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Acupuncture for Children

By Chris Wriston

Acupuncture is being practiced more and more in the Western world.  Many more Western-medicine practitioners are agreeing that it is a great supplemental therapy for many conditions.  It is a great way of treating pain, and it doesn’t have the side effects that pain medications do, like nausea, drowsiness, addiction, etc.  Acupuncture is even used to treat children.

Parents may be skeptical of taking their children to a place where they’ll be poked with needles.  What child likes needles?  What parents will want to watch their child suffer through that process?  They may remember the last time their child got his or her blood drawn or their child’s last vaccination shot.  Why would they want to sit through that again?

Fortunately, acupuncture is virtually painless.  Acupuncture needles are about a quarter of the diameter of the regular 22-gauge IV needles most children are used to encountering.  The biggest hurdle in treating children with acupuncture is a psychological battle of the child conquering his or her fear of needles.  Acupuncturists can help children get over their fears by, first of all, getting to know the them.  Sometimes acupuncturists will spend the time during a child’s first visit by simply getting to know the child and the parent in order to build trust.  An acupuncturist can also demonstrate the process on a toy doll or even on the back of his or her hand to show that it doesn’t hurt.

Once acupuncturists work with children on overcoming their fear, acupuncture is a very safe and effective way of treating conditions in children such as asthma, diarrhea, loss of appetite, chronic pain and eating disorders.  They can even be used to treat emotional disorders like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.  These treatments have also been used to treat symptoms caused by chemotherapy like nausea and vomiting.

If children aren’t able to overcome their fear of needles, there are other alternatives to acupuncture: Shonishin and tui na are two types of treatments, which are similar to acupuncture and can treat the same conditions, but do not use needles.

Tui na massage is a needle-free technique that is very effective in treating conditions.  The drawback of tui na when used to treat children is that it takes a longer time to administer than acupuncture or shonishin.

Shonishin is very beneficial for the child’s nervous system.  It is great for respiratory and digestive ailments.  This technique uses small, metal tools to bring the child’s qi (life force or energy flow) to the surface of the skin.  Shonishin uses the same acupuncture points, except it is done by rubbing, instead of piercing, the skin.  It is a great technique for children, not only because of its healing capabilities and because of the absence of needles, but also because children look upon it as a game.  They can be entertained by playing with the tools while treatment is in process, making the session fun and fast.

Treating children with shonishin, tui na or acupuncture is different from treating adults with these methods.  Children respond quicker to these treatments than adults.  This is because children’s emotions tend to be less inhibited than adults’ emotions.  Children tend to have a better, less restricted flow of qi (energy).  Another reason why treating children is different from treating adults is because children’s bodies and minds are still developing.  Their meridian points (the path the qi flows through) are not fully developed.

All of the Oriental medical treatments mentioned above are great treatments for existing conditions in children as well as great preventative treatments.  They can help to create an emotional balance in children, which is particularly useful in this day and age with the large amount of over-stimulation in our society.  Another great benefit of using these treatments is that they are safe and effective and don’t have the negative side effects, as do pharmaceutical drugs.

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