East Mountain Acupuncture | Articles
Chinese Herbal Medicine

Treating Children with Acupuncture

Amidst great gains in acupuncture’s popularity as a treatment for a wide range of disorders, most adults are still unaware that acupuncture can also be an effective treatment for babies and children. While the style and duration of treatment is much different for children than for adults, the effects can be similarly powerful—enough to alter the course of a single illness, a chronic condition, and even a child’s life.

Many parents seek acupuncture or herbal treatment for their child’s chronic or recurring health problems which have failed to respond to more conventional treatment: chronic ear infections, chronic cough, sleep disorders, fatigue, asthma, bed-wetting, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, constipation, diarrhea, and frequent colds are the disorders most commonly treated with acupuncture, but it can also help kids with anxiety, crossed eyes, epilepsy, eczema, and certain learning problems. Increasingly common, too, are kids whose parents simply want a treatment with less risk and fewer side effects than the medications or surgeries that are often recommended.

How is it that kids can respond to low-tech treatments like acupuncture and herbs when specialists and modern drugs have failed to help? The answer lies in Chinese Medicine’s ability to treat not just symptoms, but also to identify and treat the underlying conditions that allowed illness to develop in the first place. (See “Immunity: The View from Chinese Medicine” for a more detailed look at how this process works.)

With children, the imbalances that lie at the root of their illnesses are most commonly in the digestive system. Since children must eat not only to maintain health but also to grow and develop at an enormous rate, their digestive systems need to work at a high capacity. They need to transform food into usable energy (which the Chinese call “qi”) at a prodigious rate. Under normal circumstances, young digestive systems can do this; but working at full throttle much of the time, they are quite vulnerable to any ‘non-normal” conditions. Food that is hard to digest, for instance, or irregular or excessively large meals, can easily disrupt digestive processes and contribute to persistent and/or spiraling health problems like chronic ear infections, asthma, and sleep difficulties.

Many factors other than food will also affect digestion, however; a child’s overall physical health can thus be greatly affected by physical stresses like illnesses or immunizations, as well as emotional stresses over school, new childcare situations, etc. These situations can all create subtle imbalances that quickly result in not-so-subtle symptoms. Some symptoms, like stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea, are obviously digestive problems, while others, like ear infections, chronic cough, juvenile arthritis and eczema are less obviously so.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine will attempt to identify one of several patterns of imbalance that lead up to the child’s current condition. Did the child have a history of paleness, fatigue, weak cough, whiny behavior, and / or pickiness over food? Such behaviors point to an underlying deficiency of qi, which the body has been unable to produce in sufficient amounts to ward off illness. Alternatively, the child may have a predominantly excess condition, in which a backlog of incompletely transformed food and drink leads to congestion or stagnation and a child who is phlegmy, congested, and may have a cough, oozing rashes, or pimply skin, abdominal pain, and smelly stools. Whatever the illness, this basic differentiation between these two patterns is essential for effective treatment, which will focus on strengthening those children with deficient qi conditions, and moving stagnation in children with excess conditions.

The logistics of actually treating a child with Chinese Medicine require a good dose of flexibility and an understanding of children’s needs at different ages. Few children before the age of 8 or 9 are able to lie still to retain acupuncture needles for more than a few minutes, so generally each needle is inserted, manipulated for a few seconds, then removed before the next one is inserted. A typical treatment might last about 3 minutes, with the bulk of the visit devoted to talking about the child’s progress and reviewing suggested dietary and lifestyle recommendations. In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas are often prescribed to continue and amplify the effect of the acupuncture treatment. These can be given in pill form, liquid tinctures or decoctions, or syrups. While the unfamiliar taste of the herbs can be difficult for some kids to handle at first, they usually get used to it quickly if the parent is firm about the need to take them.

It can be astounding to witness a child’s response to acupuncture and herbal treatment. Not only do their immediate health problems often resolve, but they can also be set on firmer footing for a healthier and happier childhood as a result.

Other Articles

Chinese Medicine: Ancient Healthcare For The Modern Woman

Immunity: The View From Chinese Medicine

Government Panel Endorses Acupuncture

Acupuncture in America: A Short History

International Studies Show Acupuncture as Effective as Drugs for Depression and Anxiety

Studies Support Use of Acupuncture in Respiratory and Gastrointestinal Disorders

American Medical Association Studies Chinese Medicine

Home | Acupuncture | Chinese Herbal Medicine | FAQ | Treatment | Directions | Rates & Scheduling | Forms | Articles