Acupuncture Therapy Rising in Popularity for Cerebral Palsy Patients

AccupunctureMost children born with cerebral palsy face a very difficult early life filled with various medical procedures and possibly even surgeries designed to improve their quality of life and maximize their independence as adults. Acupuncture, an alternative therapy gaining ground in the cerebral palsy treatment world, is an ancient Eastern technique that involves precisely placed pins in the surface of the skin. The pins activate nerve endings in various ways and can help diminish chronic pain, alleviate muscular atrophy, and improve quality of life in general. One hospital in Vietnam provides acupuncture services to about 600 patients every day, many of whom suffer from cerebral palsy. The practice is gaining attention in the Western world now, too.

Benefits of Acupuncture

There is no clear evidence that shows that acupuncture directly improves cerebral palsy, but the practice improves many medical conditions often seen as symptoms of cerebral palsy. Today, medical researchers are starting to look at acupuncture more closely as it relates to the most often seen symptoms of cerebral palsy.

A 2010 research paper on a study of more than 3,000 children with cerebral palsy reported that acupuncture could help a child with cerebral palsy overcome some types of chronic pain, fatigue, and musculoskeletal issues commonly seen with cerebral palsy. Another similar study reported that acupuncture can potentially improve language skills and help overcome communication barriers. Other studies have reported success when combining acupuncture with other nonmedical therapies like art therapy and music therapy.

Acupuncture is incredibly beneficial for some of the physical symptoms of cerebral palsy such as spasticity and muscle rigidity. Some children with cerebral palsy may have involuntary movements of the limbs or may struggle to move their limbs in certain ways. Acupuncture can help alleviate the pressure on rigid muscles and encourage more natural movement. The relaxing effects of acupuncture may also help relieve spasticity and encourage better rest.

Combining Acupuncture With Other Therapies

A parent of a child with cerebral palsy should consult with the child’s primary care provider before starting acupuncture treatment. A doctor will generally try to develop a treatment plan individually tailored to a specific child’s needs, and acupuncture may not work for every child with cerebral palsy. However, the typical treatment regimen for a child with cerebral palsy includes supportive therapy for speech and language along with physical therapies, and acupuncture could potentially play a strong supporting role in a child’s overall treatment plan.

Many parents of children with cerebral palsy simply want an alternative to traditional pharmaceutical treatments and want to limit the number of medications a child must take every day, and acupuncture potentially has significant value in this regard. Acupuncture improves blood circulation and helps regulate the fluids in the body to support overall health in various ways. Children who struggle with cerebral palsy often experience a mix of physical and cognitive symptoms, and acupuncture can potentially help alleviate these issues and enhance the efficacy of other therapies and treatments.

Before starting any type of acupuncture therapy, a patient will need to undergo a thorough screening and the acupuncturist will examine the patient’s medical history to determine any potential conflicts or safety concerns. After checking the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs, the acupuncturist will decide whether the patient is an ideal candidate for acupuncture and start treatment if so. Treatment focuses on targeting the parts of the body most likely to respond to acupuncture to encourage better overall health.

Possible Results and Potential Risks

Acupuncture revolves around the “meridians” of the body, of which there are twelve. The acupuncturist inserts the acupuncture needles along these meridians to offer relief from the symptoms that aggravate different parts of the body. The reports surrounding the efficacy of acupuncture vary greatly; some people report tremendous success after undergoing acupuncture in combination with other treatments while adverse side effects are possible for others.

Since acupuncture involves the use of needles, there is a slight risk of infection if an acupuncturist fails to adhere to essential safety and sanitation standards. Nerve damage is also possible if an acupuncturist inserts a needle too deeply or in the wrong position. Some acupuncture patients have experienced bleeding, pain at needle insertion sites, and dizziness from acupuncture. However, these risks are very minimal with experience and appropriate treatment.

Anyone considering acupuncture treatment should carefully review local acupuncturists to determine their quality and safety standards. Most states have strict guidelines for acupuncturists, and they must complete specific certification programs and complete hundreds of hours of training before they can conduct acupuncture procedures. Make sure the acupuncturist you select meets your state’s requirements to practice and has a strong record of happy patients before agreeing to treatment.

While acupuncture still faces a great deal of scrutiny from the medical community in terms of its efficacy and safety, the positive results for children with cerebral palsy have caused more people to take notice and explore the possible benefits of acupuncture for their children with cerebral palsy.