“After reviewing 60 years of research, the American Academy of Pediatrics has given acupuncture the green light, reporting that the practice is ‘safe for children when performed by appropriately trained practitioners.’” – Ryan Jaslow, CBS News
“A baby is something you carry inside you for nine months, in your arms for three years, and in your heart until the day you die.” – Mary Mason
“J has been sleeping amazingly well. She settles easily and calmly at night and sleeps the whole night with no disturbances.… Thank-you so much for the work you did with her.” – J
Working with children is very rewarding! Not only are children fun to work with, but they also tend to respond quickly and are more sensitive to less treatment. And constitutional tendencies, such as constipation, eczema or asthma, when worked with at a young age, can often be improved permanently with adequate treatment. Children’s bodies are dynamic and growing, and embrace change daily. This is part of the reason that less is more for kids. It is also part of the reason that needles aren’t always necessary, even though they are safe¹ and effective to use with babies and children.
Sometimes, in developing a therapeutic relationship with children, kids are more receptive to other techniques, such as Shonishin and craniosacral therapy, in the beginning. For these reluctant children, acupuncture can be included at a later time, once trust has developed between the child and the therapist, if stronger treatment is necessary. Below is a brief summary of some of the therapies that may be integrated into a pediatric treatment and combined as appropriate, depending on the interests of the parent and receptivity of the child.
Pediatric Bodywork Therapies
Shonishin is a needle-free therapy for children aged newborn to 12 years old that involves stroking and tapping the skin with small metal instruments. It is typically enjoyed by children and is a great introductory pediatric therapy. It can be done instead of acupuncture for small children or can be done along with needles.
Tuina is a form of Chinese massage, and pediatric tuina techniques can be used in treatments and can be taught to parents to do at home. These techniques can be particularly beneficial for the management of constipation, cough, asthma and to improve sleep quality.
Parents who have received acupuncture themselves are often surprised that for babies, toddlers and preschool aged children, needles, when used, are only inserted and immediately removed—they are not left in for a period of time as with adults. Once children are school aged, depending on the temperament of the child, needles may be left in for five to ten minutes. And for children 16 years of age or older, treatment is very similar to that of adults with needles typically left in for the full 20-25 minutes.
Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on technique that helps to release tensions in the body and helps to rebalance the nervous system, which is in control of all other systems in the body. Craniosacral therapy treatments for young children are dynamic—children may play with toys or babies may breastfeed while the therapist works on them. Craniosacral therapy may help babies and young children to work with birth trauma or tissue restrictions caused by birth, surgery, injuries or other causes. Craniosacral therapy is particularly beneficial for children with sensory processing disorders, attention deficit disorders, behavioural issues and sleep difficulties. A half hour of treatment at a time is often adequate for children under ten years old.
Below is a summary of some common children’s conditions regularly treated in clinic. But the conditions that can benefit from these therapies are much more far-reaching than can be adequately discussed here. If the condition you are interested in seeking treatment for isn’t mentioned, then please inquire here.
When children aren’t sleeping well, it is hard on the child and on the parents as well. Sometimes the child will even wake other siblings and the effect is felt on the whole family. There is a lot that can be done with pediatric bodywork treatments and with herbs, diet and lifestyle, to help children get better sleep. Sometimes benefits are noted after the first treatment, but children may take up to a month or two of regular treatment before sleep quality starts to improve. Once children are sleeping soundly, treatments can be tapered off until they are no longer necessary.
The most common types of pain that distress young children are teething pain, ear pain and colic. Older children may complain of headaches or discomforts from injuries. Pediatric bodywork techniques can be helpful in resolving all these types of pain. In fact, pain reduction in response to acupuncture treatment is one of the variables being researched in the Pediatric Integrative Medicine Trial at the Stollery, of which Genevieve is one of the acupuncture providers.
Whether your child suffers from colic, constipation, loose stools or gassy pain, there is a good likelihood that pediatric bodywork treatments can help. Often improvements can be seen without dietary changes, but sometimes diet changes and/or supplementation with herbs is also necessary. Often when these symptoms are addressed in childhood, the person will be less prone to these types of problems continuing in adulthood.
Recurrent infections are another reason that parents bring their children in for treatment. Overall immunity can be boosted with monthly preventative treatments, and treatment applied in the course of a cold or cough can help to resolve symptoms more readily (though fevering children are typically best cared for at home). Also, children who have recurrent ear or sinus infections may have restrictions in the craniosacral system that affect proper drainage. Addressing these restrictions with craniosacral therapy can often reduce the recurrence.
Pediatric acupuncture and herbal medicine can also help to regulate the immune system to resolve or improve childhood eczema, asthma and allergies. Treatment for these types of conditions involves a long-term commitment, but has the potential to be very rewarding! When it comes to childhood immunizations, one of my teachers, David Allen, shared an acupuncture treatment protocol to give to children before and after immunizations, with the intention of improving appropriate response and reducing the likelihood of inappropriate reactions. I have had good results using this protocol so far.
Cognition and Behavior
Children also regularly come in for treatment because they are having trouble focusing in school or regulating their emotions. A number of patterns of disharmony in Traditional Oriental Medicine can manifest in concentration or behavioral difficulties, and pediatric bodywork, often along with herbal treatments or dietary changes, can be very beneficial in resolving these disharmonies. Also, restrictions in the craniosacral system can result in difficulties concentrating, regulating emotions or integrating sensory input, and these issues often improve with craniosacral therapy treatment as well.
Developmental and Neurological Conditions
Children with developmental or neurological conditions, such as autism, sensory processing disorder and Down syndrome, experience the same health benefits from pediatric bodywork as other children. There is also some suggestion, from clinical experience, that these children may be better able to reach their full potential with early intervention of acupuncture, craniosacral therapy and other holistic treatments.
- Adams, D et al. 2011. The safety of pediatric acupuncture: a systematic review. Pediatrics; 128(6): e1575–87.
Inquire more about more
Only the more common children’s conditions that parents seek treatment for are listed here.
If your child’s health concern isn’t listed above, please inquire about your specific situation.