Acupuncture provides cumulative healing effects over time for children with chronic pain and other pain-related conditions.
For children with chronic pain and other conditions, acupuncture is a safe, natural method of treating pain. Acupuncture activates the body’s self-healing abilities.
The effects of acupuncture can be noticed immediately, or it can take several treatments to see improvement in symptoms. The treatments are cumulative, meaning they build on themselves. Your child should slowly start to feel better a little more after each treatment.
Acupuncture is available both outpatient and inpatient, and is performed by Johns Hopkins All Children’s medical providers with advanced training, licensure, and certification in acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles through a person’s skin at specific points on the body. These acupuncture points are located in places where muscles, nerves, and blood vessels can be stimulated. Acupuncture has been used as a treatment for thousands of years. Based on research, it is believed to work by stimulating the brain to produce chemicals that activate the body’s natural, self-healing abilities.
Acupuncture can be beneficial for many patients, including those with conditions such as:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Juvenile fibromyalgia
- Digestive issues
- Mood disorders
- Sleep problems
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
Acupuncture can help your child by:
- Triggering the body’s own self-healing mechanisms.
- Stimulating your child’s brain to produce his or her body’s own endorphins.
- Calming down the sympathetic nervous system.
- Influencing how the brain interprets pain signals.
- Relaxing muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- Increasing blood flow, bringing more oxygen to tissues.
- Decreasing the number of medications needed.
Acupuncture is a process. Your child may not feel better right away after the first visit, and sometimes may feel worse before feeling better.
When children experience symptoms of chronic pain, it has generally taken time for their bodies to become imbalanced to the point that they are feeling these symptoms. Acupuncture gently nudges the body’s systems to return to normal function, bringing the body back into balance (or “homeostasis”).
One way to think of it is like a kink in a garden hose. When water is running through the hose, the kink smooths out. When you turn the water back off, the kink comes back. It can take time to get the structure of the hose to smooth back out permanently but if you run enough water and smooth out the kink enough times, eventually it goes away. Acupuncture works in a similar way – it helps to balance the body’s systems over time.
Does acupuncture hurt?
The needles used for acupuncture are very thin. Your child may feel a slight pin prick as the needle goes into the skin. He or she may then feel an ache, tingling, warmth or mild discomfort, but sometimes he or she may not feel anything. Your child’s acupuncturist also may not use needles. Acupuncture points may be stimulated without using needles, depending on your child’s needs. Your child’s acupuncturist will work to ensure he or she is always comfortable during a session.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is safe, natural, drug-free, and effective. Only disposable, sterile needles are used.
Some side effects occur in a small percentage of people. These can include:
- Minor bleeding or bruising.
- Worsening of symptoms. Tell your child’s acupuncturist if this happens as they can adjust the treatment accordingly.
- Fainting or weakness, particularly after the first treatment or if your child has not eaten.
- Very rarely trauma can occur to internal organs when certain points are used. Your child’s acupuncturist has been trained to prevent this from happening.
How to prepare for your child’s visit
- While the number and frequency of your child’s sessions will depend on his or her individual condition, patients generally start with weekly sessions and gradually decrease in frequency depending on their needs.
- Your child’s first appointment will last for an hour, and most appointments after that will be 30 minutes.
- Make sure your child does not arrive on an empty stomach. He or she should wear loose, comfortable clothing.
- After the session your child should drink plenty of water and take it easy for the rest of the day and avoid any strenuous activity. Your teen should not drive after a session if they are feeling drowsy.
For more information or to make an appointment, please call the Pain Management Program at the number below:
Acupuncture services are provided in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care Center on our main campus in St. Petersburg in suite 711:
Johns Hopkins All Children's Outpatient Care Center
601 5th Street South, Suite 711
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
Known as a viable form of treatment for adults, acupuncture for children is not as common or available. This proven ancient Chinese medical technique for relieving pain, curing disease and improving general health has been used dating to 2500 BC.