By Kristina Marie Smelley
Pain can be misleading, according to Drs. Nic West and Alyssa Kurth of West Chiropractic in Wilsonville. Their clinic is only one of a few in the Northwest offering the unique Gonstead Method, which uses neurological instruments to pinpoint areas of inflammation along the spine.
“A patient may come in complaining of shoulder pain, when the actual issue is nowhere near the shoulder,” Kurth says. “With kids, there’s actually no pain at all 99 percent of the time, but symptoms manifest in other ways.”
Parents of children with autism are discovering the Gonstead Method of chiropractic to help address issues such as constipation, mood swings, hyperactivity, seizures or anxiety. Even infants with colic or digestion issues can be treated with Gonstead. It is the only technique combining x-ray analysis, instrumentation, visualization and static and motion palpitation to treat patients.
Doctors using the Gonstead Method can often tell where adjustments should be made without patients describing their symptoms, which makes working with children who are unable to communicate much easier.
“My son had a tic that was causing him to jerk his head around. All he could tell me was that his neck hurt,” says Bonnie Arnold, mom of three with autism. “Our PCP suggested physical therapy, but we decided to give this a try instead. After only four adjustments, his pain and his tic were completely gone.”
The Gonstead Method uses a unique instrument, called a nervoscope, to detect heat levels caused by deep-rooted inflammation in the nerves near the spine, also known as “sublaxation.” When a nerve root is inflamed, the signals from the brain to the body are slowed down or stopped. This results in a nervous system that is not functioning at 100 percent.
“The nervous system controls every function in the body,” Dr. West says. “When it’s working properly, the body is fully capable of healing itself. We don’t treat specific symptoms, but we have found that by detecting and treating the areas of inflammation, the body is able to restore normal function and it often leads to complete resolution of the original problem.”
The nervoscope, which is connected to a computer, shows the amount of inflammation in each area of the spine using different color bars on screen. Red is greatly affected, yellow is mildly affected and green shows that area of the spine is in alignment. At each visit, the full spine is evaluated but adjustments tend to vary depending on which areas are calling for attention.
“In kids with autism, the upper part of the neck often shows red, which means this is the main source of the inflammation that may be affecting everything else down the spine,” Dr. Kurth says.
The adjustments are more gentle than those used by typical chiropractors, and there is usually less twisting, bending and loud “popping” noises. Gonstead chiropractors also focus adjustments primarily around the vertebral disc, the soft cartilaginous material between vertebrae in the spine. This is because this is one of the main sources of inflammation that puts pressure on nearby nerve roots.
“We’ve tried lots of other therapies, including speech, occupational and cranial sacral therapies,” says Jamie Goodpaster, who has a son on the spectrum. “We originally decided to try the Gonstead Method because my son was suffering from cyclical vomiting and anxiety.
Now, he no longer has cyclical vomiting and his anxiety has improved. We continued treatment because we have also seen improvement in other areas that ASD affects, including food aversions, behavior and academics. Much of that has been since implementing treatment with Dr. West.”
Inflammation may go unnoticed for many years until finally it causes a breakdown of tissue affecting the surrounding nerves, which may result in pain. The build up of problems can be avoided by beginning treatment at a young age. Treatments for children are often much easier and faster than for adults, according to Dr. Kurth.
“I am really confident in this method of chiropractic care and feel my son’s health is better overall due to continued treatments,” Arnold says. “I’m planning to start my younger son there as well. Some doctors understand autism and some don’t. At West Chiropractic, they are so good with kids, and they really ‘get’ it.”
For more information, visit West Chiropractic online or call (503) 628-9082.
Kristina Marie Smelley is a Portland freelance writer and co-leader of a local support group called REST for moms with children who experience special needs. She is married with two children, one with autism. She is also a local singer-songwriter currently working on a collection of life-skills songs for children with special needs.