The idea of needles and kids seem to be opposing, however when it comes to acupuncture and children there are many techniques that can be used to achieve results. The overall concept of acupuncture, utilizing the points to balance the channels of the body, is still applicable to kids. The difference is in the tools.
Whereas adults receive acupuncture with our classic thin needles applied to points, children can receive point stimulation from various techniques.
Lasers are a pain free, non-intrusive way to activate acupuncture points. The red laser is supplemental, bringing strength to the area and activating the specific point in a tonifying way (good for fatigue, respiratory issues, anxiety, insomnia, digestive complaints, and more). The blue laser is cooling, or calming, and can treat inflammation, pain, overactivity (such as ADD or ADHD), and excessive qualities (phlegm, restlessness, insect bites, eczema, etc.). The appropriate laser is applied to the proper points based on the child's pattern diagnosis for 10-15 seconds per point to achieve the desired results. There is no heat or sensation directly from the laser itself, although children can immediately feel relaxed and calm from use of the lasers. This technique can also be used for adults who are needle phobic or extra sensitive.
Shonishin is a Japanese style of pediatric acupuncture that uses small metal tools to scratch, brush, or tap the child's skin along acupuncture channels and points. This treatment is gentle, relaxing, and effective at balancing the child's body and therefore eliminating symptoms while regaining health.
Micro Stimulation is another method to activate acupuncture points without penetrating the skin. Using a device, a small amount of electrical stimulation is applied to acupuncture points of the body, as well as the ear, for roughly 15 seconds per point. This sends the message through the particular point to help balance the channels and awaken the body's natural healing responses. The child will feel a slight buzz from the device, which is commonly described as ticklish. I personally use the Stimplus Pro, a small handheld device that both detects and treats active points. This is also often used for Auricular acupuncture in adults.
Acupuncture needles can also be used for children. Traditionally, thousands of years ago, needles were not used on kids due to the size of the needles at the time and the risk for infection. Today, modern technology has made it possible to create itty bitty needles that are safe for all ages. The smallest needle available is about the size of a thin hair and is often times not even felt. My 2 month old little boy receives acupuncture needles often and doesn't so much as blink upon insertion of a needle. The biggest challenge with children and acupuncture needles is the fear associated with the word "needle". I prefer to use the term "pins" or "taps" when working with children since the needle is tapped into the skin using a guide tube.
When it comes to a pediatric treatment, the child is in charge. If old enough, the child determines how the session will go and whether or not needles or non-needle tools are used. Especially if the child feels ready to try an acupuncture needle, or pin, they are asked where they would like to try it first. There are many acupuncture points to choose from, so if the child prefers to have one on their arm first (for example), I will have access to a beneficial point. Pins are typically removed immediately following insertion for children under the age of 12, since this is enough to activate the point. If the child is older and is happy to lay still for 5-10 minutes, then pins can be retained.
Children's energy, or Qi, is very active since they are literally little balls of energy. They haven't had the time to muck things up in their bodies yet. Because of this, they respond immediately to acupuncture point activation and thus tend to have faster results with less pins and time treated. Most of the time, while treating children, I can see the change occur right away. There's even a brightness that returns to the eyes. Because of this, and because of my personal experience with my own child, pediatric acupuncture is a passion of mine.
I'm happy to answer any questions relating to pediatric acupuncture. Feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Here's a video from the Portland Today show of a child receiving Shonishin acupuncture. Stay tuned for more videos in the future of acupuncture pins treating infants and children.