Treatment of Pediatric NIght Terrors with Acupuncture

A 15-year-old male came into my office with his mother, complaining of night terrors since he was a child. Night terrors are different than nightmares. They happen in a deeper level of sleep and are not associated with any dreams. The child often doesn’t wake fully but is extremely agitated, frightened, they may be sweating and they can scream or yell. This boy would often jolt out of bed and run. He experienced night terrors 4-7 nights a week for 11 years. They had seen many doctors and specialists, and no one could help.

fake needle 2The boy was super afraid of needles, so as an alternative I talked to him about using what I call my “fake needle” (pictured here). The “fake needle” allows me to apply acupressure to the points where I would have inserted a needle, if this had been a regular treatment. As you can see in the picture, the thick end, which I used, is larger than most pen tips.

When the young man came in the following week he reported no change in night terrors, but his mom reported that he did seem calmer overall. With that feedback, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Was the treatment not strong enough using only the acupressure? Or was I missing something?

I pried his mom for more information.

Me: “How old was he when the night terrors started?”
Mom: “Four”
Me ” What happened when he was four?”
Mom:  “He had his adenoids removed”
Me: “aha!”

The style of acupuncture I practice is called Kiiko Matsumoto, and it holds that every major insult to the body is significant, no matter how long ago it happened. Although adenoidectomies are routine and straightforward, all surgeries are looked at and considered for “collateral damage” as well as whether the body is still “holding a grudge,” so to speak. The adenoidectomy had been left off of his health history because it hadn’t seemed important to them. Many patients do this, which is why I have learned to dig a little.

I applied acupuncture treatment protocol for adenoidectomy which includes checking and clearing certain immune reflexes, but I wasn’t sure it would be enough. I would find out at his next visit whether the treatment changed his nightmare pattern.

At his next visit, a week later, the patient reported having no night terrors, not even any nightmares. We both were very excited about this amazing progress. We continued with weekly treatments and the patient had no night terrors for three more weeks. He reported sleeping “so well” and that he felt calmer. A few night terrors (about one every couple of weeks) surfaced over the next couple of months but only when he was experiencing a high degree of stress.

It has been 5  months, and I still see this young man regularly. I am very pleased to report that he no longer gets night terrors. I am also happy to say that, after we built up a trust, he overcame his fear of needles, and I am now able to treat him in the same manner as my other patients.

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