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Acupuncture alleviates infantile colic

The use of acupuncture as an effective treatment option for babies with infantile colic, relates to babies who cry for more than three hours a day on three or more days of the week. Such a pattern of crying and distress is classed as atypical, affecting around one in five families.

Colic is not a disease but rather a combination of behaviors. The term is generally applied as a ‘catch-all’ or problem crying in apparently healthy babies. In most cases this high level of crying simply goes away. The main issue for the parents is dealing with the situation and trying to avoid exhaustion.

Where acupuncture comes in is with the ability of the technique to relieve pain, restore gut function, and induce calm. The application to babies was undertaken as part of a controlled trial. With the trial, the research group, from the Department of Health Sciences at Lund University aimed to see whether two types of acupuncture, contrasted with standard care (that is no acupuncture), had any effect on 147 babies with colic.

The babies used in the study were between two and eight weeks of age. The babies had no known illnesses. Prior to the study the babies had not been given cow’s milk for at least five days. The babies were placed into three groups, and each was assessed for overall health and weight.

One group, The Daily Telegraph reports, were given standard minimal acupuncture at one acupuncture point (coded LI4) for two-five seconds. A second group were given tailored acupuncture at a maximum of five acupuncture points for up to 30 seconds, along with mild stimulation. The final group received no additional treatment. The continuation of colic was assessed by a parenteral diary.

Three of the babies pulled out of the study and 144 were assessed over the course of two weeks. In each group the level of crying fell, which is a natural reaction. What was of interest was the magnitude of the reduction. It was found a significantly higher proportion of babies in the acupuncture groups were no longer classed as colic within a faster time compared with the group that received no treatment. Of the different acupuncture treatments, the standard minimal acupuncture at one acupuncture point was marginally more effective.

The researchers note that the babies tolerated the acupuncture well, with the majority not crying (200 out of 388 treatments recorded reported no crying from the acupuncture).

The research has been published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, with the research paper headed “Effect of minimal acupuncture for infantile colic: a multicentre, three-armed, single-blind, randomised controlled trial (ACU-COL).”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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