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