Acupuncture After Tonsillectomy: A Safe Alternative to Treat Pain in Children After Tonsillectomy

For thousands, having their tonsils removed is one event that can disrupt the pleasant carefree spirit of childhood, albeit temporarily. It is a very common procedure, though not one that is embraced by both parents and children alike as it can bring about great discomfort and pain. While it does bring relief in the long run, recovery time after surgery can be unpleasant. Prescribing codeine used to be the standard to combat pain and discomfort. As of early last year, the FDA banned codeine for this purpose. Other pain-relieving alternatives have to be sought, and acupuncture after tonsillectomy may be a viable option for children.

It was ascertained that codeine could cause severe complications when used for pain management after a tonsillectomy in children, and hence the FDA ban. Physicians have been trying to find an adequate replacement to ease postsurgical pain in children. One ENT specialist discovered that acupuncture is a safe, easy, and affordable solution. A trial including 31 children of varying ages found that acupuncture relieved symptoms almost immediately. Upon following up with parents, it was also noted that the treatment lasted more than two days. The use of an alternative drug-free therapy over a narcotic has its appeal, especially when it comes to younger children.

In the past, over-the-counter pain relieving medications, such as ibuprofen, have been used to ease post-surgery pain in children but with little success as they can cause severe complications in very young patients. Finding a safe alternative that is just as effective is something many in the ENT field are excited about. Similar studies are underway to help determine if acupuncture would have the same results in children undergoing other types of surgery as well. In the meantime, physicians will continue to take advantage of these findings and employ them when it comes to their smallest patients and mindfully recommend acupuncture after tonsillectomy to parents.