Introduction: Despite its increasing use as a complementary therapy to treat pain, acupuncture is rarely considered by pediatricians, in part due to perceptions that it will not be acceptable to pediatric patients. We wished to describe pediatric pain patients' experience with acupuncture treatment for chronic pain.
Design: Retrospective case series.
Methods: Subjects were pediatric pain patients referred by the Pain Treatment Service at Children's Hospital in Boston, who went to a pediatric acupuncturist. A research assistant not involved in the patient's care conducted the survey by telephone. Data were analyzed qualitatively and descriptively.
Results: Of 50 eligible patients, 47 families were reached by telephone; all agreed to be interviewed. Patients had a median age of 16 years at the time of referral, 79% were female, and 96% were white. The most common three diagnoses were migraine headache (n = 7), endometriosis (n = 6), and reflex sympathetic dystrophy (n = 5). Patients had a median of 8 treatments (range: 0-60) within 3 months (range: 0-48 months); 85% of families paid out-of-pocket. Acupuncture therapies included needle insertion (98%), heat/moxa (85%), magnets (26%), and cupping (26%). Most patients and parents rated the therapy as pleasant (67% children/60% parents), and most (70% children/59% parents) felt the treatment had helped their symptoms; only 1 said that treatment made symptoms worse.
Conclusion: Pediatric patients with chronic, severe pain found acupuncture treatment pleasant and helpful. Additional, prospective studies are needed to quantify the costs and effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for pediatric pain.