Acupuncture and children may not seem like an obvious match, but many parents are turning to acupuncture and Chinese medicine because it offers an effective, safe and gentle approach to pediatric healthcare.
Kids today suffer from an alarming number of chronic conditions including asthma, allergies, ADHD, anxiety, recurring colds and ear infections, gastrointestinal issues, behavioral issues and sensory processing disorders. Unfortunately, sometimes western medications just don’t help, come with a host of side effects, or only act as a ‘bandaid’ for the symptoms without attention to the deeper issue.
Chinese medicine focuses on treating symptoms by getting to the root of the issue and helping the child’s body heal itself.
Treatments are done using super fine, painless acupuncture needles or other non-needle techniques to stimulate the points for kids who aren’t comfortable with needles. Pediatric acupuncturists are trained in a variety of modalities to allow easy customization of treatments for every condition and temperament.
Treatments often also include wellness counseling where we discuss many ways to help your child gain optimal health- this may include nutritional and herbal counseling, information on potential environmental issues and attention to emotional health from a Chinese 5 element view.
Children respond very quickly to treatments and most see an improvement after just one visit! Most children come weekly until their condition is improved and stable, and then move to a maintenance plan of monthly or seasonal visits.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about pediatric acupuncture:
What can it treat?
Many common pediatric issues can be improved with Chinese Medicine. Just some of the conditions that respond well to acupuncture include: GI issues, colic, reflux, constipation, chronic diarrhea, asthma, allergies, ADHD, bedwetting, cough, recurring ear infections, sinus congestion, headaches, hormonal issues (puberty), low immunity (frequent cold and flus), behavioral issues, and sensory integration disorders.
How does it work?
- We treat children by focusing on alleviating symptoms AND finding the root of the problem.
- We diagnose and treat by looking for constitutional imbalances and correcting them.
- Acupuncture treatments stimulate the body's own healing mechanisms, including production of pain-killing and anti-inflammatory substances.
- Acupuncture helps to balance the nervous system and return the body to homeostasis.
- Acupuncture helps strengthen the immune system to fight off future illnesses.
What happens during a treatment?
Treatments are customized to each child's needs and temperment. After a thorough examination and history of the child's health and current condition, I will work with parents to develop a treatment plan that may include acupuncture, herbs, pediatrics tui-na (massage) and nutritional counseling.
During the initial visit where we spend the majority of the time talking and reviewing the child’s health history, there will be a brief treatment. For most kids this is less that ten minutes long and will include massage and point stimulation with either quick in-and-out needling or use of a non-needle technique on the acupuncture points. (So, NO, they don’t need to lie still on a table with a bunch of needles in them!)
How many treatments will my child need?
It all depends on the condition but most children start to see improvement after one visit. Typically I recommend weekly visits until the condition clears. From there most kids move to a monthly or seasonal “maintenance” schedule.
Can I use this to KEEP my kid healthy?
Absolutely! While this medicine is wonderful to help children heal from a variety of conditions, it is also wonderful to KEEP kids healthy. I offer a variety of “wellness” packages to help keep your child’s body strong and resilient.
What if my child will NEVER go for needles?
This is a common concern for both parents and kids. Acupuncture needles that we use are so tiny that most kids don't even feel them and some even think it's fun! But I always make sure my small patients are totally comfortable with the idea before we try, and if they aren't ready, I have a variety of other tools we can use, including acupressure, cupping, tui-na medical massage, Japanese shonishin, and electrical or vibrational stimulation of acupuncture points.
Will you work with our pediatrician?
This is a common question, and I really enjoy working with Medical Doctors. Pediatric acupuncturists are highly trained in recognizing medical red flags for children and know when to send our patients for evaluation by their primary care docs. I find that most pediatricians are THRILLED when their patients can find relief for their symptoms without the use of antibiotics or other strong medications, and I look forward to becoming an integral part of your family's health team.
Is there evidence to support acupuncture for kids?
We are in a very exciting time where advancements in scientific research are starting to be able to prove what patients and practitioners of Chinese Medicine have known for centuries!
- A recent study at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital in Boston by Yuan-Chi Lin, MD, included 243 youngsters ranging in age from six months to 18 years who were being treated for headaches, stomachaches, back pain and other chronic complaints that often caused them to miss school. Over the course of the 1-year study, average pain ratings went from an 8 to a 3. The kids also reported missing less school, sleeping better, and being able to participate in extracurricular activities, as a result of treatment.
- Click here to read an article from the Washington Post about kids and acupuncture.
- In December, 2015 the highly respected Journal of Medical Acupuncture released a special article on the use of pediatric acupuncture. Some of the findings included: “Acupuncture is a well-tolerated, safe, and effective resource for the pediatric population and is a viable option for pediatric pain management. “ (McDonald), “Acupuncture in children is well-tolerated and safe, and has minimal adverse effects. It may be an effective adjunct to standard care for treating children with GERD or FD.”(Kanak, Park, Yeh) and “Acupuncture is an effective modality to use for children with pediatric-onset disabilities. It can help to treat the underlying distressing symptoms as well reducing the side-effect burdens of concomitant medical interventions. “ (Shawntes) (Medical Acupuncture. December 2015, 27(6))
If you are curious to see if acupuncture might be right for your child, or if you have any other questions, please contact me!