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Aug 8, 2014

Acupuncture Helps Pediatric Patients Manage Pain and Nausea

In light of studies that have shown the benefit of this 2,000-year old treatment for conditions such as nausea, back pain, anxiety and headaches, insurance companies are increasingly covering acupuncture as a complementary treatment.  Currently, about 3 million people in the U.S. currently use acupuncture as part of their health care.
Traditionally, acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into the body, but there are a number of variations on classic acupuncture that are also effective, including adding electrical stimulation to the acupuncture point, or simply applying pressure.  Laser acupuncture is a particularly popular option for young children. It uses infrared light from a device that resembles a small flashlight to deliver an imperceptible dose of thermal energy to the pressure point.  Research has shown laser acupuncture to be as effective as needles, said Kim, which is a bonus for young patients who may become anxious at the sight of yet another needle, even one that is painless.
Acupuncture is now incorporated into pediatric care at UCSF Hospital, and plans to research on how it can best be used are forthcoming.  Cynthia Kim, MD, EdD, of the UCSF Department of Pediatrics is conducting a controlled trial using laser acupuncture on young patients who undergo renal biopsies each year at the children’s hospital. The biopsy involves inserting a large needle into the kidney, a procedure that can be painful and make patients anxious.

The study is comparing actual to sham treatment by means of pre- and post-treatment patient surveys. Preliminary data suggest a 50-percent decrease in the use of pain medications and anxiety, said Kim.