Colic In Babies

Colic in babies has been used to describe the excessive or persistent , often violent crying behaviour in an infant for no apparent reason.

Although the definition of infantile colic has not been completely agreed upon in the medical literature,  it is generally defined as babies who  cry for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week and for at least three weeks. These babies appear otherwise healthy (1).

What Are The Symptoms Of Colic in Babies?

The symptoms of  colic is the most common concern for which parents seek medical advice during an infant’s first year. They may include:

  • Prolonged periods of crying often in the late afternoon and for no obvious reason.
  • At times a high pitched or piercing cry.
  • legs pulled up to the stomach, a red face, clenched hands and passing gas.

Is  Colic In Babies Common?

Colic in babies is common affecting approximately 10% to 40% of infants (2).

What Is The Cause Of  Colic In Babies?

In spite of many theories, the cause of colic in babies still remains unknown.

Less than 5% of infants who cry excessively turn out to have any medical conditions (3).

At What Age Does  Colic In Babies Occur?  

Colic usually peaks around the age of six weeks , however may occur any time from early infancy to 6 months of age.

How Long Does Colic In Babies Last?

Colic symptoms typically resolve by three to six months of age.

 What About Chiropractic Treatment and Colic In Babies?

There is not enough research conducted to justify stating that chiropractic helps the medical condition diagnosed as colic. There are case studies that demonstrate chiropractic may help with a reduction in crying time, for which is the most common symptom of colic. Chiropactors prefer to focus on irritable baby syndrome.

 Excessive Crying In Babies and Irritable Baby Syndrome.

It has been estimated that 73% of babies may suffer with musculoskeletal injuries following birth. These musculoskeletal injuries can significantly affect an infant’s quality of life. Babies with musculoskeletal injuries are more likely to cry excessively (4).

Since the primary symptom used to diagnose  colic in babies is excessive crying, then babies with musculoskeletal injuries causing pain, may be in correctly diagnosed as suffering from infantile colic. In this case, chiropractors would claim that the baby was suffering from irritable baby syndrome due to being in discomfort from  musculoskeletal injuries.  This theory would explain why one case study (Olafsdottir & Markestad 2001) showed chiropractic treatment was no better than placebo, whilst other  studies have shown a reduction in crying time perceived to be colic following chiropractic treatment.

The majority of the chiropractic trials indicate that the parents of infants receiving treatment reported fewer hours crying per day than parents whose infants did not (6).
 In a study of 316 infants suffering from excessive crying, 94% showed dramatic improvement following Chiropractic treatment(7).
Another study compared Chiropractic  treatment and the drug Dimethicone. It showed that Chiropractic was significantly better in reducing crying time than the drug Dimethicone (8).

Is There Any Long Term Affects Of Excessive Crying In Babies?

A  study found toddlers who were treated with chiropractic care for excessive crying were twice as likely to not experience long-term effects, such as temper tantrums (relative risk,2.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.3-3.0) and frequent nocturnal waking (relative risk, 2.0;95% confidence interval, 1.5-2.8) than those who were not treated with chiropractic care  (9).

Another study has identified a link between babies with history of excessive crying and developing ear infections (10).

Musculoskeletal Birth trauma occurs commonly and frequently escapes diagnosis. A baby who is suffering with musculoskeletal soreness may present with irritability and crying mimicking colic. Chiropractic treatment and elimination of musculoskeletal soreness may lead to a happier and more content baby.

 (1).Kheir, AE (Jul 23, 2012). “Infantile colic, facts and fiction.”. Italian journal of pediatrics 38: 34.

(2). Johnson, JD., Cocker, K & Chang, E. 2015. Infantile Colic: Recognition and treatment. American Family Physician. Vol 92, 7, 577-582

(3). Roberts, DM; Ostapchuk, M; O’Brien, JG (Aug 15, 2004). “Infantile colic.”.American family physician 70 (4): 735–40.

(4). Joyce, M.,Fontana, M., Jernlas, K.,Olofsson, H & Verwijst. I. 2013. Risks and rewards of early musculoskeletal assessment. Journal of Health Visiting. Vol 1: Issue 10: 590-596

(5)Olafsdottir, E., Forshei, S., Fluge, G &  Markestad, T. 2001. Random controlled trail of infantile colic treated with chiropractic spinal manipulation. Arch Dis Child 2001., 84: 138-141


(7) Klougart. N, Jacobsen. J, Niels, K (1989). Infantile Colic Treated By Chiropractors: A Prospective Study of 316 Cases. JMPT 12:4: 281-288.

(8) . Jesper. M, Wilberg. M, Nordsteen. J and Nilsson.N. (1999). The short term effect of spinal manipulation in the treatment of infantile colic: A randomized controlled clinical trial with a blind observer. JMPT. 2

 (9). Long-Term Effects of Infant Colic: A Survey Comparison of Chiropractic Treatment and Nontreatment GroupsJ Manipulative Physiol Ther 2009 (Oct); 32 (8): 635–6382:

(10). Hestbaek, L., Sannes, M & Lous, L. Large cohort study finds a statistically significant association between excessive crying in early infancy and subsequent ear symptoms. Acta Paediatr. 2014 May;103(5):e206-11.