When working with children is more than adjusting small bodies, and the benefits of chiropractic for children are broad
For over 15 years I have treated children with chiropractic care and have seen the benefits of chiropractic for children first hand. I am currently a senior clinician and assistant professor of pediatrics, directing trimester 8-10 students in the pediatric rotation, one of the most coveted and competitive clinical rotations in the university.
As a practicing pediatrician, I treat a wide variety of cases every day, from ear infections and plagiocephaly to torticollis and colic. I’m constantly solving new challenges, but nothing compares to the whirlwind of a case my team and I recently took that left medical professionals stunned for years. This patient originally came to us for a musculoskeletal problem, but after a thorough evaluation, we discovered a multitude of symptoms and psychosocial triggers beneath the surface. We were stunned by the depth of this patient’s case and how much these symptoms affected him psychosocially.
Case Study: Matthew
Matthew (names in this article have been changed for confidentiality reasons) is a 9 year old boy who loves to laugh, tell jokes, play video games and spend time with his friends. But when we first met Matthew for his first exam, he looked like he’d had a week-long sabbatical.
He had dark bags under his eyes, he was extremely tired, his lips, hands and feet were swollen, he was overweight, his whole body ached and his emotions were confused. There was no luck in Matthew, and it was obvious that he was exhausted from fighting to enjoy his life.
Matthew had a rough start in life. He was born addicted to narcotics, but was adopted as a baby into a loving and supportive home. Shortly after his adoption, he had his first medical scare in the back seat of his mother’s car. Matthew’s mother, Kathy, noticed that her son had suddenly stopped babbling while driving on a long, deserted stretch of Kentucky Highway on his way to visit relatives. She thought he had fallen asleep and drove on, but a gut feeling told her something wasn’t right, so she pulled the car to the side of the road. Kathy panicked when she realized Matthew’s lips were blue and she couldn’t tell if he was breathing. She called 911 and within minutes emergency medical services rushed her baby to the nearest hospital.
Matthew was diagnosed with idiopathic angioedema – swelling caused by an allergic reaction or medication – which is a very serious and sometimes life-threatening diagnosis. After this incident, Matthew seemed fine until he turned 6 and started having similar seizures. In the years that followed, Matthew had months-long spells where he had 2-3 episodes every week.
He and his mother sought answers from many specialists and medical professionals, but they continued to receive the same diagnosis without a clear treatment plan. Matthew was prescribed several drugs by several doctors in the hopes of finding something to solve the problem, but the only thing that seemed to stop the progression of his breathing difficulties was an EpiPen.
For three years, Matthew lived off EpiPen injections. Each administration resulted in a trip to the emergency room, where they would monitor his symptoms and give him fluids until they were comfortable with discharge. Matthew would then return home and live his normal life until another attack struck, sometimes just days later. It was an endless cycle that lasted three years, and then my team was presented with this case.
Seeking Chiropractic Care
Kathy originally sought chiropractic care for Matthew after noticing that he was struggling with joint pain and fatigue, but after doing a thorough history and examination, we discovered a variety of symptoms and psychosocial triggers that warranted further attention. Like most children, Matthew expressed frustration with virtual education, separation from friends and family and the overall lack of socialization due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At first, the adjustments Matthew was getting seemed to control the attacks, but the relief didn’t last as there was no apparent rhyme or reason for the attacks. We could tell he was immunocompromised and something was aggravating his system, and while the cause appeared to be internal, the exact origin was unknown. As we began to unravel this complicated case, we noticed an increase in Matthew’s emotional outbursts and irritability. These episodes appeared to be aimed at his mother and usually worsened after using the EpiPen.
Put the puzzle pieces together
Since chiropractic care isn’t about treating symptoms, but figuring out why the symptoms occur in the first place, we set out to pinpoint the source or cause of Matthew’s problem by putting the puzzle pieces – or symptoms – together. and look at the big picture.
Each attack started in the same way: with severe abdominal pain. His lips would begin to swell along with his uvula, leading to his EpiPen being used. Matthew is on a lot of over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications, but no one has been able to determine what he is actually allergic to, so we referred him to another immunologist and suggested ordering a complete blood test and urinalysis to see what else we could learn about him. .
After two weeks, we received the test results that revealed inflammatory markers in his blood work, but nothing correlated with a specific diagnosis. His doctors and my pediatric team were again left with more questions than answers.
During one of our pediatric clinical case discussions, we debated the possibility that Matthew was using the episodes as an excuse not to participate in certain activities, as the seizures usually occurred while he was in an uncomfortable situation or forced to do something. what he didn’t. want to do. We began to think that he had the ability to initiate an episode and completely reframe our thinking, now looking at the patient through the lens of fear rather than allergies.
If our thinking was correct, Matthew lived on the fake adrenaline high of an EpiPen for the past two years. What additional problems could this unnecessary epinephrine cause for the rest of his body?
The following week, Matthew went to summer camp. He was anxious and stressed to go, but his mother persuaded him. On the first day of camp, Matthew had a seizure. The nurse administered his EpiPen and he was taken to the emergency room. On the way home, Matthew confessed to Kathy that he faked the attack to get out of summer camp.
Kathy made an appointment at the university right away, just like after any other attack. This time, however, Matthew had a seizure and refused to come, which was very strange for him. I believe Matthew knew my team and I understood what was really going on, and he was afraid to see us, feeling like he had broken the trust and the strong bond we had formed together.
During Matthew’s appointment, we calmed him down and performed his typical adjustment. We referred Matthew to be assessed by a psychologist and psychiatrist and put in place a plan to implement counseling in conjunction with his regular chiropractic adjustments, which has since eliminated EpiPen use and emergency room visits. In addition, through our diligent approach to looking at the whole patient, we found a drug interaction that caused an increased heart rate and decreased gastric pH, eliminating two of the key symptoms of Matthew’s seizures.
Benefits of Chiropractic for Children and Holistic Solutions
Through our dedication to solving Matthew’s case and digging beyond superficial information, a 9-year-old boy can now enjoy a more normal life. We trained and empowered Matthew and his mother to better dictate their care throughout the medical system, we discovered Matthew’s ability to initiate and control his seizures, and we discovered the psychosocial aspect of this case, which shows that this went much deeper than an immune response.
My team and I learned a lot from our experience with Matthew and his mother, as it reminded us that pediatric chiropractic and the benefits of chiropractic for children are so much more than adjusting small bodies. He taught us about the challenges of treating pediatric patients with regard to psychosocial, communication and emotional problems.
Pediatric chiropractic did not necessarily save his life, but the dedication of pediatric chiropractic clinicians and students may eventually have.
ALLISON HARVEY, DC, is a senior clinician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Logan University. She received a BS in Kinesiology from Illinois State University in 2001 and graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic’s DC program in 2006. Her goal is to allow each patient to experience his or her optimal health. She strives to educate the patient about what is causing their pain and then create a plan on how they can help and what they can do to be proactive about their health. She is the proud mother of identical twin girls and was the accompanying chiropractor on Logan’s inaugural Clinic Abroad trip to Costa Rica.