There are many ways to stimulate acupuncture points. It is not limited to the stimulation of acupuncture needles alone. Consider these other options.
- Cold laser
- Acupressure & Tuina Oriental Massage
- Moxibustion or gua sha
They all work, especially on children, as they have an abundance of chi and yang energy to tap into. For children, the life force in their body known as the chi energy is close to the surface of their skin, so the Qi effects on strategic acupuncture points is enough for many children with an in and out needle insertion and withdrawal. Because of children’s energetic makeup, they don’t need long treatments. Let’s discuss various therapeutic modalities that work to stimulate the healing life force with pediatric acupuncture & massage.
The acugraph is a very useful energetic diagnostic tool that can literally evaluate the bank accounts of each of the meridian channels in the body. Done with a state of the art computer program, the acugraph can visually display where the energy is moving the most in an individual’s body & where it’s more stagnant or deficient.
This technology is a sensitive energy detecting diagnostic tool showing where the chi life force is disorganized at a deeper root level in any individual’s body. There are 10 source & lou points (located at acupuncture points in the hands and feet) and take about 2 minutes to collect the data with the acugraph probe as to their vitality or lack of it. The acugraph can objectively measure what’s happening in the meridians making it easier to formulate a point prescription plan to treat the child within minutes this computer analysis program can organizes that child’s unique individual life force as energetic information into graphs with a written report. The graph analysis tells the therapist about meridian excesses or deficiencies and right and left side imbalances in each child’s energy, opening up more questions for the therapist to ask the parents about that child’s health history.
Why Use the Acugraph?
Well for one, it’s challenging to depend on accurate feedback from a baby or young child about what is going on in their body with their symptoms. The acugraph is a great educational tool for showing parents where the child’s energy is excess and deficient. It gives the acupuncturist info in some ways similar to how the pulses give energetic information to the therapist about what’s happening in the recipient’s organs and channels. The acugraph actually graphs those deficiencies and treats those meridians and corresponding acupoints to get the energy flowing where it is stuck. The acugraph is extremely helpful with difficult cases where normal TCM techniques are not working or not providing the results the therapist expected.
Microcurrent: Using the Stimplus Pro
Microcurrent is a non-invasive therapy that requires the use of low level micro amperage current (5Hz to 20Hz). The intensity of the current is adjusted to suit some children that are supersensitive when treating the ear points, feet or hands. Microcurrent is much simpler than needles to use and gets immediate results in 15 to 20 seconds. Treatment with the Stimplus Pro tool hones in on the electrically charged acupuncture points, and then delivers the low level current to stimulate the chosen acu-points.
Utilizing microcurrent requires maintaining contact with the child’s skin to make a circuit and transmits the microcurrent stimulation to the designated points. I usually demonstrate a mini treatment on Mom or Dad attending the session, so that the child is assured it won’t hurt. Once a child knows this new tool won’t hurt them, they are more receptive to its therapeutic value.
The microcurrent tool will only make its characteristic beeping noise in the designated treatment areas when it finds trouble spots (deficient or excess energetic symptoms). Most children love the unique beeping sound of the microcurrent in action as it stimulates points at the end of their fingers or toes (measuring the jing well points) or points in the ears, hands or feet. The acupuncturist often treats deficient meridians and points to strengthen the out of balance meridians and organs.
Cold Laser Tools
There’s been a good deal of research done in Germany that shows the effectiveness of these therapeutic lasers. The Chi Plus lasers (about the size of a pen) penetrate the skin about 5 mm into the body, gently moving the energy along the meridian channels. Most babies or children feel a little tingling when they receive a 15 to 60 second treatment on an acupuncture point. When working with larger or deeper tissue areas, the treatment exposure will be longer.
The blue laser is used to sedate or calm an overactive area on the meridians and is commonly used for painful or inflammatory conditions. The red lazer is more for balancing deficient areas that need energetic tonifying or strengthening. Kids easily acclimate to these tools and enjoy playing with them on their own body or their Mom or Dad. You can get great results with these two gentle yet powerful tools. Counting out loud with the child while the treatment is in process is a fun game to engage their attention. Sometimes distracting kids with their favorite toys or computer games is another way to preoccupy an active youngster.
Acupressure is the non-invasive & non needle offspring of acupuncture. Both work with the same theory, to either needle or apply finger or thumb pressure to specific acu-points in the body or meridians. Using a correct prescription of therapeutic points, the acupuncturist can in effect change the life force in an adult or child, open their energetic channels and help their energy move more freely. Gua Sha is another style of oriental bodywork using a tool to stimulate vigorous blood circulation to a specific treatment area.
Most children love these forms of hands on therapy. It’s easy for parents to learn and apply these massage techniques. There are specific therapeutic protocols for parents to learn and apply. Specific strokes to the back and along the spine are common areas to work, along with working the hands and fingers.
Parents can assist their child’s healing process by utilizing oriental bodywork 2 to 3 times a day, especially when dealing with more acute or severe pediatric illnesses such as persistent coughs, flu bugs or fevers that keep hanging on. Utilizing acupressure or tuina is very effective in working with the chi and stimulating the acupressure points.
Moxiibustion has a long history in China. It’s been a crucial part in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Moxa treats energetic imbalances by warming, heating and nourishing acupuncture points or regions of the body. It can warm and open up the acupuncture meridians, promoting the circulation of the chi and blood, yang energy and strengthens the functioning of some organs. Because it is a source of hot, dry heat, it is essential that children receiving it need to be sit still or lie down. They should not touch the moxa burner tool as it can burn their delicate skin.
In clinic, moxibustion is used to treat disorders not suitable for needling. It’s used to treat many kinds of chronic deficiency conditions such as abdominal or stomach pain, low back pain and pain in the joints. Moxa is very comforting for colic babies, painful earaches or bedwetting children.
Acupuncture Needling with Children
The acupuncture needles used for younger children are the thinnest of the needles, about the thickness of a fine hair. For infants or children 5 years and younger, the needles are inserted in and out in a 1-2 second period for their therapeutic effect. Because the needles are in their body for such a minimal time, rarely do infants or young children cry nor do the needles hurt. Children respond quickly to treatment care with minimal needling time.
The only time children are more apprehensive about acupuncture needling is when they’ve had fearful experiences with blood draws or vaccination needles, which use much thicker needles and force fluids in or out of their bodies. Reframing the word needles to the less offensive word, TAPS can also be more empowering. Robyn Green, my pediatric acupuncture teacher points out, “Painless needling has more to do with perception and anticipation than with the actual needle technique. That’s why the acupuncturist needs to properly prepare the child and set the stage for successful treatments.”
It’s not a difficult transition to change the child’s perception about needling and keep the communication and feedback open, so the child is relaxed and ready for the needling experience. I want them to have a positive association with acupuncture needles. The intention is to help the child or teenager understand that acupuncture will help them feel better. Before starting the treatment, I often tell the child that we’re partners and we’re going to work together.
I make a point to explain everything that’s going to be going on before I do the actual treatment, so there are no surprises. That applies to both kids and adults receiving acupuncture. I often negotiate with a child or teen as to how many acupuncture points they want tapped. I keep checking in with them as I go along. If they hit a threshold of 4 to 5 needles being enough, then the rest of the treatment protocol will be focused on non-needle modalities such as microcurrent or laser.
One of the clinical tips in preparing children’s more sensitive skin is to desensitize the area with pinching up or rubbing the area before doing the in and out needle insertion. For most youngsters, they need to sit still for about 5 to 15 seconds at a time to gain the therapeutic value of the acupuncture points. The first couple of acupuncture treatments, I keep it simple and do one or two needles till the child acclimates to the experience of relaxing into the new experience. Many children are curious about their acupuncture experience!!! For more questions and answers go here.
Please note: Some of this educational material for this web site comes from the Pediatrics Essentials Training Manual offered by acupuncturist Robyn Green. My sincere appreciation goes out to Robyn Green and her staff for their many dedicated hours spent perfecting the pediatric clinical skills and training. Robyn is a pioneer in the pediatrics acupuncture field.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pediatric Acupuncture
Do acupuncture treatments and non-needle treatments really work on kids? How can you make a difference with treatment care with 15-30 seconds? Children respond quickly to treatment care with their energetic imbalances. Kids have a lot of chi and yang energy. It doesn’t take much to balance and regulate their chi life force. A child’s acupuncture points are not as deep as adults, so it’s easier to stimulate and rebalance them. In and out needle insertion, microcurrent treatments in the ear, hands or feet or acupressure massage can shift a child’s energy in subtle and powerful ways.
Can the acupuncturist use more than one method of acupuncture technology? Yes. The acupuncturist needs to prioritize what the most important needs are to focus on in each treatment. Once a child is acclimated to some needles, they are often used first in the treatment protocol. Later in the treatment, I may switch to microcurrent or the cold lazer. Maybe the session may finish with Oriental massage or herbal or nutritional support.
What are the most challenging ages to do acupuncture treatments with?
The most challenging age group to do actual needling with is from 18 months to 5 years. There are so many other therapeutic options to utilize with non-needle techniques when youngsters are cranky or fuss over the needles. When children are aged 5 to 8 years old, most of them can handle sitting with the needles in them for 10 minutes. Mom or Dad often support and comfort their child receiving a needle or other non-needle treatment care, cultivating safety in the first couple of treatments. For ages 8 to 12 years, kids can tolerate lying down with the needles in them for 5 to 15 minutes. Age 12 to 18 year old teens can handle the needles being retained in them for 10 to 30 minutes.