You might be wondering if acupuncture might benefit the youngest among us. The short answer is absolutely! We even have a name for children’s acupuncture: shonishin, a word borrowed from Japanese. One of the most common questions I receive is how a baby or a child would sit still for an acupuncture treatment. Until they are about 8 or 9 years old, their treatments look a little different from what you might be used to.
As a seasoned acupuncturist who has treated children from 6 weeks old through the teenage years, I have several tools at my disposal. The most important tool I have, aside from the parents themselves (something I’ll go into further detail in a bit), is a small gold-plated instrument. One end of the tool is slightly rounded for brushing the skin and the other end is a blunted tip for light pressure.
Children have energy (Qi) as adults do, but because they are younger, their Qi is more available on the surface, rather than deeper like ours. It is for this reason that actual acupuncture is optional in shonishin. A typical treatment of a young child or baby lasts between 15-20 minutes, and involves a combination of gentle finger pressure, brushing of the skin with my specialized pediatric tools, light massage, and if appropriate, inserting needles and immediately removing them. There is no physical discomfort experienced by the child (or the parents!). In fact, I often get giggles from ticklish toddlers.
Anther important tool is the parents. Because treatment is most effective when administered on a regular basis, I often show parents how to massage their children in specific areas to treat their ailment. For example, my home remedy for allergies is to have the parents gently stroke their child’s third eye area and down the sides of the nose. If a child is old enough for self-care, I show him or her how to apply pressure on specific meridians.
While I leave more serious conditions to be treated by western physicians, there are many ailments that respond very well to shonishin. My most common ailments include gastric reflux in infants, allergies, colds and flu, digestive disorders, anxiety and concentration issues.
In addition to shonishin I often make recommendations for western and eastern herbs, vitamins, and supplements. Most children respond very quickly to a combination of shonishin and supplements. And parents, you know that when your child is healthy, you sleep better at night! You owe it to yourselves, so consider shonishin the next time your child is ill!