- Cullman, Alabama


September 16, 2012

Acupuncture can ease kids' pain


The only problem is that the relief didn't last.

"While the needles are there, it's wonderful," Victoria Rust said of the treatments, which lasted about half an hour. Then, the pain gradually returned, sometimes as soon as half an hour after a treatment.

— — —

Some studies and acupunturists suggest that such short-term relief isn't typical and that the effects of acupuncture usually last weeks or more. According to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, initial treatments may bring only short-term relief, but effects of treatments are cumulative and the aim is a thorough resolution of the problem, or at least a reduction of discomfort over the long term.

But Anderson said acupuncture doesn't work at all in some patients.

She estimated it helps about 70 percent of the patients she treats. For some, it may not reduce their pain, though it may decrease stress or anxiety.

While relatively few acupuncture complications have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration, there have been some from inadequate sterilization of needles and improper delivery of treatments. The FDA requires needles to be sterile, nontoxic and labeled for single use by qualified practitioners.

Physician acupuncturists, in addition to their medical training, get instruction in acupuncture.

Non-physician practitioners lack medical degrees, but many have training validated by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who runs the Web site, said there has been very little research on what happens physically when someone undergoes acupuncture. He also said there's a danger that patients may be misdiagnosed if they seek help only from a non-physician acupuncturist.

Many health insurance plans don't cover acupuncture, because it is nontraditional, although some do. Fees vary widely and can be more than $65 a visit.

West Virginia's Medicaid program paid for the treatments for Victoria Rust, who went to Children's for her underlying illness because her family doctor felt Children's would provide the best care. Paula Rust said she is glad that acupuncture was also available and that it was performed by a physician in whom "you feel there's that trust factor."

Ungar is the medical writer at the Courier-Journal in Louisville.

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