Autism & Acupuncture


There has been interesting research on the efficacy of and the mechanism behind how acupuncture can be integrated into standard care with children, as well as adults, on the spectrum. First is how. I can write pages on acupuncture theory, but this is about hard science. Research shows one of the ways acupuncture effects the body is via the nervous system in triggering the hypothalamus to produce oxytocin which in turn releases other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endocannabinoids. As this system has been highlighted in treating autism, research has begun to include acupuncture. An aspect to note, is that many of these studies utilized acupressure, where finger point pressure is applied in lieu of a needle. I use this technique often when treating children as their Qi moves and responds faster than adults. In a review of 31 studies, they found children tolerated the treatments well and all showed statistical improvement. Many of the studies were flawed in that they were not double blind studies, there was a lack of randomization (meaning parents of the children knew they were in a group for acupuncture research), and there were various acupuncture protocols uses. In research, it is important to maintain uniformity, however this type of medicine stands on the foundation that each person is treated by who they are individually. While this is a study flaw, it is a positive point in real life. In another meta analysis of 27 randomized controlled trials, showed improvement in ASD scores in communication ability, language ability, cognitive function, and decreased overall CARS scores (Childhood Autism Rating Scale) and (ABC) Autism Behavior Checklist. There have been a number of studies on the efficacy of scalp acupuncture in spectrum disorders, and a systemic review showed statistical improvement in communication, physical ability and behavior, with decreasing CARS and ABC scores.



* Cheuk DK, Wong V, Chen WX. Acupuncture for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Sep 7;(9):CD007849. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007849.pub2. PMID: 21901712.

* Lee, B., Lee, J., Cheon, J. H., Sung, H. K., Cho, S. H., & Chang, G. T. (2018). The Efficacy and Safety of Acupuncture for the Treatment of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2018, 1057539. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/1057539

* Liu, C., Li, T., Wang, Z., Zhou, R., & Zhuang, L. (2019). Scalp acupuncture treatment for children's autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine, 98(13), e14880. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000014880

* Ming, X., Chen, X., Wang, X. T., Zhang, Z., Kang, V., & Zimmerman-Bier, B. (2012). Acupuncture for treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2012, 679845. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/679845

* Su T, Pei L. Acupuncture and oxytocinergic system: The promising treatment for autism. Transl Neurosci. 2021 Feb 16;12(1):96-102. doi: 10.1515/tnsci-2021-0011. PMID: 33633868; PMCID: PMC7896431.

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