Acupuncture and Children: Pros and Cons

by on December 4th, 2014
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A few months back, acupuncture was the only thing that healed my husband’s lower back pain. It’s also seemingly beneficial for our 15 year old’s joint pain in her knees. While the jury is out as to whether or not acupuncture works for everything (like weight loss or smoking cessation), there has been little argument that acupuncture works to manage and relieve pain. Acupuncture is used by nearly 3 million Americans every year (, but is this method of healing safe for children? And if so, what works, and what doesn’t?

Acupuncture isn’t cheap, at least in our experience. At $60 a pop, it’s comparable to fees in our area for an hour massage or a half hour chiropractor visit, and the only reason we go this alternative route is simple- it works for our family. Chiropractor visits are less frequent and pain is managed and healed, so it saves us money ultimately going this route. But it’s not cheaper for everyone.

Acupuncture and children actually do work well together. Most people say acupuncture needles (which are very slim and slightly penetrate skin) are either painless or hardly felt at all. My husband could not even feel them in his back, and our 15 year old finds acupuncture less painful than chiropractic manipulation, and likes acupuncture better than a massage (which she finds ‘weird’).

For young children, acupuncture is only recommended under the extreme care of a licensed practioner, which in our case is a chiropractor, and acupuncture treatments are usually done on children undergoing surgery to help treat nausea and vomiting afterward. Acupuncture can appear scary to a young child, but it can be very beneficial as well. Particularly helpful in children undergoing cancer treatments, acupuncture can help ease discomfort in children with critical illness.

However, while acupuncture is also used in children who suffer from anxiety or ADHD, there has been no proven evidence that acupuncture really works for these illnesses. Many children receive acupuncture for mental illness or distress, but acupuncture is not believed to be known to work by medical experts in this regard.

Acupuncture in general is believed to work by altering the way the brain reacts to pain and allowing the body to relieve tension and inflammation, among other things. Acupuncture is also believed to help the body to release energies that are making the body have a difficult time healing as well.

Is acupuncture beneficial for children? In our experience, yes- we are considering acupuncture for another of our children who suffers from terrible headaches. But in general, acupuncture is more of an extreme method of care for very serious illness in children.


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