Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture helps Infants with Colic Research

New research shows that acupuncture reduces crying in infants with colic. A randomized, controlled, double-blind study of 90 infants ranging from 2 – 8 weeks of age were given six acupuncture treatments over a three week period. Acupuncture was applied to acupuncture point LI4 for 2 seconds to the treatment group of infants during each acupuncture session. The results conclude that “acupuncture shortened the duration and reduced the intensity of crying in infants with colic.” [1]

Approximately 10 percent of newborn children experience colic. In western science, the etiology is often attributed to gastrointestinal disorders and allergic reactions to milk from cows. In some cases, colic may be behavioral manifestations from emotional imbalances due to parent-infant interaction difficulties. The latter western etiology may be interpreted as Liver Qi stagnation and the former diagnoses involve Spleen and Stomach disharmonies and food stagnation. The importance of acupuncture in the treatment of colic cannot be underestimated in that some of the western medicine treatments for colic have potential severe side effects including seizures, asphyxia and death.[2],[3],[4] The acupuncture study also points to two other studies showing the positive outcome for acupuncture in the treatment of infant night crying.[5],[6] In addition, the acupuncture study notes that a reduction in colic also reduces the chances of child abuse.

The infants chosen for the acupuncture study met basic criteria. All infants were born after the 36th week of the pregnancy, did not receive treatment with dicyclomine, and exhibited crying or fussing for no less than three hours per day and no less than three days per week. Additionally, cow’s milk needed to be excluded from the diet prior to inclusion in the acupuncture study to ensure that this was not the sole causative factor of colic.

A registered nurse skilled in the application of acupuncture applied the acupuncture point to the infants. A 0.20 x 13mm uncoated, all stainless steel needle was applied to acupuncture point LI4 for 2 seconds at an approximate depth of 2mm, unilaterally. Next, the same acupuncture procedure was applied to acupuncture point LI4 on the other hand. Total time in the treatment room was approximately 5 minutes. Six acupuncture treatments were applied over a three week period using this procedure.

The study notes that bilateral stimulation of acupuncture point LI4 for a longer duration of 20 seconds has a more immediate effect but that the role of this study was to show that even modest stimulation reduces colic. The study concludes, “Standardized, light stimulation of the acupuncture point LI4 twice a week for 3 weeks reduced the duration and intensity of crying more quickly in the acupuncture group than in the control group. No serious side effects were reported.”[7]


[1] Kajsa Landgren, Nina Kvorning, Inger Hallström; “Acupuncture reduces crying in infants with infantile colic: a randomised, controlled, blind clinical study,” Acupunct Med 2010;28:174-179.

[2] Lucassen PL, Assendelft WJ, Gubbels JW, et al. Effectiveness of treatments for infantile colic: systematic review. BMJ 1998;316:1563–9.

[3] Garrison MM, Christakis DA. A systematic review of treatments for infant colic. Pediatrics 2000;106:184–90.

[4] Wade S, Kilgour T. Extracts from “clinical evidence”: Infantile colic. BMJ 2001;323:437–40.

[5] Liu HR. Night crying in infants treated by acupuncture. J Chin Med 1994;46:38.

[6] Zhao B. Treatment of infantile morbid night crying by acupuncture at Zhongchong point in 100 cases. J Tradit Chin Med 2002;22:1.

[7] Op. cit., Kajsa Landgren, Nina Kvorning, Inger Hallström.