Energy and Chemistry, Does it Work?
“From the Eastern perspective, the idea is that there are blockages and imbalances in the energy force, called Qi (chi), that acupuncture helps to rectify,” said Dr. Timothy Culbert. He spent ten years as the medical director for integrative medicine at the Children’s Hospitals of Minnesota which runs one of the country’s largest and oldest centers for pediatric acupuncture. “From a Western standpoint there is scientific evidence that acupuncture releases endorphins and cephalins, which are some of the body’s natural healing chemicals, to reduce pain amongst other things.” Culbert said that medical research also shows acupuncture may directly influence the nervous system.
Exactly how it works remains a mystery, but studies indicate it is a safe and effective treatment for a host of ailments including pain, nausea, headaches, sinus infections, seasonal and food allergies, asthma, depression and more. One of the concerns, however, is that most of those studies were done on adults. “There is a general paucity of research exploring the safety and efficacy of acupuncture in children,” said Dr. Richard Nahin, a senior advisor at NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). According to Nahin, in one of the few areas that has been well studied the medical literature suggests it may prevent nausea and vomiting in children after surgery.
Nonetheless, there are no clinical guidelines for pediatric acupuncture, which may be why most pediatricians don’t even think to recommend it. Doctors and parents may also shy away from it because of an aversion to needles or a sense that a child won’t sit still through the process.