When I was still a student there, I remember a discussion with one of the teachers at my acupuncture school, whose population was at least 90% of Chinese or Korean descent. “Americans are really afraid of needles,” she informed me, not in a derisive or aggressive way, but as more of a curiosity. “When we treat Americans, we must use the smallest needles.” I laughed like I always do, but now that I am a practicing clinician, I have frequently recalled her observation as I see people squirm at the mere mention of my pointy specialty (all the while, people can stand even larger cortisone shots. The truth is, though, that acupuncture for children and adults can be extremely beneficial.
Acupuncture for Children – Natural Pain Relief
Given the apparent truth of said stereotype, it is not shocking that acupuncture is not on the top of the list of treatments usually considered for pediatric patients. However, a recent report from Harvard suggests that perhaps we should consider changing this.
Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital in Boston has been referring children and adolescents to acupuncture treatment since 1995. In a recent follow up study of 47 pediatric patients who had been referred to and received acupuncture treatment, 70% said the treatment had been helpful, and 67% even called that treatment ‘pleasant.’ The children treated suffered from a variety of ailments; the most frequent diagnoses were migraines, endometriosis, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy. The median number of treatments received was 8, and in most cases, the full course of treatment was completed within 3 months.
The authors of the study note that patient perception of acupuncture tended to become increasingly positive throughout the course of treatment. A 17 year old girl who had been diagnosed with endometriosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and headaches reported, “Acupuncture was not painful and was very relaxing.” Parents were generally pleased with their children’s treatments as well. A father remarked that his daughter’s acupuncture treatments were “anticipated positively” and that afterward, she had “a better attitude for studying, better appetite, and less pain.”
Further showing that acupuncture for children can be a solution for pain, another parent of a 17 year old boy reported that acupuncture “helped that [the pain] and also with relaxation. He had head-thrashing, violent twitching of his head, but all that’s left is a twitch in his eye.” She went on to say, “If anybody ever wanted to speak to me, I would love to because it was such a good, positive experience.”
Other research also shows that acupuncture can be a fantastic holistic treatment for depression.
The pediatric acupuncture program at Children’s Hospital is overseen by Dr. Yuan-Chi Lin, a medical doctor with board certifications in Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Pain Management, and Medical Acupuncture. Notably, patients in the study were treated by a Licensed Acupuncturist, rather than another healthcare practitioner- medical doctor, nurse or chiropractor- with a certificate in acupuncture.
The designation ‘Licensed Acupuncturist’ requires completing a 3-4 year graduate school training as well as passing three national certification exams, while an acupuncture certification is typically awarded after 100-300 hours of abbreviated training.