Fussy Newborns & Trouble Later in Life: the Real Cause and Effect

While posting this article to my blog page today, it became clear to me that this topic had to be the focus of an article. Over the past few weeks I have been even more motivated that usual to get the word out about the connection between birth trauma, infantile colic and fussiness, and trouble later on life with neuro-developmental disorders such as hyperactivity and autism spectrum disorder. Too often the past few weeks I have read case history after case history on our new patients that could have been prevented had these children had chiropractic care and intervention early in life.

It obviously hits home for me, knowing that having adjustments and care immediately is the major reason why my son Oliver is the amazing and perfect little boy he is today! Were it not for chiropractic, my son’s development would have never left the medical world and he would have been down the same road so many of our patients are. I will always work hard to help care for children who are suffering from these issues, but I strongly feel the bigger impact will be stopping more from going down that road in the first place!!! The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true as can be.

So what does my rambling have to do with this article? In the study, they followed infants who were reported (by their mothers) to be excessively fussy and crying a lot. They found that, “Infants that are fussy when they’re three to four weeks old are more likely to develop childhood mental health problems including anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and behavior problems.”

In the article on MSNBC no mention was made of why the researchers thought this correlation was found… why it started… or how it could be prevented? None at all. Instead their take home message was – Early Screening. Reading between the lines and knowing the history of psychiatry, what this really means is a new market for drugs like Zoloft, Ritalin, and Prozac. Rather than address the cause, if they have their way eventually “the research” will show that more and more kids need to be drugged earlier in life. In their world, one day you will be able to buy Similac “enriched” with Ritalin. It is disgusting and alarming that they can be that clueless.

So what is my answer? THE SAME CONCEPT!!! With one exception… That the early screening be for upper cervical subluxation. Let me explain…


It seems like every day we have a new patient in the office who has been diagnosed with Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD/ADD, Asthma, Allergies, Learning Disabilities, Sensory Processing Disorder, and other related conditions. When we begin our consultation with the parents we repeatedly find a common story in over 3/4 of them – a birth injury (dystocia, forceps, vacuum, C-section) and they were fussy/colicky as infants. Going further we often learn they also had many or all of the following: torticollis or wry neck, difficulty nursing and thus formula fed, freqent spit up and acid reflux and thus acid-blocking drugs, digestive issues such as upset stomach and constipation and thus drugs such as Miralax, repeated ear infections and thus antibiotic use, and the recommended schedule and dosage of vaccinations. Those of you who have heard me speak on this topic know we refer to this as The Perfect Storm. So how does this all start? What is the correlation? Here goes…

(This issue actually starts before the labor and delivery due to factors such as: pelvic subluxations in the mother’s pelvis leading to dystocia and prolonged/troublesome labor and overuse of interventions such as inducing, epidurals, and cesarean by OB/GYNs. Often times the subluxation is already set in prior to delivery due to the child being “stuck” in a misaligned or awkward position for a prolonged period during the last phases of the pregnancy, especially if the mother is on bed rest and the child is carrying low. However, this is an entire other topic that needs to be addressed in order for proper prevention… perhaps another article and video at another date!)


Research has shown that 80% of all infants are born with upper cervical subluxation patterns, and with interventions listed above it is likely nearly 100%. An upper cervical subluxation is a condition in which the bones and joints at the base of the skull (occiput and sphenoid mostly) and those of the upper neck (atlas and axis vertebra) become misaligned and fixated. This then puts pressure on the neural tissues of the brain stem and upper spinal cord, by far the most important portion of the Central Nervous System. When this happens many of the following issues arise:

1. Neurological Interference and Disturbance

The brainstem is directly responsible for control of the Autonomic Nervous System which regulates functions such as sleep, immunity, and digestion. This is the primary reason why these children have sleep difficulties, weakend immunity (ear infections), and digestive issues such as reflux and constipation. An infant struggling with this neurological stress will be difficult to console, hard to hold and snuggle, and will often constantly extend their neck and back as if writhing in pain and discomfort.

Not only does this lead to issues at the time, but is perhaps the most damaging issue going forward through development. When the nervous system is “stuck” in this state of fight/flight stress, it begins to become “hard-wired” for stress. There is a saying in neurology that says “nerves that fire together, wire together” and thus as this child develops they do so in a perpetual state of stress, anxiety, hyperactivity, etc… all of which are the hallmarks of the conditions they will later be diagnosed with in the mental/emotional/social realm. As stated, when the subluxation is left uncorrected, these children are pre-programmed for stress and anxiety related issues.

2. Physical Muscle Spasm and Likely Pain

An upper cervical subluxation often is the major cause of torticollis. Also known as wry neck, this is a condition where an infant’s SCM muscle is locked in spasm and keeps the head tilted and rotated, often causing pain and discomfort. Most cases of mild to moderate torticollis are completely missed by pediatricians, and even those that they catch are referred to PT where stretching helps but does not remove the subluxation and neurological interference.

3. A “Plumbing” Issue

the misalignment of the bony structures causes the sinus and ear passageways to become “clogged” leaving fluid and mucus to accumulate in those areas. This leaves an environment ripe for bacteria and viruses, and frequent infections occur. This is also why antibiotics are worthless for sinus and ear infections… they do nothing to address the drainage issue.

So again what needs to be done? Every infant should be checked for vertebral subluxation, especially of the upper cervical spine, as soon after birth as possible. The sooner this subluxation pattern is corrected, the easier, and the less likely it is to return. The longer it remains, the more and more their nervous system becomes hard-wired for stress, leaving them susceptible to neuro-developmental and mood disorders.

I will work my entire career on educating the public about this life-saving change that needs to be made in our infant and pediatric care. Each of us knows someone who has had a child via C-section, or has a fussy baby, or a child with neuro-developmental delays.

Due to the correlation with birth injury and thus upper cervical subluxation, every infant should be checked by a pediatric and family chiropractor. Doing so could remove countless amounts of suffering and challenges placed on the entire family. If you know of a child who needs to be checked, make sure and get them help today!

God bless and be well. Dr. T

Tony_RoundDr. Tony Ebel is a pediatric and wellness certified chiropractor, who specializes in neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, seizure disorders and other special needs cases. He has extensive education, experience, and passion in these areas, and has a large family practice in Crystal Lake, Illinois, serving this population, as well as general family wellness. He holds post-doctorate certifications in pediatrics and wellness, and also has hundreds of hours of continuing education and training in the areas of autism, ADHD, sensory challenges, seizures, neuro-immunology, and other pediatric topics.

Dr. Tony now frequently travels throughout the country as well as internationally, providing his Perfect Storm lecture and seminar to other chiropractors, staff, and related professionals, and also has done over 100 public/parent lectures on this topic and others. He has been a featured presenter at the world’s largest autism seminar, Autism One, held each year in Chicago.

He has a beautiful wife Kristina, three incredible daughters, Addison, Alaina and their latest addition, Emilia, and an amazing little boy Oliver who himself went through “the perfect storm” spending 6 weeks in the NICU with a very grave prognosis of lifelong epilepsy, autism, and severe developmental delays. However, thanks to the early application of chiropractic care, Oliver never had a single seizure, or a single delay, and today is a vibrant and healthy 6-year-old stud! Dr. Tony is a health and wellness “junkie” who loves CrossFit and juicing, spending time with his family, and sports.