Acupuncture for Kids: A Handy Guide
Acupuncture for kids is a great choice when trying to keep the whole family well in both body and mind. Finding the best way to support the health and wellbeing of your children can be challenging as a parent, with conflicting messages coming from all directions. Children themselves are often hesitant, even resistant, to getting help. But as a completely safe and natural therapy, acupuncture can really work wonders, no matter how young or old your children are.
Kids Love Acupuncture Too!
Most of the young people I see in my clinic have come in for treatment after one (or both!) of their parents have experienced first-hand the benefits of acupuncture. Having a full understanding of how acupuncture works, what it feels like and the results it delivers, is important as a parent, as it will give you the knowledge and confidence that the treatment can help your children too. It is worth noting that in paediatric acupuncture, health issues in a child are often considered to have some link with the parents’ health and wellbeing. As a result, it can be a good idea for parents who are new to acupuncture to come in to rebalance and recharge first. Treating both parent and child ensures improved and sustained results, especially in situations where the child’s health concern is causing anxiety and worry or has become a source of tension at home.
Parents also appreciate the fact that acupuncture is a completely natural and safe therapy that takes a highly individualised approach to diagnosis and where the treatments are tailored to the needs and situation of every person. The uniqueness of every individual and the notion that it is the person rather than the symptom that is treated, lie at the heart of Oriental Medicine. Acupuncture’s anchoring in this principle means that the root cause of a specific physical or mental health concern is more readily identifiable and targeted in the treatment through the use of specific acupuncture channels that re-establish harmonious functioning and kickstart in-built natural healing mechanisms.
Youth as Medicine
Young people who receive acupuncture often respond quicker to treatment than adults. The innate potential for healing that young people possess is a true asset when it comes to an acupuncture treatment, as it means that rebalancing their system often takes just a couple of sessions. Children’s tremendous curative capabilities reflects the well-established evidence that the young do indeed heal faster than the elderly, as a child’s development involves high levels of cellular activity. This increased cell regeneration enables faster physical repair, and super-power their maturing brains too, allowing for incredible mental aptitudes, learning and resilience in new situations.
Oriental Medicine fully recognises too how differently young people face life experiences compared to adults. The young often have a fresh outlook and tend to be less set in their ways, able to challenge established norms in an effort to do or get what they see as better and more rewarding. With it comes an ability to live in the ‘here and now’, which in acupuncture would be associated with a potent energy of good health and the Heart organ and channel. Younger people’s outlook, vitality and essence bring with it an abundance of creativity, growth, renewal and hope, which in Oriental Medicine is associated with the energy of the Liver and Gallbladder, and are important to shift stagnation in a person. Of course, these dominant ‘Yang’ energies in the young, which can be fast, heated and strong, have their downside too, as kids can quickly burn up their cooling, calming and nurturing ‘Yin’ energies, leaving them feeling vulnerable, unsettled, unable to focus, restless, prone to outburst of anger or displaying physically signs of going in overdrive. They may also pay too little attention to the risks or potential outcomes of their actions, leading to injuries or inconsiderate behaviour. Such imbalances can spark off further problems, which could manifest in a wide range of symptoms, both physical and mental.
Gentle heat therapy can safely be used on kids to activate the acupuncture point and channel either in addition or instead of needles.
Gently Does It
By exploring signs, symptoms and lifestyle factors and by using traditional acupuncture diagnostic techniques, including checking pulse vitality, the colour and coating on the tongue, temperature distribution across the body and sensitivity in specific points, the origin of the imbalance is often clear and can be directly targeted with a super-gentle treatment that works with the child’s own energy.
It is worth noting that with acupuncture for kids, not only is the number of sessions required much smaller, the treatment itself will be tailored to the age and size of the child. This means either using the finest and smallest acupuncture needles available or using acupressure techniques only. Gentle heat therapy can safely be used on kids to activate the acupuncture point and channel either in addition or instead of needles. During the session, your acupuncturist will also explore possible lifestyle changes, adaptations of routines, or dietary adjustments based on Oriental Medicine principles to enhance results.
All the children and young people I have seen in my clinic have always commented on how much they have enjoyed and benefited from the sessions. Children do, of course, sometimes come in a little apprehensive. However, any fear quickly disappears once the first acupuncture point is activated and they experience a deep sense of calm and relaxation as the treatment takes effect.
What Can Acupuncture for Kids Help With?
There are always going to be challenging times with children, and it is reassuring to know that something can be done about it. Here are a few examples of the issues I have seen fantastic results with, to illustrate how acupuncture can help with your child’s health and wellbeing.
Skin conditions such as eczema, acne and rashes are not just unpleasant, they can affect a young person’s self-confidence, making acupuncture’s Body & Mind approach, especially helpful. Skin problems are a typical sign of the body overheating in some way, so rebalancing the child’s ‘Yang’ (hot) and ‘Yin’ (cool) energies is often all that is needed.
The rise of allergies in recent years among the population has not spared the young, even small babies. In general terms, allergies are usually the result of an overly sensitive immune system. Acupuncture is known to help moderate immune responses, and as such can be used for a wide range of allergies and intolerances, including seasonal, environmental and dietary.
Eating and Digestive Issues
Children’s eating habits and relationship with food can quickly become a battleground at home, as well as impacting seriously on a young person’s health and wellbeing, especially when this turns into an eating disorder. Children are also prone to digestive problems: colicky babies; toddlers and young children with chronic ‘sore tummies’; constipation or unexplained bouts of diarrhoea are all common. The treatment plan will depend very much on where the imbalance is originating from, and whether the root cause is physical or mental, but the results acupuncture provides are significant not just in helping the child, but in bringing back much needed peace and normality for the whole family.
Injuries and Recovery from Illness
Acupuncture is an ideal post-injury tool or following a period of ill-health, helping boost our healing powers. This makes it especially useful in situations where recovery seems to be taking longer than usual, or when it is getting in the way of your children getting back into their routines.
Parents often struggle with young babies’ sleep patterns, and with time these issues usually get ironed out. However, in some cases, poor sleep can persist for years. In other cases, sleep problems emerge with teenagers, perhaps in conjunction with stress, anxiety, low mood or depression. There are many aspects that are considered significant in Oriental Medicine when it comes to sleep, and which would be taken into account in the diagnosis and treatment – for example whether there is vivid dreaming, difficulties falling asleep or if the child is waking up too early. Due to the vital role played by sleep for health and wellbeing, it goes without saying that better sleep in a child no matter how young or old, has a tremendous positive effect on child and parent.
While overwhelmingly physical in its origin and manifestation, chronic fatigue is also frequently linked to other mental and emotional health problems. Not only can an acupuncture treatment tackle the extreme physical tiredness and associated mental difficulties, its use of traditional diagnostic techniques allows any pre-existing weaknesses that let the condition take hold, perhaps following a viral infection or at a time of hormonal changes, to be identified and targeted, thereby leading to long-term good health.
Of course, it is normal for children and young people to display a broad spectrum of emotions and to test boundaries with their behaviour. However, a traditional diagnosis in Oriental Medicine considers the appropriateness of a person’s behaviour, as it is usually indicative of a disharmony among our different energies. Unexplained and uncontrollable mood changes in a child are therefore frequently treated and with great success. I have seen remarkable changes in young people even after just one acupuncture session, notably those displaying extreme anger, even violence, at home or at school.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Acupuncture is incredibly effective at helping children and teenagers who are experiencing mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, which may have seemingly come out of nowhere or as a result of a traumatic event. It can also be used to help them get through more commonly experienced stressful times in their lives, such as during exams, when going for an interview, auditioning for a performance, taking part in high level competitions, or when trying to start planning future careers. Acupuncture provides a powerful tool to help your children rebalance and destress, helping them feel nurtured and enabling them to regain self-confidence, energy, enthusiasm and purpose, which will also help with their clarity of thought, decision-making and determination.
A Tool for All
The issues acupuncture for kids can help with are wide-ranging, and it is always worth discussing with your acupuncturist first how acupuncture would be suitable and helpful for them. Acupuncture really is a great tool for health and wellbeing that can be used by the whole family, providing especially fast results with the young by harnessing the powerful natural healing powers of their youth.
Lisa Lee, Lic.Ac. PhD, is a fully qualified Five Element acupuncturist based in Edinburgh. She treats patients at her clinic looking for help with a wide range of health and wellbeing issues and has specialist interests in anxiety, gut health, fertility and cancer support. www.lisaleeacu.com