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Manipulative therapies for infantile colic

Dobson D, Lucassen PLBJ, Miller JJ, Vlieger AM, Prescott P, Lewith G
Published Online: 
12 December 2012

Infantile colic is a distressing problem, characterised by excessive crying of infants and it is the most common complaints seen by physicians in the first 16 weeks of a child's life.

It is usually considered a benign disorder because the symptoms generally disappear by the age of five or six months. However, the degree of distress caused to parents and family life is such that physicians often feel the need to intervene. Some studies suggest that there are longer-lasting effects on the child, and estimates in 2001 put the cost to the UK National Health Service at over £65 million.

It has been suggested that certain gentle (low velocity, low amplitude) manipulative techniques (such as those used in osteopathy and chiropractic therapies) might safely reduce the symptoms associated with infantile colic, specifically excessive crying time. This review included six randomised trials involving 325 infants who received manipulative treatment or had been part of a control group.

The studies involved too few participants and were of insufficient quality to draw confident conclusions about the usefulness and safety of manipulative therapies.

Although five of the six trials suggested crying is reduced by treatment with manipulative therapies, there was no evidence of manipulative therapies improving infant colic when we only included studies where the parents did not know if their child had received the treatment or not.

No adverse effects were found, but they were only evaluated in one of the six studies.

Further rigorous research is required where (a) infants are randomly allocated to receive either treatment or no treatment and (b) those assessing the treatment outcomes do not know whether or not the infant has received a manipulative therapy.

This record should be cited as: 
Dobson D, Lucassen PLBJ, Miller JJ, Vlieger AM, Prescott P, Lewith G. Manipulative therapies for infantile colic. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD004796. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004796.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
30 October 2012