Twenty nine studies were included in the review (n=1,633): 23 RCTs and six based on convenience samples.
Pain management (one RCT and one convenience sample, n=61): One small RCT found a significant clinical reduction in frequency and intensity of migraines after 10 weekly sessions in the true acupuncture group with no corresponding change in the sham acupuncture group. A second study, based on a convenience sample, found that six weekly sessions of individualised acupuncture with a simultaneous 20 minute hypnosis session led to a significant reduction in pain and improvement in daily functioning following treatment.
Postoperative nausea and vomiting (12 RCTs, n=1,007): Although some studies showed no significant differences between treatment groups, overall it could be concluded that acupuncture could be effective in reducing postoperative nausea and vomiting and may have fewer side effects than current antiemetic medications.
Nocturnal enuresis (three RCTs and two convenience samples, n=155): Overall, acupuncture was found to be beneficial, but samples were small and there was variation between studies in method of acupuncture. None of the studies reported negative side effects relating to acupuncture.
Laryngospasm/stridor (two RCTs, n=136): Both studies used an acupuncture bloodletting technique with children who underwent post-tracheal extubation. One study found a lower incidence of stridor in the acupuncture group compared to controls and one a higher incidence. The differing results could be explained by differing ages of the children, variation in study methods and/or different anaesthesia.
Neurological disorders (two RCTs and two convenience samples, n=110): One RCT and one convenience sample used tongue acupuncture and showed improvement in drooling in one study and in gross motor function, self care and mobility in a second study of children with cerebral palsy. Both studies mentioned initial crying with fear and possible pain during the first few sessions. A further study showed mixed effects in a small sample that investigated effects of acupuncture on skin temperature for children with major neurological disorders and cold feet. One RCT found that both acupuncture and osteopathy treatment arms reported more benefits than a waiting list control group.
Miscellaneous studies (three RCTs and one convenience sample, n=164): The findings of this group of studies indicated that acupuncture may be beneficial for a number of childhood problems and that sex differences in response to acupuncture may be worth investigation.