Many young patients with long-term medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, and other brain and musculoskeletal conditions suffer from chronic pain. A new case study of nine patients has found that the practice of acupuncture may be a safe, effective alternative for pain relief in children with such complex medical conditions.
The findings show that all nine of the patients in the study experienced some measure of relief, spanning from decreased pain to complete relief.
The non-toxic and minimally invasive practice of acupuncture makes it a particularly attractive option for children with chronic care conditions, since many of these patients are already burdened with frequent surgeries and several types of medications.
Furthermore, many of these drugs come with unpleasant side effects — such as weight gain, sleepiness, and mood swings — that burden both the child and their families, said lead author Scott Schwantes, M.D., a pediatrician at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“A lot of these patients have gone through a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain,” said Schwantes. “These kids have a complex array of distressing symptoms that decrease their quality of life. For some of them, acupuncture may be a valuable tool to add to their treatment.”
The research involved a case review of nine patients who received acupuncture treatments in the clinic or hospital between June 2014 and June 2015. Patients received treatments based on their backgrounds and conditions. Treatments included energetic work, biomechanical treatment (surface release technique, percutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), and/or ear stimulation.
The findings show that every single one of the patients received notable benefits from acupuncture, spanning from decreased pain to complete relief.
On average, the acupuncture procedure takes about 30 minutes and involves the process of strategically placing a series of needles at precise points on a patient. The minimally invasive outpatient procedure could be a safe and effective alternative for children who are already burdened with surgeries, frequent hospital stays and medications, said Schwantes. The biggest stumbling block to the procedure is that some children have needle phobia.
“The proof is with the patients. They’re the ones who are successfully recovering from pain,” Schwantes says. “This study shows that acupuncture can be a safe, well-tolerated, and effective therapy for children and young adults with pediatric-onset disabilities.”
The findings are published in the journal Medical Acupuncture.