Recent findings published in Alternative and Complementary Therapies suggest that acupuncture therapy might reduce chronic pain in patients aged 7 to 20 years.
“While acupuncture has been shown to reduce pain in adults, there is very little data on whether it’s effective in children,” Angela Johnson, MPH, of Rush University Medical Center, said in a press release. “Treatment of pain can be difficult because it’s subjective; but with children, it is increasingly difficult because a child may not communicate effectively depending on the age and accurate recognition of pain.”
Chronic pain is defined as any kind of pain, from any cause, that lasts for at least 12 weeks, according to the researchers. To treat chronic pain, parents often seek alternative treatments in order to avoid adverse effects associated with pain killers.
Johnson and colleagues enrolled 55 children and adolescents aged 7 to 20 years with chronic pain. Each patient received individually tailored acupuncture treatment for 30 minutes in eight sessions along with music and heat lamps placed at the stomach, back or feet. To measure chronic pain, the researchers used the Adolescent Pediatric Pain Tool, which includes a body outline diagram, a pain intensity score on a five-point scale, and various pain quality descriptors. The researchers administered this assessment before and after each session. To measure nausea, the researchers used The Pediatric Nausea Assessment, which consists of a nausea intensity score on a four-point scale with corresponding facial expressions. To measure happiness after the eight sessions, the researchers administered to both parent and child the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, which is a 23-item questionnaire that uses a five-point Likert scale to measure quality of life in terms of physical, emotional, social and educational problems.
The researchers found that 56.4% of patients completed all eight sessions. Patients reported significant reduction in pain and nausea after each session. Patients reported significant reduction from the first session to the eighth session. The reduction became smaller and smaller after each session. Patients reported significant reduction in physical, emotional, social and educational problems. In addition, the researchers found no adverse side effects.
Two limitations include that the study was not controlled or randomized, and there was no follow-up.
“Like any good doctors, we want to reduce children’s suffering,” Johnson said in the release. “We hope that this study will be a first step in our being able to do more for these kids.” – by Will Offit
Disclosure: The researchers report conducting the study at Rush University Medical Center. The researchers report being supported by a grant from the Rush University Medical Center’s Women’s Board.