Chiropractic and autism: What’s the evidence?

“Many chiropractors and other manipulative therapists purport to treat autism and related disorders with good improvements,” according to a review in Clinical Chiropractic.

Aside from case reports, support for the role of chiropractic is limited to one study in 26 autistic children who were followed for 9 months.

Here are the results.

  • Many children taken off methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Bladder and bowel control improved
  • In some children, improved speech, eye contact, and attention span
  • Hyperactivity and aggressive behavior reduced in other children
  • Five children were able to attend mainstream classes at school for the first time

The researchers believed that correcting a chiropractic subluxation improved local neurological function and permitted for more neurological integration, enabling an overall improvement in function.

However, they also acknowledge, with no control group to compare to, it’s difficult to separate the effects of manipulation from the changes that occur naturally with age.

It always comes down to a lack of sufficient evidence. Maybe just one placebo-controlled trial in a sufficient number of patients to permit statistical analysis would be helpful. Considering the number of chiropractors in the world, this should be doable.


10/15/06 18:26 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.