New research indicates that acupuncture may be a safe way to address childhood chronic pain. With her team, Angela Johnson, practitioner of Chinese medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, led a study that investigated acupuncture as a treatment strategy. Their findings were published in the journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapies.

Globally, statistics show that nearly 20-35% of young people manage chronic pain (pain lasting at least 12 weeks). Treating children, as opposed to adults, has special challenges. Unfortunately, drug treatment and therapies are not the best option for childhood chronic pain. Many doctors worry that children will experience complications due to growth needs, or will have to manage ongoing health concerns. Also, treatment can be complicated by challenges of communication and pain assessment, depending on age of the child.

To address these needs, the study looks at how the traditional Chinese medicinal practice of acupuncture stimulates various pressure points on a child’s body, primarily by the insertion of thin needles through the skin. The study does not have the advantage of a wealth of child-oriented data, as much of the acupuncture data available regarding chronic pain has been collected from adults.

“This study looked at the effect of acupuncture in children directly, rather than examining data collected from adults. This focus is especially important, since children experience pain in different ways than adults, ” notes Johnson.

The researcher gathered 55 children suffering from chronic pain as study participants, ranging in age from 7-20 years old. Each child attended eight, 30-minute long acupuncture sessions where each was provided a custom tailored acupuncture treatment, with each treatment lasting around 30 minutes.

Using the Adolescent Pediatric Pain Tool (APPT) rating system, researchers found that the children reported marked pain reduction. Also, according to the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, the data shows that children experienced overall health improvement and few problems emotionally, educationally, and socially.

Read the full article here: Acupuncture ‘safe and effective’ for chronic pain in children