A review, completed by experts from Canada and Austria, looked at a body of research on the natural remedy acupuncture in term and preterm infants. Their report included an evaluation of four studies: three involved acupuncture for colic and one concerned infants who underwent a minor painful procedure.
In the study that evaluated acupuncture for pain, there were ten preterm infants who needed to have several heel pricks for an analysis of blood gas levels. Each infant acted as his or her own control. That means the infants were randomly assigned to each of the following possibilities: received breast milk only followed by the heel prick, or received breast milk plus acupuncture followed by the heel prick.
The acupuncture needle was placed at the point called Yintang, which is midway between the ends of the eyebrows. During the procedure, the infants showed a significant decrease in heart rate and a restful sleep, which could have been due to the relaxing effects of this acupuncture point.
Overall, the researchers determined that crying duration and scores on the neonatal infant pain scale were significantly lower when the infants received the natural remedy than when they did not.
Acupuncture for colic
Anyone whose child had suffered with colic knows how frustrating the experience can be for the entire family. In the quest for treatment options, acupuncture may be on the table.
In the three studies reviewed, all the infants were treated using the same acupuncture point; that is, Hegu (LI4). This point reportedly has an impact on the release of melatonin and serotonin, which in turn effects sleep and mood. The point is found on the hand in the middle of the second metacarpal bone and is an easy one to treat in infants.
One of the studies involved needling for 2 seconds and alternating between the hands while in the other study the practitioners needled for 20 seconds. Results in both studies showed a reduction in crying intensity and frequency. The third study, however, did not have the same results.
Overall, the authors concluded that “acupuncture could be a safe nonpharmacologic treatment option for pain reduction in term and preterm infants and could also be a nonpharmacologic treatment option to treat infantile colic.” They also stressed that the treatments should be performed only by professionals who have experience in neonatal/pediatric acupuncture.
In an earlier study, which was not included in the new review, the authors analyzed the impact of acupuncture on colic in 913 infants who averaged 5.4 weeks in age at the beginning of the trial. The children were treated daily for an average of 6.2 days at the LI4 point for 10 to 20 seconds. Generally, the infants experienced a reduction in belching, drooling, extended stomach, frequency of bowel movements, and regurgitation after treatment.
Overall, acupuncture was well tolerated, safe, and not associated with any serious side effects. The authors of this study also concluded that minimal acupuncture is an effective and safe treatment for infantile colic.
And the point is…
If you have an infant, would you consider acupuncture to treat colic or a minor painful procedure? More research is needed in these areas, but the fact is that acupuncture is one of several natural remedies (e.g., probiotics, massage, herbal teas) parents may consider when seeking treatment for colic and other health issues their infants face.Read more about natural remedies
image: Frank Guido