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Acupuncture is ‘safe and effective’ in children, claims expert

Acupuncture is ‘safe and effective’ in children, claims expert

Treating children with acupuncture is safe and effective, according to a leading paediatric acupuncturist.

In a blog, written for the British Acupuncture Council, Rebecca Avern points to ‘good evidence’ that concludes acupuncture is ‘safe for children’.

Ms Avern, who runs a paediatric clinic in Oxfordshire, was prompted to write her blog in response to an article in The Times, just before Christmas, which contained negative comments about acupuncture from Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, and David Colquhoun, a pharmacologist at University College, London.

She rejects their claims that there is no sound evidence showing acupuncture is effective in children, claims that children could miss out on effective treatment, and assertions that acupuncture is painful.

She says: ‘There are several reasons for the rise in paediatric acupuncture to which the article in The Times referred. Most of the time, children get better when they have acupuncture. Secondly, parents see that the treatment is gentle and well tolerated by their children.’

She adds that she treats children with conditions ranging from post-operative nausea and vomiting, bedwetting to chronic fatigue syndrome, all of which have been shown to respond to acupuncture.

Ms Avern, who is a member of the British Acupuncture Council, has also made a video showing a toddler and a baby being given acupuncture treatment. Both appear completely unaware a needle has been inserted.

She also highlights the fact many so-called orthodox medications given to children are ‘off-label’ due to challenges in gaining ethical approval for randomised controlled trials in children.

‘This means that children are prescribed medicines that are not authorised in terms of age, weight, indications or routes of administration’, she concludes.

Notes to editor

Rebecca’s blog can be viewed here and video can be viewed here.

For further information, case studies or interviews, please contact Katie Osborne on 07990 922615 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For a full list of British Acupuncture Council press releases visit the newsroom.

About the BAcC

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of nearly 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture. BAcC members practise a traditional, holistic style of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment based on a system developed and refined over 2,000 years. To achieve BAcC membership, practitioners must first undertake extensive training in traditional acupuncture (minimum three years full-time or part-time equivalent), which includes physiology, anatomy and other biomedical sciences appropriate to the practice of acupuncture.

Acupuncture and moxibustion

Acupuncture and moxibustion are forms of traditional Chinese medicine widely practised in China and also found in regions of south-east Asia, Europe and the Americas. The theories of acupuncture and moxibustion hold that the human body acts as a small universe connected by channels, and that by physically stimulating these channels the practitioner can promote the human body’s self-regulating functions and bring health to the patient. This stimulation involves the burning of moxa (mugwort) or the insertion of needles into points on these channels, with the aim to restore the body’s balance and prevent and treat disease. In acupuncture, needles are selected according to the individual condition and used to puncture and stimulate the chosen points. Moxibustion is usually divided into direct and indirect moxibustion, in which either moxa cones are placed directly on points or moxa sticks are held and kept at some distance from the body surface to warm the chosen area. Moxa cones and sticks are made of dried mugwort leaves.

Traditional acupuncture

Traditional acupuncture as practised by members of the BAcC is based on Chinese medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined for over 2,500 years. Traditional acupuncture is holistic, not focused on isolated symptoms. It regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign the whole body is out of balance. Western or medical acupuncture is a more recent development practised predominantly by doctors and physiotherapists, who use acupuncture techniques within their existing scope of practice on the basis of a western medical diagnosis. There is a growing body of evidence showing how effective acupuncture is in a range of conditions:

Why use a BAcC practitioner?

Only British Acupuncture Council members belong to a Professional Standards Authority accredited register, providing professional guarantees of safety, education and continuing development (professionalstandards.org.uk)

Look for the letters MBAcC after the name of your acupuncturist to ensure:

  • extensive training – minimum three years degree level – with relevant western medicine including anatomy and physiology
  • adherence to BAcC codes of safe practice and professional conduct
  • compliance with current health and safety legislation
  • full insurance cover for medical malpractice and public/products liability
  • mandatory continuing professional development to keep knowledge and skills up to date
  • postgraduate study of special interests such as pain management and acupuncture for children

Find a BAcC registered acupuncturist near you