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Acupuncture is the insertion of thin needles into the skin or muscle at specific points (acupoints) that lie along nerves. Acupuncture helps to control the way the nerves and immune system work, which may relieve symptoms. You should select a well-trained professional (acupuncturists) who has a license to perform this procedure.
Acupuncturists (trained professionals who perform acupuncture) may use pressure, heat, or mild electrical currents as part of their treatments. These treatments may help relieve treatment side effects such as nausea, vomiting, pain, or fatigue. Licensed acupuncturists can safely perform acupuncture for children and teens with cancer or blood disorders.
Acupuncture needles are very thin, just slightly thicker than a strand of human hair. These needles are solid and less painful than the hollow needles doctors use for injections. They are sterile (free from germs) and disposed of after use.
The acupuncturist will ask about your child’s symptoms, examine your child’s skin, tongue, eyes, and pulse (heart rate), and other body areas depending on symptoms. The acupuncturist will then perform the procedure, which includes the following steps:
Talk to your doctor before your child receives acupuncture. Let your doctors know if your child or teen has:
Some mild side effects can occur after acupuncture, and may include:
More severe side effects are very rare. These side effects could include:
You should contact your doctor if your child has any severe side effects from acupuncture.
You should talk with your care team before seeing an acupuncturist. They may recommend a licensed provider who has experience treating children and teens. Licensed providers will use sterile needles and the correct steps to prevent injury and infection.
You can ask questions about an acupuncturist’s training, certification, and their license. Ask if the provider has worked with children or teens with cancer.
There may be medical boards in your area that have information. License requirements vary with location. The American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA) grants certification to physician acupuncturists in the United States. The American Academy of Medical Acupuncture (AAMA) provides a directory of physicians who practice medical acupuncture (see “For more information” section below)
Here are some questions to ask your health care team about acupuncture:
Acupuncture is one part of traditional Chinese medicine. Practitioners of this treatment developed it over thousands of years to promote healing and wellness. Disease, injury, and pain can block the flow of energy and cause an imbalance in the body. Removing these blocks corrects the imbalance and helps the body heal.
Learn more at together.stjude.org.
If you have questions about acupuncture, call your health care provider.
Reviewed: November 2022