Acupuncture aids Children's patients
Study confirms successful treatment
of chronic pain
As a pediatrician, anesthesiologist and pain specialist,
Dr. Lin uses acupuncture to complement Western medical treatments.
Despite the fact that acupuncture is widely practiced in the
U.S. and more than one-third of pain treatment centers provide
acupuncture as a therapy, it is used very rarely in the treatment
of children. For the past two years, however, Childrens
Hospital Boston has operated one of the most active pediatric
medical acupuncture services in the country. And according to
a recent, year-long study conducted at Childrens, the therapy
has proven successful in treating chronic pain conditions without
Lin, MD, MPH, FAAP, director of Childrens
Medical Acupuncture Service and author of the study, treats
more than chronic pain. His clinic treats patients for, among
other things, postoperative surgery and dental pain; sinusitis,
bronchitis and asthma; gastritis, colitis, hiccups and constipation.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains the efficacy of this 3,000-year-old
therapy by its ability to restore balance to Qi (pronounced
chee) as it flows through a complex system of meridians
throughout the body.
into the neurobiological process stimulated by acupuncture suggests
that its analgesic effects rely on production of endogenous opioid
peptides, such as the endorphins and enkephalins, and stimulation
of the endogenous descending inhibitory pathways.
While acupuncture, which is performed by inserting special hair-thin
needles into the skin at specific sites, doesnt reverse
the pathology of disease, it has proven tremendously helpful in
managing illness. The goal in my clinic is to decrease childrens
pain and symptoms so that they may participate in activities at
school, in sports and with their peers, says Dr. Lin.
Dr. Lin resists labeling acupuncture an alternative therapy,
preferring complementary therapy since integrating
the procedure with Western medicine can prove beneficial.
As a pediatrician, anesthesiologist and pain specialist, Dr.
Lin has a unique opportunity to integrate acupuncture with more
common therapies. Adding acupuncture sessions to antihistamine
treatments, for example, can achieve comparable results to higher
doses of the medication alone, while decreasing side effects such
as drowsiness. Similarly, post-operative acupuncture can reduce
the nausea and vomiting caused by narcotic painkillers.
The biggest challenge in pediatric acupuncture is addressing
childrens fear of needles. Most children experience some
degree of needle phobia, making them more hesitant to try acupuncture
than adults. To deal with this issue, Dr. Lin often spends 45
minutes to an hour with first-time patients and their families
to make them completely comfortable with the procedure. The size
of the needle is about a quarter of the diameter of the regular
22-gauge IV needles most children have come into contact with,
and the tip of the needle is blunt. Dr. Lin carefully explains
the process and can demonstrate it on a childs toy animal
or even on his own hand. Once a child is amenable to acupuncture,
he or she is usually surprised to find that the discomfort is
Children's Medical Acupuncture
Yuan-Chi Lin, MD, MPH
Academy of Medical Acupuncture
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