Acupuncture at Norton Children’s

Norton Children’s offers acupuncture for children and teens with a wide range of conditions, from anxiety to chronic pain and migraine. Acupuncture is a complementary therapy, often used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments.

Our acupuncture specialists are board-certified physicians with more than 300 hours of additional medical training in pediatric acupuncture. They attended accelerated physician acupuncture training programs at Harvard Medical School and the University of California – Los Angeles. Different kinds of acupuncture are available to children with a variety of health conditions.

Children ages 10 and older are good candidates for acupuncture. Mature children under age 10 can be considered for treatment. Parents can make an appointment or talk to the child’s pediatrician about whether acupuncture is right for the child.

In general, insurance will pay for acupuncture administered by a physician.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that has existed for thousands of years, much longer than the current practice of Western medicine. Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into different points on energy channels (called meridians) throughout the body. Meridians function much like a highway system and can be mapped through the entire body. There are 20 meridians in the body, and each carries qi (pronounced chi). Qi is defined as a fundamental life force or energy flow. A disruption of qi as it travels along meridians can lead to an imbalance of energy, causing pain or health issues.

Acupuncture can correct the energy disruption. Inserting acupuncture needles will move the qi, which can resolve symptoms.

Acupuncture has been shown to cause various changes within the body, including:

  • The release of opioids that treat pain
  • Alterations of brain transmitters that can treat pain and anxiety
  • Changes to pain signals throughout the brain and nerve pathways
  • Changes to tissue surrounding muscles which can relieve spasms or tense muscles

The most popular acupuncture area (called a microsystem) is the ear, referred to as auricular acupuncture.

Acupuncture benefits for children

Pediatric acupuncture is a well-tolerated, safe and an effective option for children with pain, including migraine headaches, back pain, neck pain, abdominal pain, abdominal migraines, complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.

Acupuncture also can be used to treat conditions not related to pain, such as anxiety, allergies and inflammatory bowel disease. The majority of children who have pediatric acupuncture respond positively to it.

What is it like to get acupuncture?

After your condition is discussed, the physician performing the acupuncture will examine the child for reactive areas to determine which acupuncture points to use. Acupuncture needles are as thin as hairs. They are sterile, prepackaged and used only once. The needles are placed at various depths in the skin, ranging from a fraction of an inch to 2 inches. After the needles are inserted and stimulated, they stay in place from a few minutes up to 20 minutes.

In a treatment series, the physician will use different combinations of acupuncture points and different needling techniques. These combinations help stimulate new sources of healing as the patient’s response to treatment is observed.

Acupuncture sessions last an hour. The child should wear loose-fitting clothing, or gowns can be provided, as they may have to partially undress in order to receive acupuncture. The child should be clean and not have on perfume or body spray, as many patients have chemical sensitivities.

Does acupuncture hurt?

You or your child may be concerned about pain during acupuncture. If your child is worried about needles, not all forms of acupuncture use needles. For acupuncture that uses needles, the needles are dull, not sharp. They are inserted with a glide tube so that a child doesn’t feel the insertion. A child may expect to feel one out of 10 acupuncture needle insertions, but even then, it is not like receiving a shot from an immunization.

Collaboration with UofL Physicians for your child’s care

We work with providers from UofL Physicians to provide highly skilled care for your child. Norton Children’s Hospital serves as the primary pediatric teaching facility for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. These doctors are professors and active researchers helping to advance medical care through clinical research and education.

The Norton Children’s difference

The care your child needs is close to home at Norton Children’s. With a 125-year presence in Louisville, Norton Children’s is a leader in pediatric care across Kentucky and Southern Indiana, providing an expanded footprint that includes:


Norton Children’s offers specialized programs and services, including:

  • Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, and the Addison Jo Blair Cancer Care Center, which is one of the oldest oncology programs continuously accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer.
  • Norton Children’s Heart & Vascular Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, a pioneer in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery. Norton Children’s heart transplant surgeons performed Kentucky’s first heart transplant in a newborn in 1986, making the hospital the second site in the United States for infant transplants. Norton Children’s Hospital will be home to the Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (expected completion in 2019).
  • Pediatric neurology and neurosurgery, including a Level 4 epilepsy center
  • Orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation

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