Infantile colic is commonly recognized as unexplained bouts of excessive crying, often associated with marked irritability and abdominal discomfort of the little one. Although infantile colic is believed to be self-limited with no long-term adverse effects, it can be especially stressful and worrisome to parents when their infant is inconsolable during prolonged crying episodes. All too often, suggested treatment options are unsuccessful and unapproved for safe use in infants.
The term "colic" derives from the Greek word kolikos or kolon, suggesting that some disturbance is occurring in the GI tract. Other factors may also be neurological, behavioral, and psychologic.
Does your baby have colic?
The “rule of three” may be used to define infantile colic: crying for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, and for longer than three weeks in an infant who is adequately fed and otherwise healthy.
Acupuncture treatment has been utilized effectively in China and throughout the world for thousands of years. Recent evidence shows acupuncture to be a safe, alternative treatment for pediatric patients. In traditional Chinese medicine, the symptoms associated with infantile colic most often reflect the syndromes of “food stagnation” and “Spleen qi deficiency,” which is similar to indigestion and weak digestive powers
Acupuncture for infant colic
In 2010, a study investigated whether acupuncture reduces the duration and intensity of crying in infants with colic with 81 otherwise healthy infants of two to eight weeks old. Standardized acupuncture was performed on the study group for two seconds in the acupuncture point named Hegu, in six visits to the acupuncture clinic over the course of three weeks. This minimal acupuncture resulted in shorter duration and reduced intensity of crying in infants with colic.
Previously, in 2008, another trial included 40 children with excessive crying who were unresponsive to offered conventional treatments. This trial gave light acupuncture needling on the Hegu point for twenty seconds during four visits. The acupuncture group showed to have a significant reduction in crying intensity during peak crying episode periods. There was also a decrease in occurrence of pain related behavior including facial expressions.
In China, 100 infants aged one month to three years with night crying were treated with acupuncture point Zhong Chong. Of the study group, all 100 infants improved to normal sleep, without crying, in a matter of one to three treatments.
A study in Norway included 7 infants with colic, average age of seven weeks old. Treating with acupuncture point Zu San Li, an average difference of 60 minutes decreased crying time was found in the acupuncture compared to the placebo group.
It is the role of health care providers to rule out any possible causes of crying or discomfort and to provide reassurance along with safe treatment advice to support the family with alternatives. The use of traditional Chinese medicine through acupuncture may be considered as a safe and effective treatment option to mediate the colic period.
It is important for parents to seek board certified, licensed acupuncturists who have experience with pediatric care. The fear of needles which may be present in a large portion of the pediatric population is not as much of an issue in the infantile population where colic is most often recognized. The use of fine needles may be used or the use of applied pressure to the point is another option to activate the acupuncture point.
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