MONDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- When done by well-trained
professionals, acupuncture can be a safe treatment for children,
new research suggests.
In an analysis of 37 studies or case reports, Canadian
researchers found that in over 1,400 children treated with
acupuncture, just 168 experienced a mild adverse reaction, such as
crying or pain. The investigators found 25 reports of serious
"In trained hands, acupuncture seems safe in children," said the study's senior author, Dr. Sunita Vohra, a professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Alberta in Canada.
Results of the study are published online and in the December
Acupuncture is a treatment that is said to have originated in
China thousands of years ago. In Eastern medicine, acupuncture is
believed to open the channels where a person's Qi (pronounced
chee), or life force, is blocked. In Western medicine, it's more
commonly believed that acupuncture works by stimulating the release
of the body's natural painkillers, according to the U.S. National
Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Stimulation of certain areas to release the blocked Qi (called
acupoints) can be done through the insertion of very thin needles
or with heat, pressure or a laser, the study authors pointed out in
background information in the article.
Acupuncture is used for a variety of problems, such as pain,
nausea, vomiting, anxiety and muscle spasm, according to Vohra and
Dr. Raymond Pitetti, the associate medical director of the
emergency department at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Jeannie
Kang, president of the American Association of Acupuncture and
Oriental Medicine, added that acupuncture is also used for sprains,
allergies, asthma, and menstrual cramps and irregularities.
In the United States, recent estimates suggest that as many as 3
million people have tried acupuncture therapy.
Because acupuncture is growing in popularity, and no specific
studies have been conducted on the safety of acupuncture in
children, Vohra and her colleagues wanted to assess the available
evidence to determine whether or not acupuncture is a safe
treatment for children.
The researchers reviewed all of the available literature on
acupuncture in children. They found 37 studies and case reports
that met their inclusion criteria.
The rate of adverse events was significantly lower in children
than what has been reported in adults, the results showed.
The current analysis found a mild adverse event rate of nearly
12 percent in children. Mild events included bleeding, pain,
crying, bruising and worsening of symptoms.
Serious events occurred in 25 children. Twelve children had
thumb deformities, and five experienced infections after
acupuncture. There were also isolated heart problems, lung
problems, bleeding issues, nerve impairment, intestinal
obstruction, hospitalization and a reversible coma.
Many of the serious adverse events were believed to be the
result of substandard practices, said Vohra.
All three experts recommended making sure your child's
acupuncturist is well trained. In Canada, acupuncture is regulated
in a standard fashion and acupuncturists have to have specific
training. In the United States, requirements vary by state,
although most require that acupuncturists be licensed, according to
Kang. Vohra and Kang both recommended contacting national
acupuncture associations for a practitioner recommendation.
Practitioners certified by national organizations will likely have
Kang said that there are some acupuncturists who specialize in
acupuncture on children, but that most practitioners will have had
some pediatric experience. She said that it's uncommon to do needle
insertions on children younger than 11 years old. Instead, she
said, acupuncture practitioners will usually use something that
"looks like a spiky rolling pin" to put pressure on acupoints.
Pitetti said he didn't know if there were specific areas of the
body where acupuncture absolutely shouldn't be used, but "into the
neck, into the brain would make me more concerned. Also, when you
start to go near major organs, like the heart, or right around the
spinal cord, that would make me nervous."
But, he said, "This study should give parents a little
reassurance that it's probably a safe procedure, but it should also
make them take a hard look at who's doing the acupuncture to make
sure that they're reputable and skilled."
And, he added, it would be very helpful for parents if
pediatricians were more aware of complementary medicine therapies,
as well as the practitioners in the local area.
Learn more about what to look for in an acupuncture practitioner
National Certification Commission for Acupuncture an...riental Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.