Acupuncture for ADD & ADHD

Does Acupuncture Work for ADD & ADHD?

            Acupuncture is becoming an increasingly popular treatment option for parents of children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one-third of children diagnosed with ADHD retain that diagnosis into adulthood. Additionally, ADHD diagnoses has seen a 42% increase over the last 8 years, which leads many parents with an ADD/ADHD diagnosed child to believe the only option is medication. While medication can be a helpful solution for some, it is not the answer for all. Acupuncture can be helpful for the treatment and maintenance of ADD/ADHD symptoms, among other conditions possibly coinciding with it.

Western Medicine for ADD & ADHD

            Western medicine says that ADD/ADHD is a neurological disorder causing a wide range of behavioral problems involving either hyperactivity or no hyperactivity, with the same base symptoms. While the pathology is unclear in western medicine, it is speculated that certain areas of the brain where neural transmission takes place is deficient.

ADD/ADHD Symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating/focusing/paying attention

  • Easily distracted

  • Trouble listening

  • Trouble following adult instructions/commands

  • Impatience

  • Constant fidgeting/movement

  • Talks too much or has trouble playing quietly

  • Interrupts others

  • Loses things easily

  • Trouble finishing schoolwork

  • Leaves their seat often

  • Inattentive to deatials

ADD differs from ADHD in that it is technically now officially a type of ADHD, professionally called “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive presentation”.

The Three Types of ADHD:

  • ADHD inattentive presentation

  • ADHD hyperactive/impulsive presentation

  • ADHD combined presentation

Additionally, western medicine has determined that while having ADD/ADHD is not necessarily a risk for other conditions, those with ADD/ADHD are more likely to experience coinciding conditions.

Possible Coinciding Conditions:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Learning disabilities

  • Tourette’s Syndrome

  • Antisocial behavior

  • Substance abuse

  • Bed-wetting issues

  • Sleep disorders

Typically, in western medicine, treatments for ADD/ADHD involves behavioral therapy, stimulant medications, or both. However, there have been questions and concerns from parents who have young children taking these medications as to their side effects and safety.

Prescription Stimulant Possible Side-Effects:

  • Addiction

  • Weight loss from decreased appetite

  • Tics

  • Insomnia

  • Mood swings

  • Headaches

  • More extreme cases – delayed growth

Many of these short- and long-term side effects are all too familiar to those who suffer from ADD/ADHD. It seems as if one problem is addressed and another comes up, and parents are becoming much more aware of this problem. Parents, as well as adults with ADD/ADHD, are searching for alternative solutions to the treatment of ADD/ADHD that will address their symptoms without causing other detrimental symptoms in the process.

Acupuncture for ADD & ADHD

            Acupuncture has shown benefits in the treatment of ADD/ADHD symptoms in children and adults while possibly treating other issues accompanying it, all in one treatment, which many parents are on board with. Acupuncture works by utilizing the body’s points to restore Qi and clear blockages. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ADD/ADHD is understood as excess Heat/Wind in the head with Liver Qi Stagnation, many times complicated by Dampness that is potentially rooted in Kidney or Spleen deficiency. ADD/ADHD patients often present with clinical symptoms of over-activity, restlessness, stubbornness, and recklessness.

Acupuncture Benefits for the Following ADD/ADHD Symptoms:

  • Focus & attention

  • Fidgeting

  • Hyperactivity

  • Concentration

  • Mood swings

Auricular acupuncture is the “go-to” treatment option for those with ADD/ADHD, but there are various other points, as well as herbs, that are helpful in the treatment of this condition.

Acupuncture Points for ADD and ADHD

            It is important when choosing acupuncture points for ADD/ADHD to treat the condition, restore balance the body & mood, and possibly prescribe herbal formulas to do the same.

Acupuncture Points for ADD/ADHD:

  • C2 Huatuo – Sides of the Spine at C2 – Huatuojiaji – located .5 cun lateral to lower border of the spinous processes of the C2. Along with ADD/ADHD, this point treats OCD, PTSD, and insomnia.

  • ST41 – Ravine Divide – Jiexi – located on the midpoint of the transverse crease of the ankle in the depression between the tendons of the extensor digitorum longus and hallucis longus. Classified as a Jing river point, fire point, and tonification point. Along with ADD/ADHD, this point treats mania, restlessness, palpitations, and Epilepsy.

  • LV14 – Cycle Gate – Qi Men – located on the mamillary line, below the nipple, 4 cun lateral to the AML in the 6th ICS. Treats emotional imbalances, the Liver organ, and Qi/Blood Stagnation.

  • GV20 – Hundred Convergences – Bai Hui – located 5 cun posterior to the AHL. Treats low energy, yang energy imbalances, headaches, and motor control issues.

  • CV17 – Chest Center – Dan Zhong – located level with the 4th ICS midway between the nipples. Classified as Point of the Qi tonifying and moving the Qi of the body.

There are a great deal of beneficial acupuncture points for ADD/ADHD, but it is paramount to identify their TCM pattern, as this will determine whether the patient is best suited for acupuncture, herbs, or both.

Presenting Patterns for ADD/ADHD:

  • Spleen Qi Deficiency – The child with this pattern presents with forgetfulness, sleepiness, cannot concentrate, and tend to be overthinkers. These patients usually respond well to western stimulant medications because a lack of energy is the source of their symptoms. To treat, use acupuncture points that raise Yang energy, and herbal formulas that are tonifying in nature.

  • Liver Fire – The child with this pattern presents with impulsivity, racing thoughts, irritability, rigid thinking, sensitivity to noise, mood swings, and become fidgety or act out when faced with moments in which they need to focus. These patients may appear to focus better, but are uneasy on western stimulant medications. To treat, use acupuncture points and herbs to lower Liver Fire.

  • Heart Fire/Heart Yin Xu – The child with this pattern presents with being overly emotional and having sleep issues. These patients to not respond well to western stimulant medications as it does not address the issue which is being overly sensitive. To treat, herbal formulas for Heart Fire are best utilized, and bedside manner should be top priority as these children are hypersensitive and want to trust and feel safe with you.

  • Kidney Yin Deficiency – The child with this pattern presents as needing their environment not to be overstimulating as this overwhelms them. Things like other children’s behavior, loud noises outside of what they’re currently doing, distractions, and uncomfortable physical feelings all are extra stimuli that this patient may find disturbing. To treat, use herbal formulas and acupuncture points that balances out the patient’s Yin.

Alex Tiberi, one of the original founders of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and renowned acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist who passed in 2014, analyzed each of these TCM diagnoses with cerebral patterns to show that each pattern requires different treatment protocols.

Acupuncture Treatment for ADD & ADHD

            Acupuncture for the treatment of ADD/ADHD has become more well-known and recommended by western medicine doctors, especially in recent years with the rise of new studies in its favor.

A study from 2020, Acupuncture Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and the Energetics of Stimulants, found that in comparing stimulants and acupuncture treatment for ADHD, researchers found “surprisingly successful outcomes” with acupuncture treatment. Additionally, a study from 2014, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Treated with Scalp Acupuncture and EEG Biofeedback Therapy in Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial, found that the combined therapy of scalp acupuncture and EEG biofeedback was able to achieve “superior efficacy on children with ADHD as compared with the simple biofeedback therapy”.

Both acupuncture research studies are promising and warrant an deeper investigation into the benefits of acupuncture for ADHD and ADD. Based on this evidence, it is no wonder why individuals with ADHD and ADD are seeking acupuncture treatment.

To learn more about how acupuncture benefits children, and earn 2 CEUs/PDAs, click here.

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