A hands-on way to treat colic
An osteopath explains why gentle manipulation can ease the pain of colic.
As the parent of a colicky baby you’ll be familiar with the typical signs of colic: abdominal distension, frequent gas emissions, apparent abdominal pain, irritability and excessive crying.

Children with colic are often described as crying without identifiable cause and hard-to-soothe, although being otherwise healthy infants, well fed and showing no signs of failure to thrive.

Symptoms of colic reflect an increased excitability of the intestinal vagus nerve causing irregular stimulation of the intestinal muscles, producing spasms and constriction of the intestine.

Above the constriction, the passage of the contents of the bowel is slowed. As a result of the digestive process gas develops which is not properly carried off. This results in bloating of the gut and colicky pains.

Osteopathic treatment may alleviate the physical and biomenchanical influences of birth.

By reducing the distortions in the musculoskeletal framework, improving joint mobility, and reducing apparent muscular hypertonia in the infant, manipulation may reduce load on the central nervous system.

A plausible explanation for infantile colic in some children is that it is mainly a headache.The common gastrointestinal manifestations such as nausea and vomiting that often accompany certain types of head pain may account for the GI symptoms we see in infants.

In light of the osteopathic research (see references below) we must consider that in some populations of infants the primary cause of the colic may be the dysfunction in the head and neck.

In some children colic may also be a disease of the immature nervous system. An inability to screen out certain types of input may lead to sensory overload, agitation and irritability.

The fact most children ‘grow out’ of colic at approximately the same time as they achieve developmental milestones in the brain and gut supports this argument.

The presence of somatic dysfunction in these infants may be a contributing factor, but not necessarily the primary cause of the child’s symptoms.

Lastly, colic may be a clinical manifestation of immature gut function, whereby the gut is responding to new antigenic materials. Regardless of the causes there appears to be a commonly accepted involvement of the vagal nerve system. As such, anything that could be deemed as irritating to this system should be addressed in an attempt to give the baby and the family some peace.

Click here to find an osteopath in your area.

Read more:
What is osteopathy?
Treating colic with osteopathy


Carreiro, J.E. (2003) An Osteopathic Approach to Children, Elsevier Science Limited, China.
Hayden, C. and Mullenger, B. (2006)
A preliminary assessment of the impact of Cranial Osteopathy for the relief of Infantile Colic. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, Vol. 12, pp. 83-90

What strategies have you tried with your colicky baby? What works?

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