Antonia Bonagura, who joined the Avenue Clinic this year has a special interest in treating babies.
What Age Babies Can Be Treated?
All ages are welcome – even babies as young as a week old can respond really well to treatment. Being born can be traumatic to a tiny neck and back so the sooner any problems are sorted out the more content and comfortable the baby will be and all Mothers would love to have a contented baby!
Why DO Babies Cry Excessively?
Unfortunately, there’s still no known, definitive cause for excessive crying in babies. This can make treatment a challenge. Some think it is due to colic or GERD. The most common treatments for colic are dietary changes, medication, infant positioning and treatment from a pediatric chiropractor.
What is GERD?
GERD (Gastro Eosphogeal Reflux Disease) in babies is associated with poor weight gain, signs of esophagitis, occult blood loss, anemia, recurrent and persistent respiratory problems, dysphagia and a complex of changes in neurodevelopmental patterns. Acid from the stomach refluxes up into the oesophagus and irritates the delicate lining causing those symptoms. An infant with GERD may likely have more than 5 episodes of reflux per day, regurgitate approximately 28g per episode, refuse and have problems with feeding, have problems gaining weight and demonstrate increasing irritability. GERD sufferers may also have chronic sinusitis and recurrent otitis media. Complications include such serious conditions as oesophageal ulcerations, strictures, and Barrett’s oesophagus.
What’s the Best Treatment for Your Crying Baby?
New research is showing amazing results from chiropractic care. In a recent study, 94% of colicky babies showed improvement with chiropractic treatments.
Treatment is gentle, conservative and highly successful in treating babies with colic symptoms.
During a clinical trial published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics researchers found that “Spinal manipulation is effective in relieving colic in infants.” In this study researchers put babies with colic in two groups. They gave one group an anti-gas medication and the other group received chiropractic adjustments from a chiropractor.
The babies in the medication group showed a 38% decrease in the amount of crying their moms recorded, but the babies that received chiropractic adjustments showed a 67% decrease in crying
What Happens During a Pediatric Chiropractor Treatment Session?
Pediatric chiropractors specialize in restoring movement and nerve function to joints that are locked up or fixated. Babies are gently laid face down on their mother’s chest while the doctor examines the bones and joints that make up the spine.
Then, with his hand, the doctor applies very light impulses to the joints of the baby’s spine that are not moving correctly and when treating muscle tension, we use a technique called ‘touch and hold’, which is when the chiropractor applies light pressure over a tight muscle and the muscle softens and the baby’s pain eases. There will be none of the ‘cracking’ noises you might associate with chiropractic treatment though. This is not appropriate when treating babies.
There may be some crying initially but once the muscle loosens, the baby usually enjoys the pressure and may even fall asleep during treatment! For babies who have not slept well for ages, it is lovely for them to be able to sleep comfortably.
The touch and hold pressure is similar to the amount of pressure that can comfortably be put on an adult eye as if to change a contact lens. This amount is perfect for babies due to their high sensitivity and responsiveness to pressure. There are no heavy hands used when treating babies!
Irritated nerves that exit the spine between the vertebrae can also cause disturbances to the stomach, intestines and other abdominal organs causing gas to build up in the intestines.
Many babies experience immediate relief and often rest in their mother’s arms afterward, completely content.
What does the Research Say?
There is good research evidence to demonstrate that chiropractic manual therapy can be very effective in the treatment of babies that cry too much – with ‘unexplained crying behaviour’. Most times you will know why your baby is crying but those times when you try everything and your baby just keeps on and on crying can be very distressing.
Babies can present with all sorts of symptoms and these may or may not be associated with both musculoskeletal and non-musculosketal problems. These can range from frequently interrupted sleep, excessive intestinal gas, frequent vomiting, excessive crying and difficulty breastfeeding,
A study in 2012 by Miller, Bolton and Newell in the Journal of Manipulative Physiology Therapeutics Oct;35(8): 600-7 was undertaken to determine the efficacy of chiropractic manual therapy for infants who cried for prolonged periods for no apparent reason.
This crying issue is also called infant colic and 104 infants younger than 8 weeks were randomly put into three groups – one contained the infants who were treated and the parents knew this; one contained the infants who were treated but the parents did not know this and the third contained infants who had received no treatment and the parents did not know this.
The parents were given daily crying diaries to record their baby’s crying patterns over a 10 day period and after this period the results were compared, taking into account 2 hours or less of crying per day to determine a clinically significant improvement in crying duration.
In this study, chiropractic manual therapy was found to improve crying behaviour in infants with colic.
The findings showed that knowledge of treatment by the parent did not appear to contribute to the observed treatment effects in this study. Thus, it is unlikely that observed treatment effect is due to bias on the part of the reporting parent.
Therefore it if you have or know of a baby who keeps crying no matter what you or the parents do, it is worth bringing them into the clinic to see Dr Bonagura. A few treatment sessions will be enough to decide whether chiropractic treatment can help. If it does it will really help everyone to be more content!
A Case Study to Consider
A study in Canada in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association in 2008 Dec; 52(4): 248 – 255 by described how a three month old baby was treated by a chiropractor. She had suffered from frequently interrupted sleep, excessive intestinal gas, frequent vomiting, and excessive crying and difficulty breastfeeding. The baby was described as “very fussy” at feeding time and had difficulty making a complete seal so that she had no desire to breastfeed, refused a pacifier or suck on her mother’s fingers or her own. She had been diagnosed with GERD (gastrointestinal reflux disease) by her GP and prescribed medication which had not made any significant difference.
Baby’s Signs and Symptoms
Crying was described as high-pitched and vomiting was worse after her feedings. When she was picked up or held, the baby would cry excessively and go into full body rigidity and throw herself backwards with her back arched. The patient’s mother described how walking and “bouncing” her baby was the only way her daughter would breastfeed.
The baby did not sleep well as she kept “wiggling” all through the night and she would sleep continuously for only 2 hours during the night with even shorter “nap-time” during the day
The chiropractic examination of a baby involves examining the posture and palpating (touching the spine while the baby moves and is still). The chiropractor found several problems of joint mobility in the baby’s spine.
Involved gentle mobilisation over a few weeks of the problem areas to restore good joint movement.
After the baby’s initial visit, the mother stated that the baby was able to feed from both breasts, that she was able to make a complete seal with her mouth and not “pull off “ from her mother’s breast. The baby was relaxed enough to feed while the mother sat still rather than her having to walk and “bounce” her child as previously described. The baby also slept for longer periods after her initial treatment without the uncomfortable “wiggling” that would awaken her.
Because the baby had responded so well to the initial visit, the chiropractor continued to treat her.
After just seven visits, the mother found that the baby was only vomiting once per day as compared to vomiting following after every feeding. The patient was now able to latch on to her mother’s breast more efficiently without pulling off before finishing her feeding. According to the patient’s mother, her daughter had increased her sleeping time during the night to 4–5 hours at a time as well as increasing the length of her “nap-time” in the day to approximately 2 hours.
The baby had stopped crying as often or for extended lengths of time as before chiropractic care and her high-pitched, “painful cry” had become less acute and more whimpering in nature, which was easier to cope with.
She also no longer arched into extension when someone tried to hold her.
The only change that the baby’s mother had made was taking her to a chiropractor, therefore she believed that the changes for the better had occurred due to the treatment the baby had received. As with all case reports, improvement in a patient’s symptoms may be attributed to (a) the natural history, (b) regression to the mean and (c) the result of placebo. Furthermore, both the clinician and the patient (or in this case the patient’s mother) may make incorrect inferences from treatment due to imagining that the treatment ‘must have made a difference’ or (e) subjective validation.
However, the baby had not responded to any other treatment such as medication, which is characteristic for patients with GERD that are less than 2 years of age.
If treatment is not helping after a few treatments, at the Avenue Clinic, we will never continue to treat but refer a patient on for further investigation.
We all want to do the best for our children but often worry about what IS the best thing to do. If you have any questions or uncertainties, Dr Bonagura offers free 15 minute chats where the two of you can talk through your options and decide if your baby could benefit from chiropractic care, so just give the clinic a call.