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Is Acupuncture Safe for Children? How Effective is It?

Updated on November 17, 2016
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John uses his research background in Biochemistry & Physiology to develop review articles - pregnancy, babies, infants, children, teenagers

Despite acupuncture being practiced for thousands of years there has been no definitive research that shows that it is safe for children. However a major new study has finally confirmed that it is safe and that it works safely and effectively with children of ages.

A major review study published in the premiere children's research journal Pediatrics, has confirmed that acupuncture done by a qualified and trained practitioner is safe. The review study showed that less than 10% of children experienced mild side effects such as minor pain, bruising and occasional numbness at the puncture site. The more serious side effects known to occur in adults such as infections and impairment of nerves were very rare. These findings were similar to that found for adults.


Research Findings

Many review studies in the past have mostly targeted acupuncture in adults. These studies showed very similar rates of minor adverse effects in less than 10% of treatment sessions, with serious side effects for only five in every million treatment sessions.

Acupuncture as a treatment for children is growing throughout the Western world to relieve pain, control migraines, treat asthma and many other complaints.

It is estimated that about 150,000 children were treated using acupuncture in 2007. However many parents have been reluctant to employ acupuncture because of concern about the safety of acupuncture treatment for children who may be less likely to be aware of side effects.

Researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, reviewed data from a total of 37 international studies. The criteria for inclusion of the studies in the review were:

  • The research was original and peer-reviewed
  • Involved children aged from one to seventeen years
  • Involved needle, rather than other types of acupuncture
  • The research included assessment of adverse effects on children. Safety data were extracted from all included studies.

The review included a total of nearly 1500 children and teenagers and found that about 10% (168 children) were reported as having 'mild side effects'.

More serious problems such as infections and nerve damage were very rare and tended to be confined to clinics that did not comply with training and safety standards.

Most Canadian provinces, American states and many countries throughout the world regulate acupuncture and impose adequate certification and safety standards, though the regulations vary by state.

The current research did not assess the effective of acupuncture in children.

However, another major review study found that acupuncture is effective for children particularly for treating postoperative pain and nausea associate with chemotherapy.

Children's Reaction to Needles

A previous study reached the same conclusions


Care is needed to ensure the acupuncture therapist is properly trained and certified.

© 2011 Dr. John Anderson


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