Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks









Kids 'n Needles
By Julie Ormonde, MS, LAc

If you have any questions or would like to talk to Julie, feel free to contact her at AcuMama at Cox dot net.

Kids and Chinese medicine? You might be thinking, "Why in the world would I stick my kid with a needle? Why in the world would my kid let anyone stick her with a needle? And those nasty herbs, no way!"

Why? Well, frankly because they work. And as an added bonus - they don't really hurt and the herbs aren't that bad. And you heard me say they work, right? There are numerous reasons as to why more parents are choosing alternative forms of treatment for their children. Effectiveness is just one of them. Other things to consider are gentle treatments, few side effects, and quick responses. Let's take a look…

Treating Children

Children get sick easier, faster and more seriously than adults. The beauty of this is, that with proper treatment, they turnaround just as fast and just as easily. Their energy (Qi) is so pure and untouched during their younger years that it is easily affected. Children usually haven't been hardened by the world and don't carry the excess baggage that adults do. So, we don't have to get through all the muck like we do with adults! In adults it is peeling the proverbial onion. In children you are already right at the heart.Children, even when sick, are such a joy to have around the treatment room. They bring an untamed energy that fills up the practitioner. I am constantly amazed at how good I feel after spending time with these little ones. I am always rejuvenated. I can give it right back.

Average Treatment

There is no uniform treatment. How can there be when people are so different?

Acute (new) problems may need to be treated everyday for a few days then spaced out from there. Depending on the severity of illness and practitioner's evaluation, the child may even need to be treated a few times the first day. In chronic (long-term) cases, treatments are usually once a week and then taper off as the illness disappears.

Treatment should begin immediately at the first sign of a problem. The sooner you treat it, the sooner it is healed. The longer an illness lingers, the more problems are, and the more likely something long-term could develop.

Parents are welcome and usually needed in the treatment room. They can answer questions about the child's health, specific symptoms, diet, stress, habits, and environment. With small babies and children, often the parent will hold them on their lap for the treatment.

An adult treatment usually lasts about one hour. However, I find it much faster to treat children. From questioning to actual treatment it rarely even takes 45 minutes. The treatment may include acupuncture, moxa, pediatric tui na massage, shonishin (an alternative to needling, further explored below), electrical stimulation (which is not nearly as scary as it sounds), and herbs.


To diagnose an adult we use signs and symptoms, look at the tongue, and feel the pulse. I haven't met too many infants or toddlers, or older children for that matter, who like to sit still while we feel their pulse and look at their tongues for minutes on end. I suppose there is the occasional child who just loves to stick his tongue out at you.

For the rest of the kids we rely more heavily on signs & symptoms, looking and examining, and finger diagnosis. Up through toddler-hood, children have a prominent vein on the side of their index finger. Depending on the color, length, and depth of that vein, we can tell the state of the child's health, particularly how severe it is.


There are some practitioners out there who don't use acupuncture needles on children. They believe that a small child's meridians are not fully formed, and so acupuncture can't work. They treat them with the other methods mentioned above. Then there are the rest of us. I have heard, seen and done many life-altering acupuncture treatments on children. It does work. Still, children are so easily influenced that they don't need all the needling that adults need. Often 2-4 points will be plenty.

Will it hurt? Probably not. My daughter is 7 mos. old and has no clue that I put a needle in her. My son, who is 21/2 looks down, pulls it out and gives me a funny look. But try to convince a nine year old that has had "shots" at a western doctor's that it isn't going to hurt. That's rough. If I needle mom, dad, or myself first, I can often get them to try it. They think that's pretty neat. If you think it's going to hurt or is too painful for your baby, try it yourself. Your acupuncturist would be happy to show you just what it's like. More often than not you won't even feel it. For the child who absolutely won't let it be done, we have all the other techniques discussed below.

The needles are disposable (one use), sterile, and they can be as thin as one strand of hair. Even the biggest are very thin - much thinner than the hypodermic needle used to give shots or take blood. With kids, when we insert a needle we do not leave it in. It's enough to insert, stimulate, and then pull it back out. If you do this and use just a few points, it will take only minutes. That leaves time for other therapies, and herbal formula preparation.

Alternatives to Needles

Herbal Formulas: Formulas can be given in various forms. There are raw herbs (boiled into tea), powder-like granules, prepared tinctures, and low-dose pills. A typical dosage might be 1- 2 dropperfuls of decoction given 2-4x a day. The tincture will be a lower dose than the raw form. The acupuncturist will prescribe the exact dosage of herbs. Herbs should be given at room temperature or heated. Do not give them cold, because that makes it harder for the body to assimilate. Herbs can be stopped when the child is getting better - this is before the child is back to complete health. They are not like antibiotics, with, for example, a mandatory complete cycle of ten days. Children respond to herbs very quickly, we use them only until they effect a change. If they are used too long, they may cause other problems.

Shonishin: Shonishin is a Japanese style of pediatric acupuncture. It includes small "tools" that are non-invasive, a definite plus for children who refuse to be needled. These tools are traditionally are made of metal but can come in wood, plastic and many other forms. They can be brushes, rollers, scrapers, combs, etc. They're used to press on the points, or brush, scrape, or roll down a channel. It depends on what the acupuncturist is trying to achieve.

Pediatric Massage: Tui Na, Chinese medical massage, can be applied to children. Pediatric Tui Na has a very subtle effect on the body. The one downside is that the child must lie still for approximately 10-20 minutes.

E-Stim: Electrical stimulation is the use of a small metal implement connected to a box that rests on a point and sends small impulses into it. No needles are used and it's completely painless. I use this as my first or second choice to treat children.

Diet: Diet is a whole article in itself so I will just touch upon it here. Chinese medicine says that diet is a leading cause of illness. It's vital to start our children out with a simple, healthy diet. Everything in moderation is a good place to start. Balance your food groups. Throw away all the junk food and anything processed. If you are just starting, then getting rid of all that boxed food will make a tremendous difference. "We are what we eat" is a very wise saying.

Diet therapy is using foods like herbs - medically. Just as prunes can be used to relieve a constipated baby, ginger can help a sensitive tummy. On the reverse side, you can determine which foods to eliminate - e.g., no dairy or mushrooms if there's eczema. The options for food therapy are tremendous. It's an underused, and under-appreciated medicine.

Moxa: Moxa is an herb (Folium Artemisiae Argyii; Ai Ye in Chinese) that we burn over acupuncture points. In children, we usually use the form that is wrapped up like a cigar. It helps strengthen the body, move stagnation, and warm up cold areas. A benefit of moxa is that parents can learn to do it at home, thus extending the treatment. It is very effective.

Advantages Over Western Medicine

There are many advantages, and we can't cover them all here. They range from small, mild treatments to prevention of surgery. Probably the biggest advantage is using natural herbs instead of western drugs. The best example of this is antibiotics. The misuse of antibiotics with children in this country is atrocious. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial illnesses NOT viral, but they are prescribed before ever finding out the cause. This leads to mutated, antibiotic-resistant super-viruses. So it is understandable why we need and want therapies that are in tune with nature, easy on the body, and effective - like Chinese medicine.

Chinese medicine won't suppress an illness or cause another illness later. It doesn't leave baggage. If your child is raised in a loving environment, with nutritious foods, and has natural means to treat all the childhood ailments that come along - then the foundation will be set and that adult onion that needs peeling will never exist.

Take care,
Julie Ormonde, M.S., L.Ac.

If you have any questions or would like to talk to Julie, feel free to contact her at AcuMama at cox dot net

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All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

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