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Chiropractic and Colic

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Posted on 02-16-2015

As a parent of a new baby, sleep is a rare commodity.  So precious is that extra hour of sleep you can grab here and there. Speaking from experience from parents who come into Dody Chiropractic, when you have a colicky baby there is no sleep.  It seems like you may never get uninterrupted sleep again. When I see parents come into the office with bags and dark circles around their eyes I know that look is from a fussy baby.  Not only don’t you get sleep, but you worry about your baby not eating or getting the nutrition he or she needs to develop.  The pain that is associated with colic can lead to babies not wanting to eat. Sadly, colic affects up to one third of newborn babies. One of my greatest gratitude’s in practice is, after adjusting a colicky baby, to see parents’ joy when there baby is not only eating properly but also sleeping for longer periods of time. Often you see tears of joy as parents are able to not worry and sleep again.

What is colic?

Colic is defined as inconsolable crying in an infant for at least three hours a day, at least three days a week, for at least three weeks. This is called the “Rule of 3”. I don’t know about you but I don’t know many parents who would actually make it to the three week mark.  When I see colicky babies here at the clinic they often present with a lot of tension in the muscles, especially in the abdominal muscles.  They often have clenched fists and flexed legs.  And they always have the unmistakable loud piercing cry.

What causes colic?

Significant research has been done on the subject and the cause of colic that is unknown, however there are many speculated causes.  Some of the causes include:

  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Food allergies
  • Structural weakness in infant’s stomach/diaphragm

Those are just a few of the suspected causes of colic in a newborn. Stats show that approximately 10-20% of babies are affected by colic.

How do you treat colic?

Traditional medical treatment of colic consists of medication or waiting for the baby to outgrow the problem. Once again, due to the stress level of the parents, outgrowing the problem is probably not the best method. As a chiropractor, I look at the problem differently. Many of the symptoms of colic can be related back to nervous system dysfunction.  That is what I address here at our office in Littleton, CO.  When I see a newborn with colic, we have a couple of ways to look for interference of the nervous system.  First we have a non-invasive nerve system scan that will demonstrate where nerves are being interfered with from the brain to the digestive organs of the baby.  Second you can feel the compensation of the muscles around the babies’ spine which is where the nervous system resides and is protected.  In fact there are numerous studies that show that gentle and safe chiropractic adjustments have been proven to reduce colic symptoms in babies. A randomized clinical trial published in 1999 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that "Spinal manipulation is effective in relieving infantile colic". For this study the researchers randomly assigned infants diagnosed with colic into two groups. One group received chiropractic care for two weeks and the other group was given the anti-gas medication dimethicone for two weeks. The babies in the chiropractic group showed a 67% decrease in crying while the babies on medication showed a 38% decrease in crying.1 Another study with 316 children also showed significant improvement in colic in response to chiropractic care. This prospective study used diaries from mothers of colicky babies to track the amount of crying. The three month long study showed a "satisfactory result of spinal manipulative therapy in 94% of the cases". The improvements occurred after an average of only three adjustments within two weeks.2 A more recent study published in 2012 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics showed again that chiropractic adjustment improved crying behavior in infants with colic, and the knowledge of the treatment by the parent did not appear to contribute to the observed treatment effects.3

Other ideas to help ease the pain. . .

  1. Have your baby assessed by a Chiropractor who is confident working with infants. The function of your baby’s spine and nervous system are key in the overall health of your child. If you feel that something is “just not right” with your baby, have them assessed by a Chiropractic doctor.  Health babies are happy babies.
  2. Carry position- often times if you carry your baby on your forearm and stomach down it can relieve some the pressure in abdominal area and along with massage can calm the baby.
  3. Correct breastfeeding technique- if you are breastfeeding your baby, the correct advice from a lactation consultant can help tremendously reduce irritation from feedings.
  4. Burping- allow time for your baby to burp. Newborns take time to learn to feed, burp and digest their food correctly.
  5. Cut out ‘trouble foods’- sometimes what the mom eats can directly affect the baby, especially in breastfeeding.  Try to eliminate the following foods and beverages for a period of time- wine, champagne, fizzy drinks, coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks, chocolate, acidic fruits such as oranges and berries and heavily spiced foods. Lentils, split peas (pea & ham soup) and secondary proteins such as beans.
  6. Get off the cow’s milk! There is a lot of scientific literature discussing the high incidence of cow’s milk allergies, such as lactose intolerance and milk protein allergies. The earlier cow milk is introduced the greater the incidence of the this allergy. I always caution introducing cow’s milk into a baby’s diet.
  7. Homeopathic or Herbal Colic mixtures. There are a variety of mixtures out there that seem to have benefits to reduce the symptoms of colic in babies. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me here at our clinic in Littleton, CO at 303-794-1737.


  1. Wiberg JM1Nordsteen JNilsson N. The short-term effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of infantile colic: a randomized controlled clinical trial with a blinded observer. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 Oct;22(8):517-22.
  2. Klougart N1Nilsson NJacobsen J. Infantile colic treated by chiropractors: a prospective study of 316 cases. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1989 Aug;12(4):281-8.
  3. Miller JE1Newell DBolton JE. Efficacy of chiropractic manual therapy on infant colic: a pragmatic single-blind, randomized controlled trial.  J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2012 Oct;35(8):600-7.

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