Acupuncture and Cerebral Palsy

Alternative, Cerebral Palsy Treatments

serious young boy with cerebral palsy giving thumbs up with wooden bowl of acupuncture needles in foreground

Cerebral palsy is a complex condition that can cause stiff muscles, lack of balance and coordination, tremors, difficulty swallowing, delayed speech development, learning difficulties, developmental delays, and trouble with fine motor skills. Some of these symptoms can cause pain as well. There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are many therapies that may help with some of the symptoms.

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that may offer relief from some symptoms of cerebral palsy. Though there is no conclusive evidence supporting the benefits of acupuncture for cerebral palsy, you may want to learn more so you can understand what you’ve been hearing about this treatment.

How Acupuncture Works

First invented in China, acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that can relieve pain and treat diseases. Acupuncture uses tiny needles to stimulate nerves on the surface of the skin. Causing a slight injury to these nerves is believed to stimulate body responses that can impact the organs, glands, tissues, and other parts of the body. Acupuncture is believed by some to improve circulation and the distribution of bodily fluids to achieve better health and balance.

The Chinese philosophy behind acupuncture involves the human life force known as the qi. Acupuncture is thought to stimulate the flow of this life force to help patients achieve the necessary balance to treat their ailments. Acupuncturists following this philosophy apply pressure with their needles on points associated with the 12 energy meridians in the body.

Medical professionals have studied acupuncture and developed some hypotheses on the mechanisms of this therapy. One possible hypothesis is that acupuncture stimulates the body’s neurohormonal pathways, triggering the brain to release the hormones necessary to treat certain conditions. Some studies have suggested that acupuncture can cause the body to release endorphins. The release of these hormones may create feelings of euphoria or increase the body’s pain threshold.

However, this treatment has yet to be extensively studied and has not been fully embraced by medical professionals and organizations. Some believe that the purported benefits of the therapy are primarily due to the placebo effect, where patients feel better simply because they believe in the therapy.

How Is Acupuncture Used?

Acupuncture is commonly used for:

  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sprains
  • Hypertension
  • Allergies
  • Osteoarthritis

The use of acupuncture for cerebral palsy patients is fairly new. However, some practitioners believe that acupuncture might provide moderate benefits for cerebral palsy patients. The purported benefits of acupuncture for cerebral palsy patients include:

  • Increase in physical movement
  • Speech improvements
  • Hearing improvements
  • Increase in cognitive abilities
  • Pain relief
  • Improved gross motor function

The acupuncturist may use a plastic tube to assist in the placement and insertion of the needles. Once the needle has been inserted, the practitioner may move it up and down or side to side. The process should not be painful.

How Effective Is Acupuncture?

There are very few studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture for cerebral palsy patients. It’s important to understand that this is not a widely supported treatment option for those with cerebral palsy. Some reported studies have indicated that patients found some relief with acupuncture, but these cases are too few to count as a substantial or reliable indication as to the effectiveness of the treatment.

This is an alternative therapy that may or may not offer relief. The mechanisms of acupuncture are not well-studied, particularly in relation to cerebral palsy patients.

Who Can Benefit from Acupuncture?

Acupuncture may provide relief for patients with cerebral palsy who want to explore an alternative approach to their treatment and don’t mind that it is yet unproven. Before the acupuncture treatment, your practitioner should carefully evaluate the patient to make sure that they can safely participate in acupuncture. This evaluation typically includes:

  • Review of the patient’s medical history
  • Evaluation of breathing
  • Evaluation of heart rate and pulse
  • Examination of the face and tongue

How To Get Started with Acupuncture for Cerebral Palsy

Make sure that you’re working with an accredited acupuncturist who has completed a three- or four-year degree program with at least 870 hours of instruction. Look for a practitioner who is accredited with the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Speak with your child’s regular medical care provider before engaging in acupuncture therapy for cerebral palsy, as well. Your physician can alert you to any issues that you may experience with acupuncture and let you know if this alternative therapy is a good approach for your child’s individual case.

Though the benefits of acupuncture for cerebral palsy are not well-documented, some find this to be a compelling approach. Begin by speaking with your doctor and interviewing potential acupuncturists to determine how your child may benefit from acupuncture for their individual case of cerebral palsy.

If you believe that your child’s cerebral palsy is the result of medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation that will help you cover the cost of more reliable treatment options. The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC can explore your case further.



Claire Surles, RN
Reviewed by:
Claire Surles, RN
Registered Nurse

Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO

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