Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is the most common psychiatric diagnosis in children. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says three to five percent of all American children are afflicted with some type of attention disorder, which can be express behaviorally or cognitively. But there are no blood tests or medical procedures that can confirm a diagnosis.
The cause of ADD/ADHD remains a medical mystery so treatments have developed based on the visible symptoms, the best known being hyperactivity. But lethargy is also a warning sign, as is an inability to organize, fidgeting, talking too much, leaving projects or homework unfinished, and having trouble paying attention to and responding to details.
Even though the guidelines are specific, a diagnosis is still subjective because to a certain extent most of these symptoms are normal childhood behaviors at one time or another. At what point do individual eccentricities become a medical condition requiring personality altering drugs? It is a line that remains blurred.
During the 1990s, the number of children on behavioral medication skyrocketed, with prescriptions for ADHD medications quintupling from 1991 to 2006. Over that same time period, Ritalin use for the symptoms of ADD/ADHD increased 700 percent. More sobering is that ADHD medications prescriptions for children two to four years-old increased almost 300 percent between 1991 and 1995. An especially high number of foster children end up on behavioral medication.
Typical medications include Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta. But prescribing children psychotropic stimulants has created a growing debate over the long-term effects and the lack of standardized diagnostic tests for ADD/ADHD. Proponents of behavioral drugs say they enable afflicted children to function and be productive while opponents say drugs are increasingly used as a quick fix to treat what may be an emotional issue or simple developmental cause or maybe advocated by some teachers as a form of classroom control.
As a result, many parents have sought to find alternative therapies. According to the American Chiropractic Association, many chiropractors and chiropractic neurologists are now reporting promising results with non-drug treatments that focus on postural muscles, nutrition, and lifestyle changes that positively affect brain activity.
Inother words, they offer a non-drug and non-invasive treatment alternative that targets the underlying problems. Dr. Robert Melillo, a chiropractic neurologist, explains: “Motor activity—especially development of the postural muscles—is the baseline function of brain activity. Anything affecting postural muscles will influence brain development. Musculoskeletal imbalance will create imbalance of brain activity, and one part of the brain will develop faster than the other, and that’s what’s happening in ADHD patients.”
Chiropractic neurologists identify the under-functioning area of the brain in order to develop treatments to correct the problem. To that end, every patient receives a brain function exam. The chiropractor tests visual and auditory reflexes. Once the problem is identified, a treatment program is initiated and most of the therapies, which may include balancing exercises or even wearing special glasses, can be done at home. The point is to change the brain function so the improvements don’t go away, as they do when behavioral drugs are stopped, for instance. Chiropractic neurologists also suggest an array of lifestyle adjustments such as removing as many food dyes, sugar, preservatives, and additives from the child’s diet as possible.
Although there are no available studies yet comparing chiropractic neurological and medical treatment for ADHD, chiropractic neurologists are compiling the data and hope to have an analysis soon.
If you have a child diagnosed with ADHD or has the symptoms, ask your chiropractor if they have experience treating patients with the condition.
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