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Pain Management Health Center

Acupuncture Helps Kids and Teens With Chronic Pain

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Seventy percent of the young people and 59% of their parents reported improvement in pain symptoms. Some also mentioned that acupuncture seemed to help with relaxation.

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

"Often what I do is show them the needles and let them hold the needle," 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 very easy and that once it is placed, I can still talk and move my hand." With young children, he describes the sensation of the needles as feeling "like a mosquito that lands on you and is more annoying, [rather] than something that is actually painful."

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

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

Vital Information:

  • According to a recent survey, acupuncture can be an effective option for children and teenagers who are experiencing chronic pain.
  • Some youths were scared initially or thought the procedure was weird, but many overcame these feelings and reported improved pain symptoms.
  • Acupuncture usually involves placing needles under the surface of the skin, but other approaches use a warmed glass or magnets placed on certain areas of the body.
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