acupuncture for kids_tongue diagnosisBy Melissa B. Light

Kids and needles—bad combo, right? After all, kids hate getting shots. So, how is it possible that acupuncture is a good idea for helping your children stay healthy?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) techniques, including acupuncture, can be amazingly effective at treating a variety of childhood ailments.

Common complaints like ear aches, respiratory infections, digestive troubles, bedwetting, ADHD, and much more can be resolved with pediatric TCM techniques such as acupuncture and tuina bodywork. I see it happen every day.

Questions about acupuncture for kids

I’m often asked, “How old does a child have to be to receive acupuncture?” A general guideline is age seven or older, but sometimes younger children are good candidates. A practitioner who specializes in pediatrics may use acupuncture on kids of all ages. Every child should be assessed for readiness for acupuncture on a case-by-case basis.

Another common curiosity about acupuncture for children is whether acupuncture treatments on kids differ from adult acupuncture treatments. Again, this depends on the child and the practitioner. When performing acupuncture on a child, the acupuncturist may retain the needles for less time. Sometimes, acupuncturists who treat kids insert and remove the needles immediately.

In Chinese medicine, children are thought to have very sensitive and pure energy, or qi. For this reason, children and infants can respond to acupuncture and related techniques very quickly, so it’s unnecessary to retain the needles for as long as what you’d typically see in an adult acupuncture session.

It is not all about needles

In addition to using acupuncture needles—and sometimes instead of—I almost always treat kiddos with pediatric tuina (pronounced “twee-nah”), a form of bodywork.

Tuina is considered one of the five branches of Chinese medicine. Unlike traditional bodywork or massage that concentrates on releasing tight muscles, tuina focuses on stimulating acupuncture points and meridians to promote health and proper flow of qi.

Pediatric tuina can be used on newborns and works great on kids up to age five or six. It is used to treat chronic and acute health complaints, and also works preventively and as a general health booster.

Pediatric tuina is a subspecialty of adult tuina and it takes years for practitioners to become proficient. There is no official certification for pediatric tuina. Usually an acupuncturist will complete an internship or another training program after they graduate from acupuncture school. You can search for bodyworkers who are certified through the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia here.

3 DIY tuina routines for kids

Here are three of my favorite pediatric tuina routines for addressing common childhood complaints and promoting overall good health. You can perform these routines on your kids at home.

Fu rub

acupuncture for kids_fu rub techniqueHelps: Digestion, food absorption, general health

In Chinese medicine, digestion is of paramount importance to good health and a strong immune system. Digestion also is one of the primary ways we get energy, and this is especially important for growing bodies. Each night, rub around the belly button in a circular motion—36 times in each direction, using medium pressure—to promote proper digestion.

Third eye

acupuncture for kids_third eye techniqueHelps: Calm the spirit, promote relaxation, relieve sinus pressure

Our third eye coincides with a popular acupuncture point called Yintang. On children, rub Yintang starting from between the eyebrows and going up onto the forehead. This is a good remedy for calming anxious kids, and helping to promote sound sleep and sweet dreams at bedtime. Rubbing Yintang also helps relieve sinus pressure, congestion, and sinus headaches.

Ear tugs

Helps: Teething, ear aches, boost the immune system

Ear tugs activate an important acupuncture point—San Jiao 17, located just behind the ear lobe, where the lobe meets the neck. To perform this technique on your child, simply tug gently on both ears 50 times.

If you are a parent looking for a safe, natural way to prevent and treat illness in your kids, I hope you’ll consider acupuncture and pediatric tuina. They work!

Photos courtesy of Light Family Acupuncture

melissa light_austin, txMelissa B. Light is a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, and certified Asian Bodywork Therapist in Austin, TX. Upon graduating from the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine in 2003, she completed an apprenticeship in pediatric tuina with Dr. Yongxin Fan. Her private practice, Light Family Acupuncture, has been treating the whole family with Chinese medicine since 2003. Melissa specializes in pediatrics, women’s health, and acupuncture for fertility and pregnancy.

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