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The Case For Improved Function

By Jeanne Ohm, DC

Attention deficit disorder and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD and ADHD) have become one of the most controversial health topics of our time. The alarming rise in diagnosis and evidence of risky treatment has spurred the mainstream media into addressing these concerns. It has been estimated that 4 to 6 million children are now being prescribed drugs, and the recommended age for treatment has dropped to include toddlers. The CDC has estimated that, in the United States, 9 percent of boys and 4 percent of girls are taking ADHD stimulant medications. ADHD drug prescriptions rose by almost 12 percent a year between 2000 and 2005.

In a 2008 article on his website, Dr. Joseph Mercola, a leading health educator in the U.S., wrote, “In 2007 alone, half a million children and teenagers were given at least one prescription for an antipsychotic, including 20,500 under the age of 6.” American children are also about three times more likely to be prescribed psychotropic drugs than children in Europe.

Many parents have had legitimate concerns about the treatment of ADHD with drugs for many years. Current media exposure has led even more parents to question the rise in the use of psychiatric drugs in children. On the CBS news special Healthwatch, a piece titled “ADHD Drug Warning” reported on recent research associating the risk of heart attacks with Ritalin use. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, CBS’s physician spokesperson, expressed good reason for concern and recommended safer, alternative models of care, such as chiropractic and nutrition.

There are numerous reasons why mainstream medicine often disregards these approaches to health. One is because allopathic doctors have little or no professional training or experience in either nutrition or neuro-biomechanics. Because they don’t understand the basic principles of nutrition and chiropractic, they rarely consider their use and effectiveness. This can be frustrating for parents visiting a pediatrician who completely disregards their suggestions for other options. Fortunately, more and more parents no longer rely on their pediatrician as the ultimate authority for their families’ health choices.

A Different Approach A major underlying difference between mainstream, mechanistic, allopathic medicine and vitalistic, wellness lifestyle care is that mainstream medicine operates in the paradigm of diagnosis and treatment of symptoms, while vitalism concerns itself with whole body function. Allopathic medicine’s focus on symptoms rather than body function can lead to a dangerous, false sense of cure. If symptoms can be changed with a drug, there is no need to look at the causes of those symptoms—and therefore, real healing and wellness cannot be achieved. Lifestyle habits that may have initiated and continue to perpetuate the symptoms are rarely regarded.

The two wellness lifestyle approaches mentioned by Dr. Jennifer Ashton—the nutritional approach and the chiropractic neurobiomechanical approach—are of a vitalistic paradigm. Vitalistic care differs from allopathic medicine in a number of ways.

  1. Vitalistic care focuses on naturally supporting and enhancing overall normal body function rather than the chemical alteration of symptoms with drugs.

  2. Vitalistic approaches recognize that the body has the inherent wisdom to function normally and that physical, emotional and chemical stressors may overload the body’s ability to do so. The goal is to remove these stressors, allowing the body to return to normal.

  3. Symptoms are recognized as body alerts that serve to reveal stress overload. From the vitalistic perspective, it is not important to label the condition, and it is considered counterproductive to silence these symptoms with drugs.

  4. Vitalistic care is not the diagnosis or treatment of conditions and diseases. Rather, it is a process of identifying and eliminating the cause of the body’s overload. Only when the overload has been eliminated can a person experience wellness.

  5. Finally, the vitalistic approach is encouraged before symptoms even appear. In the case of chiropractic wellness care, spinal checks are encouraged to enhance nerve system function and overall health, with or without symptoms.

ADHD is classified as a neurobiological disorder. To get to the causes of its symptoms, one must address the neurological system. That being said, it is important to understand that there are three major stressors to our nerve system function: physical, emotional and chemical. Chiropractors sometimes call them the Three T’s: traumas, thoughts and toxins. An overload of any of these stressors has a major impact on central nerve system function via spinal misalignment. Most obvious is physical trauma. Jars, jolts and other impacts—even microtraumas such as poor posture and positioning—affect spinal alignment, and therefore directly impact nerve system function. Stressful thoughts and emotions have a direct relationship with body physiology as well. They create an overstimulated nerve system, tensing muscles and misaligning the spine, thereby impairing nerve system function. Toxic overload, in the form of poor foods, drinks and medicines also affects normal body function, with a consequent neuro-muscular reaction, resulting in spinal misalignment and nerve system impairment.

Spinal misalignment causes distress to the central nervous system and can therefore affect normal nerve activity and function. Spinal misalignment also causes a decrease in normal spinal movement, and this, too, has a great impact on nerve system function. This decrease in normal spinal movement affects proprioceptive activity in the nerve system, which is necessary for communication between the spine and brain and allows a variety of neurological functions to be accomplished. If spinal motion is impaired, brain function will also be compromised.

When a child is exhibiting signs of ADHD, it is imperative to find any undue stressors that might be inhibiting nerve system function. Chiropractic care addresses these spinal misalignments. Specific techniques detect and adjust areas of the spine, alleviating stress, restoring normal spinal motion and enhancing nerve system function.

Safe and Effective

Doctors of chiropractic use only gentle and safe techniques when adjusting children. One study done by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association was recently published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. In more than 14,000 children’s visits to chiropractors, no adverse events were reported. Only a handful of children experienced slight discomfort after the initial adjustment, and this discomfort was quickly resolved in all cases. Almost all participants experienced positive changes in their presenting symptoms. The data revealed some unexpected findings: In addition to the alleviation of the child’s initial presenting symptoms, other improvements were reported by both parents and practitioners. The adjustment resulted in better sleep patterns, enhanced immune system function and better moods and behaviors. The side effects of chiropractic care for these children was better overall function and improved quality of life!

Modern living imposes numerous stress overloads, and as parents, we are witnessing an increased onslaught of physical, emotional and chemical stressors to our families’ well-being. Fortunately, as a society we are becoming more aware of these stressors and are adjusting our lifestyles to decrease their effects. The hope for our future lies in addressing the elimination of these stressors—this being a complete overhaul in all aspects of our modern society. Until then, family wellness is dependent upon two factors: selective lifestyle habits that decrease our exposure to these stressors, and informed choices in healthcare that naturally and safely support our inherent ability to counteract them. Chiropractic family wellness care is one vital step toward enhancing our innate well-being.

Jeanne OhmAbout the Author:Dr. Jeanne Ohm is an author, international lecturer and chiropractor whose focus reflects the essence of the family wellness lifestyle. She and her husband, Dr. Tom Ohm, have been practicing together for almost 30 years. Having six children of their own, they have experienced the joys and the challenges of natural parenting. Jeanne can be reached via her website,