Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Research Review Corner: Chiropractic and Infant Colic

By Shawn Thistle BKin (Hons) DC CSCS   

Features Research

This review was prepared by Dr. Ceara Higgins of Research Review Service.

Study Title: Efficacy of Chiropractic Manual Therapy on Infant Colic: A Pragmatic Single-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial
Authors: Miller JE, Newell D, Bolton JE
Publication Information: Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2012; 35(8): 600-607

This review was prepared by Dr. Ceara Higgins of Research Review Service.

Infantile colic, or excessive crying, affects between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of babies and can consume a great deal of resources in health care (not to mention being a huge source of stress for both the parents and the babies!). To date, no clear cause of infant colic has been identified, although it has become clear, from previous research, that it is rare to find an underlying disease. Roughly 50 per cent of infants affected recover in six months (a long six months for those involved!) – this condition is self-limiting, but within a widely variable timeframe. Although there is some evidence to support the use of manual therapy for the treatment of infant colic, as a whole it is not yet conclusive. This literature has been reviewed in two prior systematic reviews.1,2


Reported issues with previous studies include:

  • lack of blinding;
  • possible bias toward treatment, due to parents being aware of the treatment their child was receiving; and
  • using parent-reported improvements as the main outcome measure.

This study attempted to improve on these shortcomings and remove these potential sources of bias.

This study supports the use of chiropractic manual therapy in infants presenting with colic. Importantly, the study also suggests that the effectiveness of chiropractic manual therapy cannot be attributed to parent bias – this is certainly an improvement on existing studies! This study should lead practitioners to reconsider the existing research supporting the use of chiropractic manual therapy for colic, which has been criticized for the lack of parental blinding.

Another interesting observation was that improvement from this treatment would likely become apparent early on – demonstrating that a short course of therapy is certainly a reasonable option for this condition.


  1. Hawk C et al. Chiropractic care for nonmusculoskeletal conditions: A systematic review with implications for whole systems research. J Comp Alt Med 2007; 13(5): 491-512.
  2. Gleberzon B, Arts J, Mei A & McManus EL. The use of spinal manipulative therapy for pediatric health conditions: A systematic review of the literature. J Can Chiro Assoc 2012; 56(2): 128-41.

To view this review in full, including sections titled Study Methods, Strengths and Weaknesses, and Pertinent Results, please visit

In addition to practising full time in Toronto, Dr. Shawn Thistle is founder and president of Research Review Service Inc., an online, subscription-based service designed to help busy practitioners integrate current, relevant scientific evidence into their practice ( Shawn also recently launched The Epicurean Scholar, which offers continuing education seminars combined with gourmet food and wine events ( Dr. Thistle graduated from CMCC (where he lectures in the Orthopedics Department) and holds an Honours Degree in Kinesiology from McMaster University. He also holds a certificate in Contemporary Medical Acupuncture from McMaster University, and is a Certified Active Release Techniques (ART®) Provider and Functional Range Release®/Functional Anatomical Palpation® instructor and provider.

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