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Acupuncture for ADHD & Tourettes

By Cat North ; Updated August 14, 2017

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and Tourette's syndrome are often diagnosed together, and some medical experts believe Tourette’s is directly associated with ADHD, according to the Institute for Traditional Medicine. While stimulants are usually prescribed for ADHD, other medications that manipulate brain neurotransmitters are typically used for Tourette’s, according to MayoClinic.com and the Institute for Traditional Medicine. However, some people believe the adverse side effects of such medications aren’t worth risking in an attempt to treat these conditions medicinally and opt for alternative treatments, such as acupuncture.

ADHD and Medication

ADHD is a brain condition that makes concentrating difficult and behavior hard to control for individuals diagnosed with the disorder. A higher percentage of American children are diagnosed with ADHD than are children residing in other countries. Along with the higher numbers of ADHD-diagnosed children in the U.S., most are given stimulant medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall, to treat or curb ADHD symptoms, according to MayoClinic.com. However, due to a growing concern over the side effects of the long-term use of such stimulant medications in the early 21st century, parents and patients alike are opting for other solutions, including acupuncture therapy, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.

Tourette's Syndrome and Medication

Tourette syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes individuals to make sudden sounds and unusual movements, such as tics, jerking the head or blurting out obscenities. Symptoms typically show up during childhood, and Tourette syndrome is more common for males than females, according to MayoClinic.com (see ref # 2). Various drugs are used to treat Tourette syndrome, including those that deplete or block neurotransmitters in the brain, antidepressants and Botox, as well as stimulants. However, some people believe stimulant use may exacerbate involuntary movements, according to the Institute for Traditional Medicine (see ref # 1). Other drugs used to help control Tourette syndrome may cause adverse side-effects, including dulling of the mind and weight gain, according to MayoClinic.com (see ref # 2). Those concerned about the possible long-term damage of these drugs may choose acupuncture as an alternative and natural treatment.

Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners view brain disorders, such as ADHD and Tourette's syndrome, differently than Western practitioners. Instead of focusing on chemical imbalances and deficits in the brain as probable causes, Chinese medicine focuses more on the possible imbalances of the spirit and how such imbalances relate to the whole individual. For instance, in Chinese medicine ADHD is a symptom of deficient nourishment or agitation of the spirit, according to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. A combination of traditional herbs and acupuncture are often used to treat conditions, such as ADHD and Tourette's syndrome, in Chinese medicine.

Acupuncture Applied

Combined with other natural therapies, acupuncture may help relieve the symptoms and eliminate displays of ADHD and Tourette syndrome in numerous ways, including improving attention and focus, calming fidgety or hyperactive behavior and managing mood, according to Accufinder.com. During acupuncture therapy, stomach and large intestine meridian points may be needled to alleviate stagnant heat that may cause high activity and related symptoms in individuals with ADHD and Tourette's syndrome, according to the Institute for Traditional Medicine and “Qi” journal. Meridian points related to insufficient essence in the brain and brain development may also be needled. A study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine on the effectiveness of acupuncture on Tourette's syndrome patients indicated that symptoms were reduced or eliminated in 73 percent of the patients treated with acupuncture therapy.


If you or your children are currently being treated for ADHD or Tourette's syndrome, discuss treatment alternatives, such as acupuncture, with your health care provider before ceasing prescription medication therapy. Work with your health care provider to find the right balance of treatment options for you or your children.

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