Acupuncture Proven Helpful for Pain Relief and Lazy Eye in Children

January 11, 2011

I have always been a great fan of acupuncture as it started me on my career as a health writer by treating a trapped sciatic nerve that completely immobilized me and without the 200 painkiller prescription the doctor had offered. Acupuncture has previously been found to help improve fertility, increase heart function, and assist in helping people sleep, and I know not everyone is fond of needles, but evidence also continues to mount as to its effectiveness at reducing and eliminating pain.

New findings from the University Hospital in Essen, Germany were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). They included functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans that clearly show a positive change in the metabolic activity of patients’ brains receiving acupuncture treatment.

This is a small scale study of only 18 volunteers and lead researcher Nina Theysohn, MD, from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology and Neuroradiology explained why it is important. “Functional MRI gives us the opportunity to directly observe areas of the brain that are activated during pain perception and see the variances that occur with acupuncture. Activation of brain areas involved in pain perception was significantly reduced or modulated under acupuncture.”

Acupuncture for pain relief has been used for centuries in China, where it originated, and is also available as an option in the Birthing Unit at my local hospital instead of epidural drugs.
The findings challenge a commonly held belief that acupuncture works primarily as a placebo and while certain brain responses to acupuncture indicate facets of a placebo response, others clearly highlight specific mechanical activities in the brain that demonstrably reduce pain symptoms.

Acupuncture and Children With Lazy Eye:
It seems that it could also potentially become an alternative to patching for treating amblyopia (lazy eye) in some older children, which can affect up to 5 percent of individuals worldwide . The report by Jianhao Zhao, M.D., of Joint Shantou International Eye Center of Shantou University and Chinese University appeared in a recent issue of Archives of Ophthalmology and said that although this problem can be corrected easily with glasses or contact lenses it only appears to be effective in children age 3 to 7 years. Over that age, and up to 12, only 30 percent respond to visual correction alone and the usual solution is to also patch over one eye and this does increase this response rate to two-thirds.

However, there are problems with patching as children do not like it, often removing the patch when out of parental supervision and those that do follow the regime can experience emotional problems through teasing or feeling different and vulnerable.

Acupuncture has previously been used to treat dry eye and myopia and so a controlled trial involving 88 children was set up where 43 were randomly assigned to the acupuncture group and received five treatments per week targeting five acupoints, or needle insertion sites. The remaining 45 children had their good eye patched for two hours a day and were instructed to do at least one hour of near-vision activities with the lazy eye, such as reading or typing.

After 15 weeks there was a 75.6 percent improvement in vision of those in the acupuncture group and lazy eye was considered resolved in 16.7 percent of patched eyes and 41.5 percent of eyes in the acupuncture group. Both treatments were well tolerated; children had no problems complying with either therapy, and no serious adverse effects were found in either group.

Acupuncture is believed to be effective because by targeting vision-related acupoints it may change the activity of the visual cortex, the part of the brain that receives data from the eyes. It may also increase blood flow to the eye and surrounding structures as well as stimulate the generation of compounds that support the growth of retinal nerves.

Whatever you want to use acupuncture for, it is essential to only use a qualified practitioner and I recommend you ask if they have treated your condition before, how often, and what the success rate is. To find a qualified acupuncturist in your area ask at your local health stores and natural health clinics for recommendations or visit


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