Thursday, March 1, 2012

Children and Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting very fine needles into the skin to relieve pain and treat diseases. Since many children are terrified of needles, acupuncture is not commonly offered for children. But at Kernan Hospital in the Woodlawn area of Baltimore, children over the age of 8 are treated with acupuncture. Children under age 8 can receive acupressure or Chinese massage known as Tui Na.
"Acupuncture offers another dimension of care in addition to traditional medicine," says Dr. Lixing Lao, a licensed acupuncturist with the Complementary Program at Kernan Hospital and an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He adds, "Children respond very well to the treatment, often better than adults."
The Chinese believe that there is an energy flow called Qi running throughout the body, and that acupuncture restores the balance of this energy flow, therefore eliminating the pain or symptoms of a disorder. There is limited Western scientific explanation as to how acupuncture works. The University of Maryland's Complementary Medicine Program is currently researching its mechanism of action.
Acupuncture is used to treat a variety of illnesses, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, arthritis, back pain, asthma, upset stomachs and depression. The number of sessions needed varies, depending on the disorder. "For a temporary condition like diarrhea or fever, only one or two treatments may be needed. Other problems like an eating disorder or depression may require 10 sessions or more. We usually take a break and then begin acupuncture again," says Dr. Lao. Each session lasts approximately 20 minutes.
Almost two years ago, research from Children's Hospital in Boston touted the benefits of acupuncture. Seventy percent of children who took part in the study said acupuncture did indeed help their symptoms. Fifty-five percent of their parents agreed. Only one child said acupuncture worsened the symptoms. Most of the children were being treated with acupuncture for migraine headaches.

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