Cerebral Palsy and Chiropractic Care
This article has been fact checked by a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Sources of information for the article are listed at the bottom.
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Chiropractic care for children with cerebral palsy is considered (in most cases) a natural form of treatment that can help with a number of musculoskeletal and nervous system conditions. Past results have been so successful that chiropractic care is a highly sought therapy.
What is Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic care, 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 do have the capability of prescribing certain medications, if needed.
Chiropractic Care and Cerebral Palsy
A number of 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 up stairs 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 was able to walk upright and walk up stairs by herself, two things she was previously incapable of doing. The young girl’s parents also reported that not only were her muscles not as limp, she also gained confidence, walked steadier, and had a large 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 5, also showed significant improvement after receiving chiropractic care. Prior to 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 had improvement in 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 full 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/or 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) that may include studying the child’s:
- Neurological integrity
- Range of motion (in the affected area)
- Muscle tone and strength
- Flexion Distraction therapy, and more
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, full spine adjustments, the “Activator” technique, and/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 that happen 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, it’s recommended to find someone with experience not only with treating children, but also treating people with cerebral palsy. Other factors to consider when choosing a chiropractor include:
- Experience working with other healthcare providers and easily 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.