Acupuncture for children

In Asia, acupuncture and herbal medicine are used in children routinely. In fact, in China, Western and Eastern medicines are practiced side by side in hospitals everywhere.

A recent article in the American journal Pediatrics, did a meta-analysis of acupuncture studies involving children. The research, according to Reuters, was “…an analysis of 1,422 kids and teens getting acupuncture for a variety of ailments, [and] there were “mild” side effects in 168 of them, or about 12 percent.”

I was surprised to see the rate of side effects to be as high as 12% given there are so many different techniques, many of them not involving the use of needles. When needles are used, they are never retained. The needles are inserted and removed immediately.

One the most commonly used pediatric “acupuncture” techniques is called Shoni-Shin, first made popular in the 1700’s. It’s a Japanese technique that involves small metal tools that look like tiny spatulas or styluses. The acupuncture channels and points are rubbed and massaged with the tools. Even needle-less techniques have noticeable affects.

This is a partial list of conditions written by AcuFinder of what Shoni-Shin can treat:

  • Failure to thrive syndrome
  • Weak constitution
  • Colic, excessive night crying, temper tantrums
  • Indigestion, GERD, constipation, and diarrhea
  • Night terrors
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Allergies, asthma, and colds
  • Eczema and hives
  • Ear infections
  • Bedwetting
  • Stuttering
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spina bifida

In addition to Shoni-Shin, cupping and gua sha are two modalities used on children in lieu of acupuncture. Unlike acupuncture and Shoni-Shin, gua sha and cupping can leave marks on the skin that vary in appearance between slight redness and a bruise. Both fade quickly, and despite the unappealing appearance indicate a positive therapeutic reaction. Cupping, in particular, is wonderful for a wet cough, and gua sha can be helpful for the early stages of a cold with aversion to wind/drafts. It is important to educate your children’s care providers and teachers before letting a licensed practitioner apply gua sha or cupping to your child. Traditional medical techniques are not well understood and some might be mistaken for signs of neglect or abuse.


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