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Chiropractic care for cerebral palsy helps many people get some relief from stiff muscles, pain, and other symptoms. Chiropractic is a holistic type of healthcare that focuses on manipulating the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine. Risks associated with this type of care are low but talk to your doctors before working with a licensed chiropractor.
What Is Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic care, which is sometimes referred to as chiropractic intervention, is a natural type of healthcare in which licensed chiropractors perform different techniques to help reduce pain and spasms and help to restore proper nervous system function.
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), chiropractic care focuses on musculoskeletal system disorders and nervous system disorders.
The Palmer College of Chiropractic reports that “no part of your body escapes the dominance of your nervous system.” This means that misalignment (subluxations) or other improper functions of the spinal cord and other areas of the body can result in poor health and improper nervous system functioning.
Treatment includes focusing on various parts of the body, including the back, neck, shoulders, hands, and joints in the arms and legs.
Chiropractic care can also center on therapeutic exercises and individualized diet plans. Treatment is typically done without any medications, although some chiropractors can prescribe certain medications if needed.
Chiropractic Care and Cerebral Palsy
Several documented case studies show that children with cerebral palsy who received chiropractic care showed neuromuscular and mobility improvement. Some were able to sit up (when they previously couldn’t), walk upstairs without assistance, and use their arms and hands better.
For instance, Dr. Dan Van Roon of the Van Roon Chiropractic in Massachusetts wrote that an 8-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, who suffered from frequent seizures and tremors, was treated with chiropractic care after previous medical efforts (physical therapy, acupuncture) failed to work.
Within nine weeks of receiving chiropractic intervention, which included 22 chiropractic adjustments, her mother reported that the child could walk upright and walk upstairs by herself, two things she was previously incapable of doing. The young girl’s parents also reported that her muscles were not as limp, but she also gained confidence, walked steadier, and had a significant improvement in her emotional state.
In another case, Dr. Van Roon wrote that a 7-year-old boy who didn’t start walking until he was five also showed significant improvement after receiving chiropractic care. Before treatment, he had seizures, pain and numbness in his limbs, tremors, throat pain, nosebleeds, anemia, and excruciating foot pain.
After his first chiropractic session, he began showing improvement. As treatment progressed, so did the boy’s improvements. He gained strength, started walking longer distances, and improved both sleep quality and education.
Other areas of improvement reported after children with cerebral palsy had chiropractic care include a reduction in:
- Pain and muscle stiffness
- Breathing problems
- Muscle contractions
- Neck pain
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Gait issues
- Spine issues
- Anxiety and stress
- Headaches and chest pain
- Leg/arm problems
- Speech problems due to respiratory issues
- Urinary incontinence
Typical Chiropractic Treatment
During the first chiropractic session, a complete medical history should be provided so that the chiropractor can be familiar with the child’s medical history. Afterward, the chiropractor will likely ask you and your child specific questions about pain and any activities that make the pain worse.
This is then followed by an exam (which could include diagnostic tests such as X-rays or an MRI test) to look at:
- Neurological integrity
- Range of motion (in the affected area)
- Muscle tone and strength
- Flexion-Distraction therapy
Treatment will depend upon the child’s medical history and physical exam results. However, common forms of treatment include:
- Spine adjustments, which can include low spine adjustments, complete spine adjustments, the “Activator” technique, or the “Gonstead” technique
- Adjustment to joint dysfunctions
- Electrical stimulation
- Heat/cold applications
- Myofascial release
Treatment will consist of a number of sessions over time. Each session can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the chiropractor’s techniques and the child or family’s concerns or medical issues. For example, treatment for lower back pain may require 1 to 3 visits a week for up to 2 to 3 months.
Chiropractic care takes place in several different settings, such as hospitals, clinics, or a private provider’s office. Most chiropractors operate their business from a private office.
Things to Know Beforehand
Sometimes, young children and even parents may get scared of a few things in a chiropractor’s office. For instance, when a chiropractor is in the process of making an adjustment, you’ll likely hear a popping sound. This does not mean that any bones are broken. It simply means the chiropractor released gas from fluids surrounding the joints.
Your child may experience mild discomfort, but typically, visiting a chiropractor shouldn’t be painful. If your child cries (due to pain) or complains the procedures are too painful, do not hesitate to discuss it with the chiropractor, and if needed, seek out a different one.
When selecting a chiropractor for your child, especially children with cerebral palsy, find someone with experience treating children and treating people with cerebral palsy. Other factors to consider when choosing a chiropractor include:
- Experience working with other healthcare providers and coordinating care
If you have any questions or need suggestions on which chiropractor to choose, start with your child’s primary healthcare provider. You’ll also need to contact your child’s insurance provider to make sure they cover chiropractic care.
While some insurances will cover it, other insurances may not cover what is considered “complementary” care. Some insurances may cover the costs of a chiropractor only after your child’s primary doctor grants a medical referral to a chiropractor. Talk to your child’s medical team before beginning chiropractic care.
- About Chiropractic. What is Chiropractic? (2019, September 20). American Chiropractic Association.
Retrieved from: https://handsdownbetter.org/about-chiropractic/
- What is Chiropractic? (n.d.). Palmer College of Chiropractic
Retrieved from: http://www.palmer.edu/about-us/what-is-chiropractic/
- Murrayville Family Chiropractic. (n.d.). Cerebral Palsy Helped With Chiropractic Care, Four Case Studies: Van Roon Chiropractic.
Retrieved from: https://murrayvillechiropractic.com/blog/cerebral-palsy-helped-with-chiropractic-care/
- Chiropractic adjustment. (2018, December 7). Mayo Clinic - Mayo Clinic.
Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/chiropractic-adjustment/about/pac-20393513