A systematic review of the literature on the chiropractic care of patients with autism spectrum disorder

Explore (NY). Nov-Dec 2011;7(6):384-90. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2011.08.001.


Background: In addition to impacting the affected child and his/her family's quality of life, recent estimates place the lifetime cost for an individual with ASD at $3.2 million and $35 billion for the entire birth cohort. Given the clinical heterogeneity of ASD, treatment approaches are multidisciplinary including alternative therapies, particularly when no pharmaceutical agent is effective for the core symptoms of ASD. Chiropractic is a popular alternative therapy for children. A systematic review of the literature was performed to provide context for future research endeavors in this field.

Methods: A systematic review of the literature on the chiropractic care of patients with ASD utilized 8 databases. Eligibility criteria for inclusion included: (1) the study was a primary investigation/report published in an English peer-reviewed journal; (2) the study involved patients ≤18 years; and (3) patients are diagnosed with autism, Asperger's Syndrome, PDD-NOS, or ASD.

Results: Our systematic review of the literature revealed a total of five articles consisting of three case reports, one cohort study and one randomized comparison trial. The literature is lacking on documenting the chiropractic care of children with ASD.

Discussion: At the heart of the core symptoms of ASD (ie, impaired social interactions, deficits in communication and repetitive or restricted behavioral patterns) is abnormal sensory processing. Preliminary studies indicate that the chiropractic adjustment may attenuate sensorimotor integration based on somatosensory evoked potentials studies.

Conclusion: We encourage further research for definitive studies on chiropractic's effectiveness for ASD. However, given the ineffectiveness of pharmaceutical agents, a trial of chiropractic care for sufferers of autism is prudent and warranted.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / therapy
  • Child
  • Child Development Disorders, Pervasive / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Humans
  • Manipulation, Chiropractic*