Chiropractic and Colic
The Safer Care Victoria review found that colic was one of the few clinical presentations chiropractic might just possibly have a little bit of a positive effect on in children. This brand-new colic study out of Denmark (where one in four babies are checked by a chiropractor in the first year of life, most of them for colic symptoms) concurs.
This study concluded that chiropractic adjustments do not cause statistically significant reduction in crying time compared to the control group (1.5 hrs compared to 1 hr), however, that there was such a variation in responses that further analysis was needed.
The trial included 200 healthy babies aged 2-14 weeks who were crying for more that 3 hours per day, for more than 3 days per week for the previous 2 weeks. The babies were randomised into the chiropractic treatment group or the control group. Both groups had a consultation with the chiropractor each visit and were given general advice. However, to ensure blinding of the parents, the adjustment or 5 minutes of entertainment for the control group happened in a separate room without the parents present. The parents kept a detailed diary on their baby’s crying behaviour, not knowing whether their child had been adjusted or not.
The first interesting point with this study is that the conclusion is reached after four adjustments over two weeks. The researcher herself points out that this short treatment schedule may be a weakness in the study. In my experience there is no doubt that some babies respond very well to care and have significant improvements with just a few visits. However, others require a bit more work before a conclusion of response to care can be made.
Another point is the lack of consideration for the wide range of possible causes of colic. What if the primary reason for this baby’s symptoms is cow milk protein allergy, gut dysbiosis or over/under stimulation? A typical chiropractic visit includes so much more than the administration of a physical adjustment. Trust and rapport are built while exploring possible aggravating factors. This in turn leads to providing appropriate support and advice, all focused on making life easier and more comfortable for baby and her family.
It is also interesting that the control group after four visits of playing with the chiropractor in a separate room achieves one hour less of crying per day. We know of course that a huge proportion of response to any treatment is from placebo, and the families in this study don’t know whether their baby was adjusted or not. However, there is the fact that before and after each ‘treatment’ the family had a visit with the chiro. And one of the most important parts of the visit to a chiropractor, as well as any other health professional, is the connection, the relationship, which is built between the child and the chiropractor, and just as importantly, the parent and the chiropractor. Having a baby who screams inconsolably for more that three hours per day for days on end is stressful beyond belief. The fact that a professional listens, empathises and takes your situation seriously, that this doctor ensures they will do what they can to help baby feel better, without causing any financial strain on the family, must take tremendous strain off mum. We know babies express the stress they pick up from mum, so if mum feels better, baby is going to cry less whether he is adjusted or not.
Now, all this doesn’t make manipulative therapy as a treatment for babies with excessive crying any more effective. However, it may explain to a certain degree why chiropractors on ‘the coal face’ may experience vastly different results than the research indicates we should.
Do you want to learn more? Join us for Switched-on Babies in Sydney May 15-16, 2021.
Yours in Chiropractic,
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