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What is Infantile Colic? Can Chiropractic Help? 

 February 23, 2010

By  Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

Prior to chiropractic school I’d never heard of or thought about colic.  Much less had I had a child who suffered with it.  Or should I say, I’d never been a parent who suffered with a child who had colic.  Now that I’m long since through school, in practice for 12 years, and the father of two, I still cant’ say that I’ve personally experienced it with either child, but I do know more about the condition and situation of infantile colic.  Most significant is the fact that a colicky baby can quickly and detrimentally affect the psychological, emotional and physical health of a family.  An inconsolable child is heart wrenching and stressful.  So the obvious advice of physicians is to seek care for the child immediately.

So what is colic?  According to medical literature it is defined by a “rule of three.”
1.  Crying for more than three hours per day
2.  for more than three days per week
3.  for longer than three weeks in a month for an infant who is otherwise healthy and well fed.

Medical experts are not in agreement as to the cause.  Most commonly, the assumption is the infant is having digestive troubles.  But consideration is given to allergies, maternal anxiety, and lactose intolerance.  Solutions are pursued that often involve changing diet.  Even the diet of the mother who is breast feeding.

Chiropractic looks to the spine for a cause (not that diet is ignored).  Most people would agree even the most natural childbirth, without the intervention of obstetrician, involves a tremendous amount of compression, rotation, extension, and traction of the baby.

Research supports the use of chiropractic care for babies with the symptoms of infantile colic.  Thankfully results come after just a few adjustments in the majority of cases.  I’ll highlight two studies.

One study, published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT) in 1989 [12(4): 281-288], followed 316 infants with moderate to severe colic, averaging 5.2 hours of crying per day.  They were treated and results reported by the mothers in a prospective survey.  Ninety-four percent of the children showed satisfactory response with an average of three adjustments within two weeks.  One-fourth of the infants showed great improvement after the first chiropractic adjustment!

In 1999 a very compelling study was reported in JMPT.  Fifty infants with colic were randomly placed in two groups.  One group was given dimethicone medication daily for two weeks.  The other group received chiropractic adjustments for two weeks as needed.  The average was 3.8 adjustments over the two week period.  The results were reported in a colic diary and nurses visited the families to administer a weekly infantile colic behavior profile.  In the end 9 of the 25 families who used the medication dropped out of the study.  While all of the chiropractic group finished.  The medication “drop outs” reported they left the study because the symptoms either “worsened” or it had “much worsened.”  Four families took the time to give their reasons.  Had these four infants completed the study, it would have made the dimethicone group results even worse.  Despite this, the results are significant as seen in the graph below.

This study strongly suggests that chiropractic adjustments are a valid treatment option for children with infantile colic.

Two points need to be made.  One, it may be the case that since 1999 there may be a different drug of choice for colic.  I do not know.  This study is not about chiropractic out performing a particular drug.  It demonstrates the effectiveness of chiropractic adjustment’s ability to heal.  In particular, in the absence of drugs.  It just so happens that is is wonderful to be able to help a child with colic.  Secondly, it needs to be pointed out that the chiropractors who saw the infants with colic, where not “treating” the colic.  They were adjusting subluxations, which allowed the child’s body to function better.  This post is not meant to dive deeply into that particular issue.  But it is important to be clear that chiropractic is for the correcting of subluxations.  Through the correction of subluxations patients are able to heal correctly.  Because of this there is a staggering list of conditions, symptoms, and diseases that have been shown to improve in patients if they get chiropractic care for subluxations.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.


Dr. Stover grew up in Richmond. He has been married to his wife Andrea since 2000 and they make their home in Mechanicsville with their children, Avery and Garnett.

Dr. Tripp Stover, D.C.

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