by Dr. Cheryl L. Schmitt
Infantile colic typically begins at about 2 to 3 weeks of age, reaches its peak at 2 months, begins to subside by 3 months, and is gone by 3 ½ to 4 months of age. The child becomes hypertonic, sometimes alternating body posture from contracting into a little ball (thighs flexed up against the abdomen and arms drawn tightly inward), while beet red in coloration, to suddenly stretching out and stiffening almost spastically. The infant is commonly fretful and inconsolable, and makes piercing cries that wrench parents into despair. But the frustrating fact remains that although one in four babies has colic and much research has been done on the topic, there is no one proven cause of colic. No one knows what colic is, but a mother knows when her child has it.
Many attempts have been made to help ease the discomfort of a colicky baby. Some common tactics used are swaddling the baby, distraction, rhythmic motion such as a swing and massage. A lesser known therapy that has been shown to improve a colicky baby’s symptoms is Chiropractic care. There have been many small studies on chiropractic care and colic with promising results. There have also been many more individual cases studies showing improvement of colic with Chiropractic care.
In 1999 a study (Wiberg JMM, Nordsteen J, Nilsson N J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1999 (Oct);22 (8): 517-522) was conducted to compare the effectiveness of Chiropractic care versus the use of dimethicone (a commonly prescribed drug for colic) in babies with colic symptoms. The results of that study showed that by trial days 4 to 7, hours of crying were reduced by 1 hour in the dimethicone groups compared with 2.4 hours in the Chiropractic group. On days 8 through 11, crying was reduced by 1 hour for the dimethicone group, whereas crying in the Chiropractic group was reduced by 2.7 hours. From trial day 5 onward the Chiropractic group did significantly better than the dimethicone group. Another study was conducted earlier, in 1985 (Nilsson N Eur J Chiro 1985;33 (4) :264-65.) and in this study (retrospective uncontrolled questionnaire) of 132 infants with colic, 91% of the parents reported an improvement, which occurred after an average of two to three adjustments, and within one week of care.
So what does a child’s spine have to do with colic? Well everything in fact. If a child has experienced a spinal misalignment during birth, or shortly thereafter, he or she is more susceptible to conditions of dis-ease. The body does not work efficiently without a nervous system working at 100% and the nervous system does not work 100% when there is a spinal misalignment or lack of motion in the spine (spinal subluxation) of an adult OR a child. Children can experience spinal subluxations during the birth process, by being constrained in-utero, or in his or her early days outside of the womb by rough handling, such as improper diaper changing skills. If an infant had a breech or transverse presentation during pregnancy, was born via c-section, with forceps or by vacuum extraction, he or she would already have a high likelihood of having a spinal subluxation which could lead to symptoms of colic in the first few weeks of life. A chiropractor would assess that child and adjust him or her to remove the vertebral subluxation to allow the body to work at 100%. As chiropractic helps to restore normal function in your child’s nervous system, your infant’s digestive tract and other related organs have a better opportunity to receive proper nerve supply from the brain, bringing it back to full normal potential. The result is a content baby and a happier you.