Acupuncture Reduces Crying in Colicy Infants


This study focused on investigating whether acupuncture could be an effective treatment for decreasing the period and amount of crying in infants suffering from colic. Infants crying or fussing for at least three hours in a day, for three days or more in the same week, were included in this study. It was found that acupuncture at a specific point on the hand does significantly reduce total duration and intensity of colic. Except for minor crying immediately after insertion of a small sterile needle, there were no side effects.


Infants fussing, crying or whimpering, presumably due to stomach or intestinal discomfort or allergy to cow’s milk is called colic. Fussing is defined as expressing discontent and whimpering even while being carried. Crying includes screaming loudly and sobbing hysterically and inconsolably.  According to the study 10 percent of newborn children in the Western world experience colic. Parents often describe colic as a strain on the family. Drugs like Simethicone are ineffective, while others like Dicyclomine have serious side effects, including seizures and asphyxia. This highlights the need for an alternative therapy to address infantile colic. Acupuncture is often used for relief of pain in adults and children. The present study examined acupuncture as a therapy for treating colic.


• Ninety infants were selected for this study. The parents kept a daily diary on colic in their infants, noting time and severity of colic. Parents also answered a questionnaire about symptoms that they thought were related to the acupuncture procedure.

• At the beginning of the study, parents met a nurse who provided information about the study and gathered general data about the infant.

• Next visits were scheduled twice a week for three weeks, during which the nurse took the infant to a separate room where another nurse inserted a very small sterile needle to a 2 mm depth at this point for two seconds and then withdrew the needle.

• The nurse did not know which infant was to undergo acupuncture procedure. Parents were also unaware whether their infant had received acupuncture.

Key findings

• The total duration of crying, colicky crying and fussing significantly decreased in infants receiving acupuncture, as compared to infants that did not receive this procedure.

• These effects were noted even in the first week after beginning the treatment.

• Acupuncture required insertion of a needle which can be painful to an infant. Seventy four percent in the acupuncture group cried for more than 10 seconds after the procedure, as compared to 37 percent in the group that did not receive acupuncture. But none cried for more than two minutes.


In adults and children, acupuncture is widely used for relief of pain originating from different causes. Its use in infants for controlling colic is based on the assumption that stimulating a specific point affects the movements of stomach and intestine and controls pain. A specific stimulation point is supposed to be related to many organs and vice versa. The study suggests further research utilizing various needle techniques, treatment schedule and acupuncture points. This will help identify the best point and an efficient method of stimulation for relief of colic pain in infants.


Crying in an infant is a stressful situation for the family. Infants suffering from colic often cry uncontrollably or continue to whimper even when carried by adults. This can affect optimal relations between adults and increase the risk of child abuse. The drugs currently used are either less efficient or have major side effects. This study demonstrated that minimal acupuncture curtailed the duration and decreased the intensity of crying in infants with colic, without side effects. The study also found that parents of 210 infants claimed their infants had colic; however, this number reduced to 90, after recording symptoms in the daily diary. This could mean that the clinical definition of colic does not match the parent’s experience of what they understand to be colic, and also that parents may overestimate their babies’ crying.

For More Information:

Acupuncture Reduces the Duration and Intensity of Crying in Infants with Colic

Publication Journal: Acupuncture Medicine, October 2010

By Kajsa Landgren; Nina Kvorning; Lund University, Lund, Sweden and Roskilde Hospital, Roskilde, Denmark

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research
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