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Infantile Colic and Chiropractic Care

“According to published studies infants with colic respond favorably with chiropractic adjustments”

By Jennifer Peet DC, Certified CBP

Infantile colic can be as troublesome for the parents as the child experiencing the condition. This condition is characterized by a multitude of symptoms, the most evident of which being episodic fussiness that lasts for hours, even days, and does not respond to simple comforting methods. To make matters more complicated, it rarely responds to traditional health care. This leaves many parents troubled as the infant’s episodes of crying and fussiness continue.

Symptoms often include uncontrollable crying during which the infant appears to be in pain and pulls his/her legs up. At times the child’s abdomen will be hard.

Occasionally, the passage of flatus will give relief. Attacks may last for hours. In analyzing the colicy infant it is important to rule out central nervous system damage, extremity fractures, and abdominal problems such as a hernia or intussusception. Obliviously, any of these conditions may cause the infant to cry uncontrollably and would require a medical referral. Even in the rare case that one of these conditions is present, it is in the best interest of the child to begin chiropractic care on the initial visit if vertebral subluxations are found so that the process of restoring normal nerve supply may begin.

Two chiropractic studies relating to infant colic are of particular interest. The first study, was done by a group of Danish chiropractors, revealed positive results when spinal adjustments were rendered. The second study involved a group of 316 infants with colic of which 94% reported successful resolution within the first two weeks of care.

Although chiropractic care does not treat the symptoms of colic, the author has found, after adjusting hundreds of babies, that most will respond within the first few weeks. Why does chiropractic work when other methods fail? It’s simple really. Nerve supply is vital to proper function in every system of the body including the stomach, intestines and other abdominal organs. The sixth to ninth or tenth thoracic vertebrae house the gastric sympathetic preganglionic fibers. They reach the celiac plexus via the sympathetic trunk ganglia and the greater and lesser thoracic splanchnic nerves.

Vertebral subluxations causing nerve interference in this area would adversely affect gastric function. The two vagus nerves also play a major role as they form the esophageal plexus around the lower esophagus which is reinforced by branches from the thoracic section of the sympathetic trunks and from the greater and lesser thoracic splanchnic nerves.

Normal innervation of the intestines is also important. The pregaglionic sympathetic fibers are located in the lowest four or five thoracic and upper two lumbars vertebrae. The parasympathetic nerve supply to the intestines is from the vagus and the splanchnic nerves. Vagus involvement in infant colic should not be overlooked due to the close proximity of the ventral roots of the 1st spinal nerve. Spinal adjustments that correct nerve interference in the upper cervical area have the likelihood of a positive effect on the functioning of the vagus nerve. Some children with colic respond with just cervical adjustments, others require a full spine approach to normalize the nervous system.

As the infant with colic responds to chiropractic care, the parents usually note that the child is sleeping for longer periods without fussing. The parents should be encouraged that vertebral subluxations take time to correct. Even after the child shows improvement, generally the problematic subluxations are not near correction. So that more serious health problems do not evolve the child should continue until the subluxations are resolved. This usually requires three to twelve months depending on the severity and longevity of the presenting vertebral subluxations.

The chiropractic approach is to correct spinal subluxations, with special attention to the cervical and thoracic spines. Regular adjustments should restore normal function of the nervous system, which will allow the infant’s digestive tract to function in a healthy manner. Without developing abnormal gas with the resulting pains the infant is happier and healthier.

“In a study of 316 children a satisfactory result occurred within 2 weeks in 94% of the cases receiving chiropractic care.

51% of these infants had prior, unsuccessful treatment, usually drug therapy (83%).”

Klougarat N. Nilsson N. Jacobsen J. Infantile colic treated by chiropractors: a prospective study of 316 cases. Manipulative Physio The 1989; 12 (4): 281-8 /

Medline ID: 89361049

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