If you have ever been around a newborn you know that babies cry. A lot. In fact, babies typically cry for up to 2 hours a day. But what does all that crying mean?
Crying is how babies communicate their needs. Without realizing it, parents learn very quickly to identify the different types of cries their child makes and what they mean. But whether you speak ‘baby’ or not, an infant’s needs are pretty straight forward. If the cause of a baby’s distress is not immediately obvious, you can usually figure it out by running through the following checklist:
- Is the baby hungry?
- Are they tired?
- Do they need their diaper changed?
- Is the baby uncomfortable, sick, or teething?
But what happens when an otherwise healthy baby, who is not hungry, tired, or teething cries for 3 or more hours a day? What if attempts to calm them seem only to make matters worse?
What Is Colic?
Colic is defined as periodic comfortless crying in a young child or infant that lasts for at least 3 hours a day, occurs at least 3 days a week, and persists for at least 3 weeks. The colic most commonly begins around 3 weeks and resolves at around 3 – 6 months of age. Approximately 20-25% of babies suffer from colic.
Babies experiencing an episode of colic may also exhibit the following behaviors:
- Loud piercing cry or scream
- Tensed abdominal muscles
- Passing gas while straining
- Flexed arms and legs
- Bloated belly
- Clenched fingers
A number of common complaints cause colic-like symptoms, so it is important to have your child examined by a physician. A physical examination will help your child’s healthcare provider determine if there are any other possible causes of their discomfort.
How To Treat Colic
Colic is a distressing diagnosis for parents. Despite decades of research, doctors are no closer to finding out what causes colic, which makes treating the symptoms challenging. Traditional colic relief medications like dimethicone rely on defoaming agents to break up gas bubbles in the stomach, allowing baby to pass gas with less discomfort. Another common remedy is Gripe Water, a mixture of water and herbs. The combination of herbs change depending on the manufacturer, but common ingredients may include cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, clove, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon balm, licorice, or peppermint. This supplement supports digestion, making it easier for baby to pass gas. Both of these options do provide some relief, however, results are inconsistent. So what does work? Research has shown that spinal manipulation effectively relieves the symptoms of colic.
Will Seeing A Chiropractor For Colic Help?
A clinical trial published in the 1999 Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that seeing a chiropractor for colic significantly reduced the symptoms of colic. The study divided patients into two groups. One group received traditional treatment with dimethicone for two weeks. The other group received chiropractic care. After two weeks of spinal manipulation, 94% of parents reported a significant improvement in their child’s symptoms, with an impressive 67% reduction in crying. Among patients who received dimethicone, parents only saw a 38% reduction.
How Does It Work?
Chiropractic Medicine focuses on restoring health and function to the body through manual manipulation of the spine. It uses a combination of regenerative medicine, such as stem cell therapy, and physical rehabilitiation to allow the body to heal itself. So how does seeing a chiropractor for colic help?
Birth is a traumatic event for infants. They spend 9 months curled up tightly in the womb only to be squeezed through the birth canal, twisting and rotating as their head, shoulders, and hips pass through the pelvis. Babies are especially flexible but so much torque and torsion on the spine can force the vertebrae out of alignment. Birth by c-section can be equally traumatic. These dislocations cause discomfort in two ways: muscle imbalances and impaired nerve function.
Muscle groups in the back mirror each other down the spine. When the spine is out of alignment it causes one muscle group to tighten and lose function. That group’s twin, on the other hand, gets overworked. These imbalanced muscle groups cause painful knots, or trigger points, in the muscle. Though babies do not have a lot of muscle mass, these trigger points are still a source of significant discomfort.
Misalignments in the spine also compress nerves in the back. Compressed nerves lose up to 60% of their proper function, which causes pain and may also result in gas and bloating due to slowed or improper digestive function.
Spinal manipulation uses the gentle application of pressure on the spinal joints to move dislocated vertebra back into proper alignment. This realignment of the spine restores range of motion and flexibility to the spine, relieving undue stress on the surrounding muscles. This reduces pressure on painful trigger points and prevents them from reforming. Chiropractic adjustment also creates space in the spinal column, relieving pressure on the central nervous system. Relieving this pressure allows the nerves to heal, eliminating pain and restoring normal function to the body.
Is Taking my Baby to a Chiropractor for Colic Safe?
When people think of chiropractic care they imagine sudden, jolting movements accompanied by loud pops and cracks. This is more typical of chiropractic care for adults but is not clinically appropriate for infant care. Babies are very flexible and their spines do not require much pressure at all to perform an adjustment. Here at Epic Healthcare & Physical Medicine, we are as gentle with our tiniest patients as we would be with our own children. You can rest assured that your baby will be safe in our hands.