Pediatric tuina for the treatment of anorexia in children under 14 years: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Complement Ther Med. 2020 Jun;51:102411. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102411. Epub 2020 Apr 28.


Background: Pediatric tuina is used to prevent and treat disease by employing various manipulative techniques on specific parts of the body, appropriate to the child's specific physiological and pathological characteristics.

Objective: To evaluate the effects and safety of pediatric tuina as a non-pharmaceutical therapy for anorexia in children under 14 years.

Methods: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing pediatric tuina with medicine for anorexia were included in this review. Six electronic databases were searched from inception to June 2019. Two authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias. Significant effective rate (defined as appetite improved and food intake returning to 3/4 or more of normal intake) was used as primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included food intake, compliance and adverse events. Trial sequential analysis (TSA) was used to calculate the required information size in a meta-analysis and to detect the robustness of the results. Certainty of the evidence was assessed using the online GRADEpro tool.

Results: Of the included 28 RCTs involving 2650 children, the majority had a high or unclear risk of bias in terms of allocation concealment, blinding, and selective reporting. All trials compared tuina with western medicine or Chinese herbs. For significant effective rate, meta-analysis showed that tuina was superior to western medicine (risk ratio (RR) 1.68, 95 % confidence interval (CI) [1.35, 2.08]) and Chinese herbs (RR 1.36, 95 % CI [1.19, 1.55]). For food intake, 9 trials evaluated it in the form of score (1 points, 2 points, 4 points and 6 points) calculated according to the reduction degree of food intake. Six points represented the most serious. Meta-analysis showed tuina was superior to western medicine (mean difference (MD) -0.88, 95 % CI [-1.27, -0.50]) and Chinese herbs (MD -0.69, 95 % CI [-1.00, -0.38]) on lightening the reduction degree of food intake. Two trials reported compliance and six trials reported no adverse events occurred in pediatric tuina group. TSA for significant effective rate demonstrated that the pooled data had insufficient power regarding both numbers of trials and participants.

Conclusions: Low certainty of evidence suggested pediatric tuina was beneficial and safe for the treatment of anorexia in children under 14 years. Furthermore well-designed RCTs with adequate sample sizes are needed.

Keywords: Anorexia; Meta-Analysis; Pediatric tuina; Randomized controlled trial; Systematic review; Traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia / therapy*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Massage / methods*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic