I read chiropractic sceptics Simon Sing and Andy Lewis have recently become parents. Simon anounced the birth by stating on Twitter, that if the baby had colic he would not be going to a chiropractor, I am interested to know what sceptics have done or would do faced with this situation and their book of scientific evidence. I have four children myself and they all have their spines checked regularly for reasons explained on my clinics Spinal Joint Kingston website in the chiropractic section.
Having helped a few demented parents and their infants in my time, Simons brave statement brought a smile to my face. Anyone who has experienced colic will know the parents would smear dung on the infant if they thought it might help. These people are not your usual CAM clients and rarely become clients themselves. They are desperate people who have tried everything and now they are going to let some brute “crunch” their baby’s back. In the UK most parents will try cranial osteopathy for colic long before they try chiropractic. UK chiropractors would starve if they relied on children for their income.
In 2006 my three children were diagnosed with whooping cough at Kingston Hospital, in addition to spinal care, I gave my then two year old daughters vinegar and onion juice(!) and even tried a homeopathic remedy after an antibiotic had not worked as a prophylactic. We drew the line at breathing tar fumes another old wives tale, but tried coloidal silver, a humidifier etc etc. The point I am making here is most parents will try anything within reason to help a sick child. There are very few recognised interventions for infants with colic in Scandinavia chiropractic is recognised as a reasonable treatment for infantile colic and is funded by government.
If you have heard a baby screaming for a few minutes, imagine that for hours on end. Calpol won’t help. Trust me if your infant has real colic you will try anything, believe me anything. Parents will be too tired and stressed to consider “scientific evidence” which is not very reliable when it comes to children. Most parents would prefer someone with experience treating children and emperical evidence rather than an academic who knows all the evidence. Parents try chiropractic on the off chance that “chiropractic” might just work.
This is an article I wrote for the NCT a few years ag
Colic! New born joy that becomes a nightmare
As a father of four (my youngest is three months old, the eldest is 20 years) I consider it a great honour when parents ask me to provide chiropractic care for their children. My philosophy for children’s wellbeing is minimalist intervention, lots of love, good nutrition and movement. According to US paediatrician Robert Mendelsohn “At least 95% of the ailments that affect children will heal themselves and do not require medical treatment”, Mendelsohn goes on to say mothers are usually best qualified to judge the physical condition of their baby, because they know their own child better than anyone.
A condition obvious to all, that hits young infants with devastating effect on family harmony, is colic, best described as recurring violent and inconsolable fits of crying and screaming in an otherwise healthy child. Any parent whose baby has suffered from colic will tell you that colic is one of the most excruciating experiences imaginable. Nothing is worse than seeing one’s baby screaming and not being able to do anything to help. Colic crying lasts more than three hours per day, more than three days per week for a minimum of three weeks and tends to occur within the first few weeks of life. Colic is self limiting but can last for three to four months, sometimes longer. The screaming is more likely to occur in the afternoon or evening but can occur any time of the day or night. Before attaching a colic label to your baby’s crying, bear in mind, the average amount of crying in normal full-term infants at 6 weeks is about 2.75 hours per day, which is only 0.25 hours short of the colic definition. It is estimated that up to 20% of babies may have colic, this represents the extreme of the normal spectrum of variability in crying in a young infant. The crying is inconsolable, other clinical signs include drawing up of the legs and abdominal distension.
There are many theories relating to biological, psychological and social causes of colic. Suspected gastrointestinal causes include hypersensitivity response to chemicals via breast milk, ie. medicines, alcohol, and smoking. Reflux, lactose intolerance are other possibilities; physical dysfunction, trauma, structural anomalies such as hernias; glue ear are others. Some researchers suggest transmission of emotional tension from the mother to her infant as a cause, however, these studies do not rule out the more likely explanation that the tension is a product of a screaming infant rather than the actual cause of the colic. If the baby stops crying when picked up it is probably not colic. In my experience most infants brought to my clinic with “colic” do not have colic, they just want to be picked up.
There are many theories relating to biological, psychological and social causes of colic. Suspected gastrointestinal causes include hypersensitivity response to chemicals via breast milk, eg medicines, alcohol, and smoking. Reflux and lactose intolerance are other possibilities as are physical dysfunction such as trauma and structural anomalies, eg hernias and glue ear.
The birth process, even under natural conditions, is potentially traumatic to the new-born. During the pushing stage of labour, the spine and particularly the neck, may be injured as the baby’s head is compressed, pushed and pulled down the birth canal, this may cause the nerves to be stretched or irritated, disrupting this vital communication system, which can be helped by chiropractic spinal care
Recent research supports the idea that a newborn’s nervous system does not always function properly, preventing selective screening of sensory stimulation, creating “neuro sensitive” colic and other infant disorders. Some infants can become overwhelmed by excessive sensory stimulation, which starts the crying episodes. Examples of some of these stimuli include hunger, wind pains, temperature differences, fatigue, even excessive handling.
There are countless anecdotes relating to beneficial outcomes of treatments for infants with colic, unfortunately high quality research is lacking. There are four small chiropractic studies that have been published examining infantile colic which have been generally positive and from the evidence available Danish and Norwegian health service providers fund chiropractic care because it is viewed as best practice for babies with colic. In 2002 the journal of the Royal College of Paediatrics, “Archives of Disease in Childhood” (ADC) stated there was “good evidence that taking a colicky infant to a chiropractor will result in fewer reported hours of colic by the parents”. From the evidence available Danish and Norwegian health service providers fund chiropractic care as best practice for babies with colic.
Every baby is unique and may only respond to some or a combination of colic remedies. Parents may have to use trial and error to determine which intervention provides the greatest amount of relief. Proper winding is first option, using a firm hand to stimulate mechanoreceptors in the back muscles. Movement vibrations are very comforting to most infants,walking, rocking, driving around in a car may help, these techniques are useful for infants that will not settle at bedtime.
Bottle fed babies may show improvement if switched to a different formula. Mothers of breastfed babies should pay close attention to their diet; dairy, caffeine, citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits and tangerines could be involved. Broccoli, cauliflower, onions and garlic, along with pulses and beans, should be avoided. Mothers may find that a cooled fennel tea or (preservative free) gripe water may help. It is also reported that a few drops of lavender can be added to the babies bath, then followed with the relaxing touch of massage using fennel seed oil. Focus massage strokes on the back and neck, there are a number of good books available on baby massage.
“In this clinical scenario where the family is under significant strain, where there are limited alternative effective interventions and where the mother has confidence in the chiropractor the advice is to seek chiropractic treatment” ( ADC 2002 ). In assessing the colicky baby, a thorough history is essential to rule out other causes of the crying. I focus my physical examination on the relationship between the motion of the spinal joints the function of the nervous system and muscle spasm. Restriction of movement in spinal joints will affect the complex interactions between discs, bones, muscles, vascular and nerve supply, disrupting the physiological systems the infant requires for health and well-being. The positive results from chiropractic care that have been observed, means some chiropractors are often able to dramatically and quickly remove the symptoms of colic and it is worth a try if your life has been turned upside down by an infant with colic.