Paediatric Chiropractic Care + Colic Babies

Infantile colic is described as “unexplainable and uncontrollable crying in babies aged 0-3 months for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days a week, and for more than 3 weeks.” Additional symptoms of colic include the baby’s knees pulled up to the chest, clenched fists, and extension of the trunk or extremities, irritability, abnormal posturing, delayed postural patterning, problems suckling, or a myriad of other vague clinical symptoms which may extend beyond 3 months.

What causes Colic?

No one knows for sure what causes colic, however below are some of the most likely factors leading to this dysfunction:

  • Neuro-muscluloskeletal issues:
    Mechanical stresses or trauma during delivery and pregnancy can cause stress in the spine, which can lead to nerve dysfunction, muscle tension and discomfort.

  • Gastro-intestinal issues:
    Infants can present with an immature gut, that still needs to adapt to breast milk and formula. Therefore babies are prone to reflux, wind and/or cramping. The mother’s diet, lactose intolerance, lack of healthy gut bacteria and a family history of colic are some predisposing factors.

  • Overstimulated baby:
    A baby’s nervous system is developing at a rapid rate and the baby may be used to the internal environment of the womb. This makes newborns prone to over-stimulation. Various calming methods may help to reduce anxiety.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder:
    This is a far less common cause for colic. Intervention with an occupational therapist is needed in these cases.

What does the research say?

Chiropractic has been shown to have a 94% success rate with infantile colic.  This was according to a study done in 1989 that was published in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics . In this study 73 chiropractors treated  316 infants with colic over two weeks (usually 3 treatments) and the parents monitored their improvement.  One group received chiropractic treatment,and the other Dimethicone drops. A quarter of the patients responded well after the first chiropractic session. Only 38% of the group of patients that were treated medically with Dimethicone drops showed improvement (1) . In 1999 a new study revealed similar results and it suggested that 22.5% of newborns present with colic, and only 47% are resolved by 3 months (2). Guttman, who is a published researcher, found that 80% of over a thousand newborns that were examined had nerve dysfunction and it could be corrected by the lightest finger adjustment (3). His colleague Fryman examined  1250 babies and she found that 95% had cervical strain and misalignments, however that they responded quickly to adjustments and were able to sleep better. Birth trauma may lead to nerve dysfunction which can cause a variety of health problems in a child such as: digestive disorders, difficulty with feeding and latching, immunity deficits, irritability, respiratory disorders and sleeping problems. Paediatric chiropractic is also very safe, according to a study where only 3 patients out of 5438 had minor aggravations, thus a 0.00055% chance of a negative reaction (5).

(1) Klougant N. Nilsson N. Jacobsen J. Infantile Colic Treated by Chiropractors; a Prospective Study of 316 Cases. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 1989;12:281-288.

(2) Jesper. et al. The Short Term Effect of  Spinal Manipulation in the Treatment of Infantile Colic: A Randomized Controlled Trial with a Blinded Observer. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 1999;22;517-522.

(3) Gutmann G. Blocked Atlantal Nerve Syndrome  in Babies and Infants. Manuelle Medizin. 1987; 25;5-10

(4) Fryman VM. Springall P. Effect of Osteopathic Medical Management on Neurologic Development in Children. Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 1992;92;729

(5) Alcantara J. Ohm J. Kunz D. The safety and effectiveness of pediatric chiropractic: a survey of chiropractors and parents in a practice-based research network. Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing View Abstract here:

How do chiropractors treat babies?

The treatment involves the application of gentle, manual, mobilization techniques to the neck and spine as well as any other areas of the infant body that demonstrate tightness or restriction.

Other conditions treated in Paediatric patients by Chiropractors:

Headache, otitis media (middle ear infection), nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) and asthma.

Otitis Media

Two types of Otitis Media occur in infants and toddlers:

  • 1. Otitis Media with Effusion (OME): Fluid in the ear
  • 2. Acute Otitis Media (AOM): Infection of the ear, which could be viral or bacterial, and usually presents with a fever.

Otitis Media (OM) will present in 60% of paediatric patients in the first year. The risk factors include daycare/creches, use of a pacifier beyond 10 months, formula fed babies, exposure to second-hand smoke and a poor immune system. Traditionally, antibiotics are used to treat OM, however, often they may be ineffective, because the cause may not be bacterial (the cause may be viral or merely a build up of fluid in the ear). OME can often lead to AOM if left untreated. Chiropractic treatment can offer a conservative alternative, especially in cases where the the use of antibiotics has failed. Research has shown that most cases receiving chiropractic care resolved within 10 days and some only needed 1-2 sessions.

Barnes LLB, Carreiro JE, Degenhardt BF, Mills MV, Henley CE. The use of osteopathic manipulative treatment as adjuvant therapy in children with recurrent acute otitis. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
2003; 157(9):