Colic, Reflux and Osteopath Treatment

Author Philippa Murphy

Colic, Reflux and Osteopath Treatment


I often get asked whether it’s worth taking a baby that is upset to an osteopath, a cranial sacral specialist, or a chiropractor. So I thought I’d share what I believe is the most appropriate and why.

My recommendation and why?

So, if you haven’t already guessed, and getting straight to the point, my preferred choice of practitioner for our newborns is an osteopath. One of my reasons for this is because they have to undergo between 4 and 7 years of full-time study, depending on which country they train in. They are also required to continue post-graduate development to retain their registration, where as a cranial sacral specialist does not undergo such extensive training, and when we are manipulating such a developing, transitional newborn body, I believe the more training the better.

When comparing Osteopath treatment to Chiropractor perhaps this is more a personal learnt thing for me as I watched my father’s treatment with a Chiropractor growing up and it always sounded quite strongly manipulative as opposed to the gentle viewing I have witnessed of Osteopath treatment. So I am not categorically saying don’t see a Chiropractor, I am just more familiar first hand with an Osteopaths gentle manipulation.


What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a form of manual medicine that detects and treats damaged parts of the body such as muscles, ligaments, nerves and joints. There are a number of types of osteopathic treatments, one of which is cranial osteopathy. This is a gentle treatment that encourages release of stresses and tension throughout the body, including the head. 

Appropriate age for treatment?

This really is a situation where the earlier the better although, I do still advise that you allow baby and yourself the time to recover and ground back to earth before making the journey for a treatment. If baby is unsettled, then making this a course of treatment early on can be helpful, and it is said that within the first twelve weeks of life is when they are very responsive to treatment. 

I also believe that it should be standard practice that all newborns receive one Osteopath treatment as part of their postpartum healing. The journey from womb to world can be vigorous for some. The position in the womb may have parts of their body curled up in an unusual way for quite some time. The pulling of forceps may extend their neck just a little bit. So who wouldn't enjoy having all of those tight muscles released after such a journey. I know I would, and I have witnessed the incredible difference it can for the baby many times. 


How can osteopathy treatment help colic and reflux? 

One of the nerves that can be worked on to relieve colic and reflux symptoms is the vagus nerve, which helps manage the functions of the digestive tract. When the vagus nerve is damaged, perhaps from the way baby was birthed, or the way they lay in the womb, the required communication can be interfered with, potentially slowing down digestive contractions and capabilities. An Osteopath can gently massage the vagus nerve to open up the communication again, relaxing the digestive tract, which often reinstates sleep for a short time. Now I say a short time, only because many newborns then return home after the treatment to continue being cared for with practices that cause the symptoms of colic and reflux – or what I call Digestive Overload, the cause of these symptoms. This then brings a return of tension to the digestive tract, which in turn brings tension to the vagus nerve. So while I believe Osteopaths can help with the symptoms of colic and reflux, and for some newborns the relaxation of the vagus nerve is all they require for the symptoms to disappear, thankfully. I also do know that in the majority of cases, it’s a piece of the necessary treatment.

So, if your baby has had osteopath treatment and seemed better for a day, or so, but then returned to the unsettled behaviour, you may want to read my book below to help you define and heal the care practices that are causing the Digestive Overload symptoms. 


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Last Updated: 04 May 2020

Some of this article has been adopted, with permission, from Canterbury Osteopaths leaflet, after having Sarah Wisson, a qualified and principal osteopath from the practice speaking at The Pudding Club for two years.