Sarah Rebstock, clinical director of the Pediatric Pain Medicine Outpatient Clinic at Children's Hospital, said she prescribes acupuncture as an adjunct to other traditional care mainly for pain that seems disproportionate to the condition or that lasts for more than about six weeks. Anderson often performs the treatment, and children get medications or other Western therapies as well.
Acupucturists say needles are the biggest concern among parents and children; Cowan said some children are so resistant when the process is described that they won't go forward with treatment.
"Some constitutional temperaments are more apt to be afraid of needles," he said. "These children require a lot of time and trust before they're willing to try it."
Acupuncturists often develop ways to ease children's fears about the needles. "It's all in the way it's presented to a kid," Cowan said. "I describe them as little hairs. Sometimes, I ask kids to do it to me first. "
Angela Gabriel, a licensed acupuncturist at the Center for Integrative Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center, said some young children are fearful of needles, but "by 8, 9 or 10, a lot of kids think it's cool."
Rust, who travels 2 1/2 hours to Children's from her house in West Virginia, said needles were not an issue for her, since she has suffered from gastroinestinal issues her whole life and has endured many needle sticks. She was nervous about acupuncture needles going into her stomach and ears, but she was eager to get some relief and decided to try it.
Her mother, Paula Rust, said acupuncture reduced her daughter's pain and allowed her to relax. "It was the one thing she would totally relax with," she said. "To me, that's kind of incredible."