HELPFUL ARTICLE

What is Colic?

By Dr. Tony Ebel

Carter’s parents knew something was wrong, they just didn’t know. Worst of all, they didn’t know how to help. They tried diet changes, probiotics and prunes, and multiple visits to the pediatrician. Nothing helped calm Carter’s constant crying and fussiness. 

He was spitting up excessively, crying for long periods at a time, not sleeping well, and generally looked upset and uncomfortable. It progressively got worse each and every week, and his amazing mama sought to find more answers and something to help her little one. 

Unfortunately, as Pediatric + Family Chiropractors, these are stories and situations we hear about all the time. But the good news is this – we do have answers and we can help! This article will do just that for parents whose children are suffering from uncontrollable crying and colic. 

Just like we were able to for Carter, we will explain what’s causing colic, and what options are available to help soothe and calm your baby safely, naturally, and without the use of drugs and medications. 

What is Colic?

Colic is best defined as long periods of uncontrollable crying in infants lasting more than 3 hours and happening more than 3 days a week, disrupting their sleep and optimal health development. Colic is known to affect 1 in 4 babies using standard criteria, but it’s also likely even higher than that when factoring in infants who struggle with related things such as frequent periods of crying, discomfort, reflux, indigestion, and constipation

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Colic?

There are many signs and symptoms that may indicate your infant has colic, including the list of challenges below: 

  • Intense crying that may seem more like screaming or an expression of pain
  • Crying for no apparent reason, unlike crying to express hunger or the need for a diaper change
  • Extreme fussiness even after crying has diminished
  • Predictable timing, with episodes often occurring in the evening or shortly after eating
  • Facial discoloration, such as skin flushing or blushing
  • Body tension, stiffening, arching, cranking or throwing their head and neck backward 
  • Burping often or passing a lot of gas 
  • Active grimacing or a “painful” look on the face.
  • Presence of reflux and/or constipation 

What are the Causes of Colic?

Still today there is no consensus in the medical community as to what is causing colic in infants, and because of that, they often offer little help to struggling, exhausted parents. Frustratingly the most common advice parents are given still today is to let them cry it out, and also, “Don’t worry, they’ll grow out of it.” 

But as Pediatric Chiropractors, our entire obsession is with finding the cause of a child’s health condition, so that we can then know with certainty the best plan moving forward to help them heal and overcome it. That means we dive deep into every colic case, and when you do so, it’s always pretty easy to find the cause(s) of each child’s struggles. 

Nothing frustrates us more than hearing that a parent has been told to “not worry” and that they’ll “grow out of it” because that is simply not the case. As parents, it’s just flat-out in our DNA to worry and be concerned about our children, especially when they are crying and struggling. 

Additionally, in our clinical practice we’ve seen time and again that kids do not “grow out of” colic, but instead “grow into” the next wave of health challenges such as constipation, ear and other respiratory infections, sleep disorders, and sensory integration disorders. We even see colic frequently as an early warning sign of autism

The cause of colic really is quite simple – distress. 

Having dug deep into hundreds and even thousands of cases of colic in the last 15 years of clinical practice, two factors stick out and show up more than any other: 

  1. High amounts of stress and anxiety for the mother during the prenatal period 
  2. Birth interventions such as forceps, vacuum extraction, induction, epidural, and c-section 

While most natural methods that attempt to help colic and other pediatric conditions focus on the gut and things like diet, food intolerances and allergies, we most often find that the stress and tension lies even deeper in the system than that. 

This condition of constant stress and tension on the central or autonomic nervous system is called subluxation. When exposed to high levels of emotional and physical stress via one or both of the factors listed above, the infant’s entire nervous system often shifts into a state of what’s called dysautonomia

This condition is known to negatively affect other main infant health functions. Namely, the 3 things that we all know babies need to do well to be healthy and happy – eat, sleep, and poop. When one or all of those vital health functions are altered, colic sets in. 

How to Care For Your Baby with Colic

The first thing we always take care of in cases of colic is something quite non-traditional, the parents. It’s important to know that your child’s uncontrollable crying and challenges are not your fault. 

In today’s world, there is more stress, fear, and anxiety put on expectant mothers than ever before. There is more push for intervention during labor and delivery than ever before. It truly has become a Perfect Storm scenario for so many families, and again the most important thing to know is – it’s not your fault. 

The next most important thing to know is this – there is plenty you can do to help! 

While other naturally-focused articles on colic often provide a long list of things such as taking car rides, sitting your baby upright, using white noise machines, going dairy free, adding probiotics and prunes, and so forth, we want to get right to what we find most helpful in case after case in babies struggling with colic – getting stress off of their nervous system. 

A trained and experienced Pediatric Chiropractor can make gentle, safe, easy adjustments that unwind and release the stress and tension built up in your baby’s nervous system from pregnancy and birth. 

Time and again we see infants who arrive at the office screaming, crying, arching their back, stiff and uncomfortable… go home after that very first visit and adjustment completely calm, relaxed, and asleep. Best of all and funniest of all, many times that comes with a total “blow out” and big old poop as well! Yep, poop rules in our office! 

Just like Stella, everything starts with our Neurological Insight Scans. These scans take only minutes and are completely non-invasive, helping us find exactly where those subluxations have set up shop and are causing trouble. 
What is Colic? | PX Docs

You can check out even more cases on our Stories of Hope page here on our website to see all sorts of baby struggles that were resolved and improved with neurologically-focused chiropractic care. You can also learn more about how colic was related to other conditions later in life too such as ADHD, ASD, and SPD. 

Parents deserve to get their life (and sleep!) back, and beautiful brand new babies deserve to be happy, healthy, calm, and smiling all the time instead of screaming and crying! All of that is possible in the hands (literally) of a trained and ready PX Doc. 

Simply check out our directory to find your local PX Doc and get your baby relaxed, unwound, and back on track to full health today! 

Hope, Answers, Help! 

Dr. Tony Ebel

Research References: 

The effect of chiropractic treatment on infantile colic: study protocol for a single-blind randomized controlled trial

Efficacy of Chiropractic Manual Therapy on Infant Colic: A Pragmatic Single-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial

Challenges Covered: Colic | Constipation | Sleep

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