Can children have acupuncture, does it have to involve needles?

Can children have acupuncture, does it have to involve needles and what conditions can it help support?

Needles are the biggest barrier stopping children accessing this wonderful safe, gentle and remarkably effective treatment. Many parents and carers are concerned that their children will not be able to have this treatment as it involves needles and a child would simply not be able to tolerate them. However, paediatric acupuncture uses lots of other non-needle techniques which work with acupuncture points on the body and direct the flow of Qi (energy) to help support a child’s physical and mental wellbeing. A needle will not be used on a child if they do not wish to have any needles used, and treatment, especially in young children is very effective. Children of all ages, even as young as newborns can be treated and it’s a wonderful way to support children through transitions in their life. Being a mother myself, I completely understand not wanting to bring your child to an appointment that you think they will not enjoy. If your child’s only experience of needles has been for blood tests, hospital visits and vaccinations then it’s completely understandable why you and / or your child would feel fearful and concerned to try acupuncture. However, both a child and a parents reaction to acupuncture is often met with surprise that it’s nothing like what they expected. Usually, children are smiling by how little they feel these very small, thin and superficial needles. Many children get the giggles when they first try this and I am always more than happy to demonstrate on myself, mum or dad before they try themselves!

If needles are used, then treatment is very gentle. A typical treatment for a pre-schooler could involve just the use of 1 or 2 needles and these would not be retained, simply in and out before the child even notices that “magic” feeling has happened on the end of a needle. I use distraction techniques by asking children to use some magic words to help the needle work which gets inquisitive children very involved in understanding what’s happening. Newborn babies can be treated whilst feeding or having a cuddle and are usually unaware that a needle has been used at all.

Non - needle techniques that can be taught and used at home.

For those children that do not wish to try needles thankfully there are plenty of non-needle techniques that can be used.

Paediatric Tui Na is a type of massage that was inspired by the mothers responsive and natural touch for their child. It involves rhythmic stroking of channels and certain areas of the body, rubbing areas such as the lower back to create heat, or gentle kneading of smaller areas such as hands and tummies. These moves each have their own function to help support bothersome symptoms and a routine of different moves can be taught to parents / carers to use at home between appointments. Each routine will be developed to be used specifically for your child. I use this on children approximately up to the age of 7 and It’s a great way to create further bonds with your child and create a calm and relaxing routine before bedtime.

Paedatric Tui Na is a great at home addition to be used between appointments when treating bedwetting, headaches, constipation, sleep disorders, anxiety, vomiting / reflux, reoccurring infections (tonsilitis, ear infections), and teething.  Using this at-home method is a great way to help treatment along in-between your appointments in the clinic and helps parents / carers and children feel very involved in their journey to better health.

Stick on seeds or small stick-on needles that are used on acupuncture points. This is a very gentle way of stimulating an acupuncture point. Tiny pyonex needles on a sticker are gently placed on acupuncture points for children to wear in the treatment room whilst playing or chatting. Once these are on, children will generally forget that they are there. The stick-on seeds may be used at the end of a treatment and may also be worn home if they are needed to work on a point for longer.

Using warming Moxabustion in the clinic (moxa, mugwort herb) Warming points on the body with moxa – the dried mugwort herb can be very relaxing and beneficial to help calm children and warm children up. It’s great for sleep disorders where children can’t switch off in the evenings and spend ages wide awake. I often use this in treatment for any growing pains, weak ankles and knees. It can be used on small babies to help with colic symptoms, reflux, constipation and loose stools. Older children to help with bedwetting and some skin conditions. A moxa treatment will involve holding a lit cigar-like stick of mugwort near (but not touching) areas or acupuncture points on the body to gently warm and stimulate. I find this is often a child’s favourite type of treatment and they find it very relaxing. This is often requested at our house at bedtime!

Cupping is another favourite method used on children. I use small silicone cups to help move any stagnation in the body, particularly on the tummy. These again are not left on, so as not to leave any marks. Children love the popping noise of the cups when they are pulled on and off and we like to refer to them as “fish kisses”. This is a great option to use when a child struggles with constipation.

Chinese medicine dietary and lifestyle advice may be given to help support certain symptoms. It may be that a few tweaks in a child’s diet may help them with an ongoing symptom or a small change in their lifestyle will help things improve.

What conditions can paediatric acupuncture help support?

This list suggests a few of the common conditions (acute and chronic) seen in children which acupuncture can help support

  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Mood disorders and mental health
  • Sleep Problems
  • Digestive conditions – stomach ache, vomiting, reflux, pain, loose stools, constipation, stool with holding
  • Chronic Fatigue, post viral conditions
  • bedwetting
  • nose bleeds
  • reoccurring sore throats, ear conditions, eye problems, UTI’s
  • headaches and migraines
  • teenage menstrual problems

This list is not exhaustive, and your child does not need to have a particular symptom to seek treatment. It’s a great way to get children interested in their health and how they are feeling and generally help them through the transitions in their life.

If you are interested and want any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. I have a passion for helping children and am always more than happy to work with your other healthcare providers as believe an integrated approach is always best to help a child return to full health. It’s important that you feel treatment is suitable for your child and so sometimes a phone call to chat things through can be reassuring and answer any questions you may have. As a parent myself I understand the stresses and strains on family life and how when a child is unwell this can disrupt everything. I hope that acupuncture can help bring back harmony within a family.

Click link to find out more. 

To book Liz has appointment available to children on Mondays 5pm – 7.30pm and Tuesdays 8.45am – 7.30pm.