Have you ever considered acupuncture for your child?

According to a study by the Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago (Dec 2015), acupuncture is something parents should consider if their children are suffering from chronic pain. Children with various chronic conditions were studied to assess the impact of acupuncture on pain, nausea and quality of life.  The results showed “significant positive results both during and after sessions” for all three indicators.

Source:  Johnson Angela, Kent Paul, Swanson Barbara, Rosdil Anneliese, Owen Erika, Fogg Louis, and Keithley Joyce 2015 “The Use of Acupuncture for Pain Management in Paediatric Patients:  A Single-Arm Feasibility Study” Alternative and Complementary Therapies. December 2015, 21(6): 255-260.

Acupuncture for Children?

Paediatric acupuncture is a branch of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) focusing on the treatment of children and teens, with ages of children ranging from newborn babies through to teens. It has been a part of TCM practice for many centuries, however, it has risen to popularity in recent times as parents are searching for alternatives for their children. Paediatric acupuncture has become widely recognised as an effective evidence-backed treatment for children and teens. Pediatric Acupuncture – Evidence Summary (evidencebasedacupuncture.org)

Is paediatric acupuncture different to acupuncture in adults?

Yes, as children are still growing and developing, their little systems aren’t fully developed or functioning, therefore children are treated differently than acupuncture in adults. The acupuncturist will use a variety of different gentle techniques and methods, ensuring the child feels comfortable.  Some of these techniques and methods include shorter duration of the needle, fewer needles, use of a shonishin (Japanese tool, no insertion), massage techniques, gua sha (scraping tool), mild soft silicone cups, acupressure, use of ball bearings or seeds on taped onto the acupuncture point. Also, developing a friendly professional fun relationship with the child and making them feel in control, asking them to help you is always a winner.

What do the acupuncture needles look like?

As you can see from the picture, acupuncture needles are very thin, just slightly thicker than a strand of human hair. Acupuncture needles are solid, not hollow needles as used by medical doctors and nurses for injections. These acupuncture needles come in sterile packaging and are single-use only, disposed of in the bio-can/sharps bin after use. Showing the child and or teen this picture of what acupuncture needles look like is a great way to get them more comfortable and informed as to what to expect. Picture created – China Books Australia

What conditions are seen by paediatric acupuncturists?

Paediatric acupuncturists can see a variety of conditions in clinical practice, which include, digestive disorders, bed-wetting, anxiety, sleep disorders, musculoskeletal conditions, (like muscle pain and tension, sports injuries), low immunity, low energy, sinus, and asthma.
Paediatric acupuncture can have many benefits, by promoting healing and balance within the body’s energy systems and by stimulating the production of endorphins in the brain, it has the potential to enhance the body’s natural healing process. By altering the pain signals in the brain, acupuncture could help to alleviate pain and discomfort and have a relaxing effect on the body. Along with increasing blood flow and oxygenation to the tissues, this in turn could help with relaxing muscles, tendons, and ligaments, along with a general calming effect.
Additionally, it can help calm the SNS-sympathetic nervous system, which may lead to a reduction in stress and anxiety levels and overall well-being.

What will we expect from a paediatric acupuncture session?

Generally, the consultation starts out much the same way as an adult’s initial consultation. It is professional practice to take a comprehensive case history of the child or teen’s medical history, health, and general well-being. Having crystal-clear communication with all parties, parent/guardian, child, and practitioner to ensure we have a clear understanding of your child’s needs and conditions. Engaging the child or teen where appropriate or dependant on age, with their consent or the present parent/guardian’s consent we would feel their pulse and look at their tongue to help has better understand their underlying diagnosis from a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) perspective. We allocate plenty of time for the initial consultation as it would also include the first treatment for the child or teen. We recognise that first-time acupuncture for anyone would be apprehensive, so we take our time, look at various tools of the trade, see a needle up close and make the child or teen feel in control of their session. Gaining the child, teen and parent’s trust is an important connection we strive to maintain and value to guide in their health journey. After the initial consultation, the practitioner might suggest some homework activities, ie stretching, herbs and or nutritional supplements, other allied practitioners, dietary and lifestyle advice and any additional acupuncture treatments. As acupuncture has a cumulative effect, follow-up treatments are generally recommended.

How many sessions does my child or teen need?

How long is a piece of string and how many knots, colours, glitter, food etc does it have on it? Seriously thou, this can depend on many factors, the child’s age, overall general health, previous illnesses, the specific condition being treated, how long-standing the condition is, the severity of the treating aliment, and other signs and symptoms presented.  Some children and teens have experienced improvement after just one paediatric acupuncture treatment, while others may require multiple treatments to see any improvement. In most chronic conditions, several acupuncture treatments are generally needed, which take place over a period of weeks or months, depending on various factors. Acupuncture alone is not commonly advised in many chronic cases and therefore encouraging the help of the child, teen and parent to also employ a healthy lifestyle and stay on track with the treatment plan advised is paramount in aiding in their health journey.

Things you need to know.

Choosing the right practitioner for you is an important decision when it comes to our children and teens. Not only do you need to choose a qualified acupuncturist, as well as a practitioner, that has experience with children and young people.

Planning and explaining ahead of the initial consultation leads to a better understanding for the child and teen and creates trust and open communication between you and the child. Preparation is the key to success here, if a child and or teen is prepped prior to coming into their first visit, they have already digested some of what might be occurring. The worst-case scenario we have seen is the surprise visit and the child is in shock and thrown into a situation they haven’t mentally prepared and do not feel in control.

Offering reassurance and addressing any of the child and or teen’s concerns and expectations of an acupuncture consultation and treatment. Preparing and informing your child and or teen to create an understanding of what to expect will help them feel more comfortable and relaxed which will make the experience more pleasant and effective.

Dress in comfortable clothing that is semi-loose or easily accessible to the affected areas, if the child and or teen does not wish to de-robe. Shorts and a shirt are a better option than a one-piece or dress.

Prepare for your session by taking notes prior to your first visit as to what you would like to address or information you might find helpful to our consultation. This way, you don’t walk away thinking you forgot to inform us of all health concerns.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your child receives the full benefits of their paediatric acupuncture treatment.

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