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Acupuncture May Help Treat Children With Chronic Pain

First Posted: Dec 16, 2015 11:12 AM EST

Acupuncture may help some children fighting chronic pain, according to a recent study.

This traditional Chinese medicine is typically used to relieve pain by inserting thin needles into strategic points on the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Acupuncture provides an amazing alternative to chronic pain medication. This is especially true for patients who may have to cope with pain for most of their life, including those who have sickle cell anemia and aftereffects of cancer. In addition it helps with anxiety and depression," said Paul Kent, MD, co-principal investigator of the study and pediatric oncologist at Rush, in a news release.

While previous studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce pain in adults, there is rather little data on if it can reduce pain in children. However, chronic pain is estimated to affect 20 to 35 percent of children under the age of 18 worldwide, with conditions including headaches, abdominal pain, back pain, musculoskeletal pain, scoliosis, leukemia, sports injuries and Crohn's disease.

During the study, researchers examined 55 children and adolescents between the ages of 7 and 20 who experienced chronic pain conditions. Each patient received up to eight individually tailored acupuncture treatments, lasting about 30 minutes.

All patients reported significant and progressive declines across all levels of pain throughout the eight-session treatment, with stronger pain reductions during early treatment. Participants also reported substantial pain reductions from the start to the end of each session. Additionally, patients reported significant reductions in health, emotional, social, and educational problems.These findings were corroborated by similar reductions in parent-reported observations of the same issues.

The study contributes to the possibility of using acupuncture more to treat chronic pain in pediatric populations.

The study is published in the journal Alternative and Complementary Therapies.

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