Nearly 12 percent of children (about 1 in 9) in the United States are using some form of complementary health product or practice, such as chiropractic care, deep breathing, and yoga. Mind and body interventions are physical techniques usually administered by a trained practitioner or teacher to help improve health and well-being, but there are things older kids can do on their own (or with the help of a parent or caregiver) such as practicing relaxation techniques and deep breathing, especially to help manage pain.
While most mind and body practices, in general, appear to be safe if used appropriately, the limited research done on the safety of mind and body practices for children has found the following:
- Acupuncture appears to be safe for most children when performed by appropriately trained practitioners, but a 2011 research review concluded that unwanted side effects can occur when acupuncture is done by poorly trained practitioners.
- Massage therapy is one of the most commonly reported complementary health practices for children with cancer, but direct pressure over a tumor should be avoided.
- Relaxation techniques are generally considered safe for healthy people, including children. However, there have been rare reports that certain relaxation techniques might cause or worsen symptoms in people with epilepsy or certain psychiatric conditions, or with a history of abuse or trauma.
- Severe complications can occur from spinal manipulation used to treat infants and children, but they appear to be rare. Spinal manipulation should never be relied on as a primary treatment for serious conditions, such as cancer.
- There are numerous ongoing studies to determine the benefits and harms of these and other mind and body practices in children.
It’s important that parents talk with their child’s health care provider about any complementary health approach that is being used or considered, and parents should encourage their teenagers to do the same. For tips about talking with health care providers about complementary health products and practices, see NCCIH’s Time to Talk campaign.