” as well. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed an increase in autism later on in life for induced births, confirming what we’ve been talking about in pediatric chiropractic for a long, long time.

The area that is most commonly injured during the birth process is the upper neck and skull. The risk of injury to these areas, and the resultant issues from it, go up exponentially as intervention levels go up. C-sections, forceps, vacuum extraction, and prolonged pushing all lead to greater risk of traumatic birth injury to the infants head and neck.

Unfortunately, no one in the medical system is really trained to check (or address) these sorts of injuries, so most of the time they go completely unmentioned to the parents… If the injury were addressed by a pediatric chiropractor shortly after it occurred, most of the neurological injuries associated with it could be prevented. If we are truly going to win the battle for autism in this country, we must learn how to prevent it, not cure it. This area would be a vital first step.


These Injuries and Their Effects

Once that injury occurs, it can put pressure on the brain stem and spinal cord, as well as the spinal nerves in the vicinity. What is more, by creating a misalignment and joint fixation complex (subluxation) in the area, it leads to improper neurological “signaling” or “communication” into and out of the central nervous system. This disruption to the communication system of the body is primarily the reason we see children who present with autism with so many of the same challenges such as sensory processing, social interaction and behavior, and learning.

All of this eventually puts the nervous system into a chronic or permanent state of stress. This is often referred to as the stress response, or fight/flight response. It is a response that is vital for short term reactions, but detrimental when “stuck on” for extended periods of time. Most children with autism have been in fight/flight from their first moments. This is why we see such a high correlation with infantile colic, ear infections, digestive disorders, and autism.

If our health care system were designed to find and address these challenges immediately, rather than waiting for the symptoms to appear, it is strongly considered that fewer children would be suffering with autism and related disorders. One can simply observe a child with autism and see the “stress and fear” in their eyes. It is such a joy to see this look change in their eyes as they progress through care in our office.

The chronic state of stress wreaks havoc on the immune and digestive systems, as both of them are “down-regulated” during chronic states of stress. Looking specifically to the digestive system, sustained neurological stress responses can lead to an increase in decreased motility, constriction, cramping, and inflammation (sound familiar?). When the digestive system is in this state it cannot break foods down as it was designed to do and other substances, leading to even further inflammation and irritation that can spill over into the bloodstream and cause an immune response.

The immune system faces the same challenges… think back to when you were facing a large stress in your life and soon after you became ill. I discovered this for myself in grad school immediately after taking national board exams. When we are in a constant state of neurological stress the immune system dysfunctions and leaves a child susceptible to allergies, asthma, eczema, and other inflammatory type reactions. So many of these are just written off as “it’s just autism” but there are true reasons behind these symptoms. All of this leads to more and more inflammation and irritation, and the cycle continues. This is why so many of these reactions and challenges are what we refer to as “viscous cycles” that essentially continue to feed each other and lead to greater and greater challenges. Somewhere, this cycle must be broken, and that is where chiropractic adjustments come into play.


Looking to the Root of the Problem

Restoring proper balance and alignment to the neuro-spinal system will help restore balance and function to the Central Nervous System. The severity and duration of this neuro-distress relates to the sometimes repeated adjustments and can create positive change in a step-by-step process that leads to an improvement in behavior, digestion, immunity, learning, sleep, and more. I do my best to convey to parents and professionals that the sooner we can evaluate and start with a child, the better our chances are of having success with such care.

The two major challenges that kids with spectrum disorders present with we find that the root of their issues are an over-stressed nervous system that is stuck on the “gas pedal” and this keeps the child in a protection mode right from the beginning of life or even before. An outstanding perspective on this is the quote “You can’t be in growth and protection at the same time.” by Dr. Bruce Lipton. This quote gives us the insight to the both the cause behind the issue and as well as the solution.


A child’s nervous system cannot be on the “gas pedal” (stress/protection) at the same time as it’s on the “brake pedal” (growth/development/organization/healing). A subluxation, specifically to the upper neck and brainstem area “locks in” the nervous system to that stress mode. A specifically trained pediatric chiropractor is the only provider on the planet trained to find and locate that subluxation, and if found, correct and resolve it. Doing so is analogous to “pumping the brakes” and getting the growth, relaxation, and healing system working again!

~Dr. Nathan Wall

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