Manipulating the Spines of Babies – Colic & Chiropractors?

There’s been some great engagement on the Survivor’s Guide to Colic Facebook page lately, thanks everyone!! 

Since some of the recent anecdotes have been about chiropractors, I thought it was a great opportunity to give you some more information about chiropractic treatment for babies with colic.

When Oliver had colic and I was frantically trying to figure out how to help him, I remember finding the totally opposing views about colic treatments really confusing at first.  It was also hard to figure out what to do when everybody had their own anecdote about what worked for them (and they were all different). 

So that’s why with Survivor’s Guide to Colic, my aim is to help you navigate your way through the maze of conflicting information about colic.  I don’t believe in ‘bossy rules’ or telling you what you “should” do.  In the world of babies there seem to be so many people who tell you that you “MUST” do this/that/the other.  I’ve never been keen on those kind of black and white approaches – why does this seem to happen more with babies than any other topic?  And honestly, I don’t think there’s many people out there who enjoy being told what to do!!

Instead, my approach is to give you clear, succinct information about both perspectives on any solution and back it up with references to any medical research, so that you can quickly get across the debate and then make your own decision.  I’ll let you know what I think, in case you find that helpful, but at the end of the day I’m all about empowering you as parents to make your own informed choices.

Below is a summary in the same format that I use in the book:

Spinal Manipulation

Advocates: Chiropractors

Why: Chiropractors believe that colic is due to subluxation (nerve dysfunction) that they believe may have resulted from birth trauma.  Chiropractors manipulate the baby’s spine to relieve the subluxations.  There have been some small studies that indicated a benefit to chiropractic manipulations for colicky babies.

Alternative Views: The largest study with the best scientific method showed NO difference in outcomes between colicky babies that had spinal manipulation and those that did not.   There was no differences in outcome according to parent’s reports or the hours of crying recorded.

The small studies that chiropractors refer to as evidence have been criticised for having poor scientific design that may have impacted the results, for example there was room for unconscious biases and one study did not record the number of dropouts and reasons for dropping out.

Jen’s View: I am generally quite open to alternative and traditional medicine and I've used a chiropractor myself for back issues that I had at one point.  However, the evidence just doesn’t stack up for me when it comes to chiropractic treatment for colic.  Some parents do report that it was helpful for their babies (which is great - because with colic if you find something that works for you, that's all you need).  However, given that the largest study on chiropractic treatment with the best scientific design showed NO DIFFERENCE in overall crying times, my suggestion would be to focus on some of the other more promising options instead. 

If you're interested in reading more about colic, you can download the first two chapters of Survivor's Guide to Colic for FREE.  Just register your details on the right hand side of the page and then you'll see a link to download the first two chapters.

Here's some of the research papers I've referred to if you want to read more about research into chiropractic treatments for colic:

Perry R, Hunt K and Ernst E, “Nutritional Supplements and Other Complementary Medicines for Infantile Colic: A Systematic Review”, Pediatrics, 2011

Olafsdottir E, Forshei S, Fluge G, Markestad T. Randomized controlled trial of infantile colic treated with chiropractic spinal manipulation. Arch Dis Child. 2001;84(2): 138 –141

Wiberg J, Nordsteen J, Nilsson N. The short- term effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of infantile colic: a randomized controlled trial with a blinded observer. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2000; 22(8):517–522

Mercer C, Nook B. The efficacy of chiroprac- tic spinal adjustments as a treatment protocol in the management of infantile colic. Presented at: 5th Biennial Congress of the World Federation of Chiropractic. Auckland, New Zealand; May 17, 1999