Acupuncture- Help for Young People With Chronic Pain

| October 1, 2012 | 0 Comments | 55 views

April 26, 2000 -- Young people who suffer from medical conditions that causechronic pain may get relief from an age-old Chinese tradition: acupuncture.Children and teenagers who have undergone treatment with acupuncture say thetiny needles placed at certain points on the skin ease pain with littlediscomfort.

Although some young people said they were scared at first or thought it was"weird," the majority of kids and their parents who were asked abouttheir acupuncture experiences via a telephone survey had more positive commentsthan negative ones. Researchers from Children's Hospital in Boston, who reportthe results of the survey in the journal Pediatrics, say pediatriciansshould consider acupuncture as a treatment option, at least for some childrenwith severe, chronic pain.

Acupuncture involves placing tiny needles just under the surface of the skinat certain points on the body. Some acupuncturists say they do not know whyacupuncture works -- just that it does. Others believe the therapy stimulatesChi, or Qi, the vital energy that practitioners of Chinesemedicine believe is central to maintaining and controlling bodilyfunctions.

Adherents say the invisible Chi flows throughout the body through aseries of channels known as meridians, as well as in the blood. Acupuncturistsplace the needles at various points along the meridians to promote a healthyflow of Chi. Sometimes, the needles are warmed by touching one or moreof them with a smoldering Chinese herb; other times they are turned or twistedslightly by hand to stimulate these points.

When asked what they did not like about acupuncture treatments, the youngpeople and their families mentioned an initial fear of the needles. Althoughmost said they overcame the fear, the researchers say acupuncture can beperformed successfully using other methods without needles. These includecupping, in which a warmed glass is placed on the skin to relieve muscletension through suction; and the use of magnets on various areas of the body,including in the ears.

The 47 young people in the survey ranged in age from 5 to 20 years andunderwent acupuncture an average of eight times over three months. Theirreasons for needing acupuncture included migraine headaches, the painfulgynecologic condition known as endometriosis, and burning nerve pain associatedwith reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

Seventy percent of the young people and 59% of their parents reportedimprovement in pain symptoms. Some also mentioned that acupuncture seemed tohelp with relaxation.

Norbert Weidner, MD, a licensed acupuncturist who uses the therapy atCincinnati Children's Hospital, says pre-teens and teen-agers usually arebetter candidates for acupuncture than younger children because they are morelikely to be able to understand the concepts involved.

"Often what I do is show them the needles and let them hold theneedle," Weidner tells WebMD. "Sometimes I will place it on my body,usually my hand, to show them as I'm talking to them that the placement is veryeasy and that once it is placed, I can still talk and move my hand." Withyoung children, he describes the sensation of the needles as feeling "likea mosquito that lands on you and is more annoying, [rather] than something thatis actually painful."

Edward A. Weiss, MD, a licensed acupuncturist in private practice in PaloAlto, Calif., says that when introducing children to acupuncture, it oftenhelps if they accompany a parent for a treatment and see for themselves thatlittle discomfort is involved. "Another way is just to say, 'Let's trythis, you be in control and if you don't like it, we'll stop,'" Weisssays.

The researchers say more studies are needed to assess the effectiveness ofacupuncture in relieving children's pain.

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