Infant colic is awful. Parents can be downright desperate when it comes to helping a screaming, crying, colicky baby. Unending screaming can cause sleep problems for both you and your baby, it worries most parents (Is something wrong?!), and it frankly makes everyone miserable. It's really no surprise that some people have turned to alternative medicines like chiropractic for help.
But does chiropractic care actually work on colic? To answer this question we first need to find out a little about what chiropractic is. Then we can turn to the science!
What is chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a popular alternative medicine that claims many health ailments can be treated via the spine and nervous system. It was created by Daniel David Palmer in 1895. Palmer believed that a person's body parts could be moved around in certain positions in order to cure disease. Palmer claimed that the spirit of a deceased physician told him about chiropractic "from the other world." Before "discovering" chiropractic, Palmer claimed to heal people by using magnets.
Today, many chiropractors attempt to mix the spiritual aspects of Palmer's chiropractic with more scientific practices like massage and exercise. However, some chiropractics rely more on convention than others; many chiropractics attempt to remain true to Palmer's original chiropractic ideas.
Will a chiropractor help my baby's colic?
Some chiropractors claim to heal infants of colic. But what does the science say?
As it turns out, chiropractic care probably will not help your baby. According to a systematic review published in 2003, “There is no convincing evidence that spinal manipulation alone can affect the duration of infantile colic symptoms.” The review was updated in 2008 with more data, and the same result was obtained again.
At this point, many parents might be thinking, "Okay, but what's the harm?" That's understandable. After all, a colicky baby can make people desperate to try just about anything to make the crying stop! Unfortunately, there could be a lot of harm in taking your baby to the chiropractor.
There have been multiple cases of chiropractors injuring infants during "treatment." In 2012, a chiropractor fractured a baby's rib. In 2013, a chiropractor broke a baby's neck, And in 1992, a baby became a quadriplegic after being treated by a chiropractor. To be clear, these injuries are not common. But they do happen, and that means that letting a chiropractor "treat" your infant does come with some risk. We certainly would not let a chiropractor treat our baby.
So what does work?
It's not easy to hear that something won't help your baby. But there are things you can try that are actually backed by science. Sometimes colic is caused by recurring infant gas problems, and there is real evidence to show that probiotics can relieve infant wind. And if you bottle-feed, consider switching to vented bottles (we highly recommend Dr. Brown's); there is research to show they can help infant gas problems.
And don't forget that your baby's pediatrician is a great resource. It could be that unending crying is due to a medical problem, and sometimes it doesn't hurt to give the doctor a visit.