What is ADHD?

ADHD is considered a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by a variety of different signs and symptoms such as:

  • Poor focus
  • Fidgeting
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor sleep
  • Impulsivity
  • Emotional/Behavioral challenges
  • Anger/Aggression
  • Disorganization
  • Learning and memory difficulties

Although ADHD can come with a host of challenging aspects, a child with ADHD can often have the flip side of these too such as hyperfocus on a topic/activity that they’re interested in.

This causes the term ‘disorder’ or ‘deficit’ to hit deep and have negative connotations. However, a lot of professionals and experts highlight that ADHD can be a ‘superpower’ of sorts when supported adequately. This is often part of the conversation we have with parents on a regular basis where there are so many good qualities and strengths they want to highlight in their child, if only they could harness them and keep the more challenging aspects of ADHD under control.

Parents today also want answers that go beyond simply putting a bunch of symptoms together and labeling (diagnosing) their child with ADHD. They want to know what’s really causing it and what options they have for drug-free care and management of their child’s ADHD to help them thrive and function at their best.

What Causes ADHD:

Most often parents are told that ADHD results from a chemical imbalance within the brain. Which is true to some degree. But why is there a chemical imbalance in the first place?

Medicine’s answer to that question is usually either genetics or simple bad luck. The natural health view will go a step further and look at things such as diet, gut health, and environment, which all play a role in overall health and development. But the real answer lies even deeper within the balance of the central nervous system.

When medicine refers to a chemical imbalance, they’re usually referring to what are called neurotransmitters – these are the chemical messengers used within the brain and central nervous system to carry out a variety of different functions and processes. The neurotransmitters that are associated with this chemical imbalance would be norepinephrine (noradrenaline), epinephrine (adrenaline), and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are all associated with the Sympathetic nervous system AKA the Gas pedal – more on that below.

These chemical messengers become imbalanced when the system that signals their production is imbalanced i.e., the central & autonomic nervous system.

ADHD is a Brain Balance Problem:

The central and autonomic nervous system is our body’s central command center. Responsible for the control and coordination of ALL functions and processes in the body from sleep, digestion, immune function through to social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive functions.

Our autonomic nervous system has two ‘gears’, the Sympathetic nervous system (AKA the fight or flight, stress, and survival mode), which we refer to as the Gas Pedal, and the Parasympathetic nervous system (AKA rest, digest, calm & relax mode), referred to as the Brake pedal.

Throughout our daily lives we shift between these two modes based on what is required in the moment. We may use the Gas pedal when engaging in sports and vigorous activity and use the brake pedal when we want to unwind and go to sleep. The key to everything running smoothly is having appropriate balance between these two modes. Issues arise when these two modes become imbalanced. As pediatric chiropractors we refer to this imbalance as Subluxation and most often results in the Sympathetic nervous system being overactive and the Parasympathetic system being underactive – The clinical term for this is Dysautonomia.

Subluxation can result in poor sleep, digestive challenges, suppressed immune function, and even the behavioral, emotional, and cognitive challenges seen in ADHD.

We often hear parents describe their child with ADHD as going from 0-100 in an instant. Being super busy, hyperactive, and unable to calm and self soothe. This is precisely because their brain essentially has the Gas pedal of a 2023 Ferrari and the Brake pedal of a 1990 Ford Focus.

At it’s roots, ADHD is essentially a stressed out, wound up, brain and nervous system dominant in sympathetic activity with an under-active parasympathetic system which is crucial in focus, impulse control, attention, decision making, time management, goal oriented tasks etc.

But the good news is that there is a natural, drug-free, and safe way to turn your kids ADHD from struggle to superpower! It first starts with understanding exactly what’s happening in the brain and central nervous system.

What Causes Subluxation:

Before we go into how we measure ADHD within the brain it’s important to understand a step deeper how the nervous system becomes imbalanced in the first place.

The most common “Perfect Storm” factors we see associated with ADHD are:

  • Fertility challenges and interventions such as medications, IUI, and IVF
  • High amounts of stress, anxiety, emotions, or medications during pregnancy
  • Birth interventions and trauma such as forceps, vacuum assistance, induction, and C-section during labor and delivery
  • Infantile colic, difficulty latching and breastfeeding, reflux, and constipation.
  • Frequent ear and other respiratory infections, along with frequent use of antibiotics
  • Delayed motor milestones and challenges with motor tone and coordination
  • Frequent challenges with sensory processing and integration, leading to challenges with transitions, sleeping, tantrums, and frequent meltdowns or behavior issues in the toddler and preschool stages of development.

These are all early signs that the brain and nervous system are too much on the Gas pedal with not enough calming, brake pedal activity to balance it out. Over 90% of case histories we run through with parents will have one or more of these signs in the past or current for their child and we often don’t see kids ‘grow out’ of these but ‘grow into’ the next set of challenges.

Our ADHD Test: EMG Scanning

The key assessment in our tool box for these types of challenges is called Surface Electromyography (sEMG). What this piece of technology allows us to do is to accurately measure how much Fight or Flight activity is occurring within the brain and nervous system. We like to think about it like checking to see where a child’s nervous system is ‘idling’ at rest. This is shown through the Energy Index which should sit somewhere between 140-160 for kids. However, below you’ll see in this kids scans, their energy score sitting at 400! This is ADHD in a nutshell. Their brain and nervous system are idling at 9 All. The. Time.


This is the key driver in hyperactivity, impulsivity, poor focus, trouble switching off at night, emotional outbursts and so much more!

The good news is that pediatric chiropractic is a safe, effective and drugfree way to calm the nervous system down and help kids channel their strengths so that they can thrive!

If your child has ADHD or shows signs of it and you want answers and help, we’re here for you. Simply click HERE and one of our team will reach out to get your child’s scans scheduled. Or for more information head to our next workshop where we dive deep into the nervous system and these types of challenges. Register by clicking HERE.

Dr Ben Edwards

Pediatric Chiropractor

B.Chiro., DippAppSci.

The Wellness Collective.