It's common to think that children would not tolerate having acupuncture. However when practised in the right way, acupuncture can be almost painless and is tolerated by most children. There are some children for whom having needles is frightening but fortunately there are several other ways of delivering acupuncture treatment without needles. These techniques, both traditional and modern, can also be used as a complement to needles.
Low level laser acupuncture
Low-level laser therapy is used to stimulate acupuncture points with therapeutic light instead of needles. A laser 'pen' is held over the point for around twenty seconds. This is painless for the child and a wonderful tool for treating children with acupuncture.
An entire treatment may be done only with a laser pen, or it may be used on just some points, on a sensitive area such as the fingers for example.
The type of laser used is a state of the art 3B laser pen. Class 3 lasers promote tissue regeneration, reduce inflammation and relieve pain and are used in medicine and dentistry. This is entirely different from the type of laser that is used for surgical procedures (Class 4 laser).
During or at the end of a treatment I may put a 'press ball' - a tiny sphere under a small circle of transparent plastic - on an acupuncture point either on the body or one the ear. This provides very gentle stimulation of the point and once on, children usually forget they are they are there. I will give you instructions as to when to take them off.
Paediatric tuina (meaning pronounced twee-nah) is a system of medical massage for babies and children, developed since the 6th century in China. It uses a variety of different movements, stimulating acupuncture meridians and points by hand. It is predominantly used for babies and children up to around 7 years old, though may be suitable for some older children too. Babies and children usually find tuina pleasant and enjoyable and effective system of massage.
Paediatric tuina may be used on its own or in combination with needles, moxa or laser acupuncture.
Cupping, or myofascial decompression, is another technique that has been used in Asain medicine for many centuries. It has been shown increase the circulation and oxygenation of blood in the affected area and to reduce inflammation, both locally and systemically. I use flexible silicone cups, without heat, on children. Most children enjoy cupping and often request it.
Shonishin - 'children's needle'
Shonishin is a light, non-invasive method of treating children. Instead of needles it uses light stroking or tapping on the body with various small tools. Literally translated as “little” (sho) “children” (ni) and “needle” (shin), shonishin was developed specifically for babies and children and is used with a wide range of conditions, from premature babies to teenagers on the autistic spectrum.
Shonishin dates back to the 17th century in Japan. I may use shonishin on its own or combine it with another treatment method.
Moxa is the herb mugwort (artemisia vulgaris / argyii) which is used to apply warmth over an acupuncture point (moxibustion). There are different ways of applying moxa that will vary with the age of the child. The most common way is to use moxa rolled into a stick like a cigar and once lit, hold it close to the point, but not touching the skin. Most children really like having moxa and find it very relaxing.
Gua sha or scraping massage is a massage technique done using a special tool on specific areas of the body. Oil is applied to the skin first so it doesn't feel 'scrapy' and most children actually like it!
Both paediatric tuina and shonishin are suitable for home treatment as they are simple and easy to learn. 'Treatment' at home from the parents between appointments has a number of benefits:
has the added benefit of allowing the parents to be in a simple way that is nurturing of the parent - child relationship.
Having some treatment between appointments keeps up the momentum of the treatment and means that your child’s symptoms improve more quickly.
Many parents appreciate being able to actively participate in supporting their child's health and wellbeing in a simple and direct way. Being able to do something specific to alleviate their child's suffering can allow parents to feel less helpless.
Giving your child the soft, caring touch involved in home treatment even for ten to fifteen minutes a day of the touch can nuture and enhance the relationship with your child, which can give many other benefits.