Table Of Content

What is Colic?

by | Updated Apr 19, 2024

Reviewed By: Erin Black

Table Of Content

Nicholas’s parents could not believe that this was happening again. They had experienced colic with their first baby so when Nicholas was crying for 16 hours a day they felt helpless and heartbroken. They could tell he was experiencing extreme gas pains so they tried gas drops, changing formulas, and special bottles, but nothing worked. They were desperate to see their sweet baby smile.

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

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

What is Colic?

Colic is best defined as long periods of uncontrollable crying in babies and infants lasting more than 3 hours and happening more than 3 days a week, disrupting the baby’s 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 babies 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?

What is Colic? | PX Docs

Still today, there is no consensus in the medical community as to what is causing colic in babies; 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 we do, it’s always pretty easy to find the cause(s) of each baby’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 flat-out in our DNA to worry and be concerned about our babies, especially when they cry and struggle. 

Additionally, in our clinical practice, we’ve seen time and again that babies 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 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 often find that the stress and tension lie 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 baby’s entire nervous system often shifts into a state of what’s called dysautonomia

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

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. Knowing that your baby’s uncontrollable crying and challenges are not your fault is important. 

In today’s world, more stress, fear, and anxiety are 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 – you can do plenty 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 babies who arrive at the office screaming, crying, arching their backs, stiff and uncomfortable… go home after that first visit and adjust completely calm, relaxed, and asleep. Best of all and funniest of all, many times that comes with a total “blowout” and big old poop as well! Yep, poop rules in our office! 

Just like with Nicholas, everything starts with our Neurological INSiGHT Scans. These scans take only minutes and are entirely non-invasive, helping us find exactly where those subluxations have set up shop and are causing trouble. 

Below on the left is Nicholas’s initial INSiGHT scan, pinpointing severe stress (red), especially in the upper neck. This neurological region has significant control over the body’s rest, relaxation, and digestive functions. This meant Nicholas felt really uncomfortable in his own skin and had to work hard to eat, sleep, and poop.

As he progressed through his care plan, his scans started to calm and regulate, as you can see on the right. This shows that his nervous system became much less stressed, allowing his colic symptoms to subside completely.

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 resolved and improved with neurologically-focused chiropractic care. You can also learn more about how colic was related to other conditions later in life, such as ADHD, ASD, and SPD. 

So, there it is. Now that you can answer, “what is colic,” it’s time to take the proper steps to help your baby! 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! 

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