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What Causes Colic?

How can I help my colicky infant?

The word colic comes from a Greek word meaning “suffering in the colon”. It is generally thought that colic stems from the immaturity of the baby’s digestive tract. Now that he or she is on the outside of the womb, their digestive tract is learning to deal with food for the first time. In the womb, they only had to deal with the amniotic fluid. Sometimes gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn) can be a contributing cause.

All babies cry. It’s part of their way of communicating. But some babies cry excessively because they are hurting. Let’s look at some different possibilities:

“The Rule of Threes”
Inconsolable crying is considered colic if:
• It begins in the 1st 3 weeks of life
• Goes on for 3 hours a day
• At least 3 days a week
• Lasts for 3 weeks or more
• Often resolves by 3 months of age

Many times there are not obvious findings on a traditional pediatric physical exam. However, in the trained hands of a Cranial Osteopathic Physician, subtle changes and restrictions of the spine, tailbone and head caused from birth trauma or the tight space in utero can be felt. These restrictions can affect nerves related to the digestive system.

Gastroesophageal reflux is often a contributing factor to colic pain. This issue also has a root in structure. Pediatric textbooks discuss the receptor sites in the GI tract that drugs can affect for reflux, although a more common cause is irritation of the vagus nerve (Cranial nerve X). This nerve stimulates many organs including the stomach. It passes through a canal between 2 bones in the back of the skull-the most common presenting part during the birthing process. Gentle Osteopathic manipulation can help relieve pressure causing the irritation and improve the functioning of baby’s digestive tract.

The number of gentle osteopathic treatments needed varies depending on the severity of birth trauma. This is another illustration of the intimate relationship between structure and function. Babies like gentle osteopathic manipulation and will often “quiet” when their body releases a restriction or finds a balance point.

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