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  • Writer's pictureDr Alexandra

How an acupuncturist can treat children without needles.

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

The acupuncture points in children are not fully formed until approximately 7 years of age, therefore treatment differs to adults. Children are also highly receptive and require a different approach.

How does the treatment of children differ?

  • Children respond very quickly to treatments, so fewer treatments are needed.

  • Their treatments are shorter, lasting from 5-10 minutes.

  • Simpler treatments are best to avoid over-stimulating. Doing too much can confuse the body and the message of treatment loses its clarity.

  • Children are very receptive to the environment around them so providing a calm safe space is essential. Addressing the parent's emotional state highly influences treatment.

  • Sometimes we don't do a treatment in the first session as to build trust with the child before we treat them. This allows them to feel more comfortable with what is going on which is vital to a good treatment outcome.

  • If the child is afraid we start by treating the parent and demonstrate vicariously that there is nothing to be scared of. Again, the trust is important here.

  • We use small soft metal tools to stimulate the body areas... this is called Shonishin.

Shonishin is the Japanese term used to describe the superficial techniques utilising a variety of small tools or hand techniques to regulate the flow of 'energy' in the body. This involves tapping, pressing and stroking specific areas of the body.

Shonishin technique

How does it work?

There are several theories:

  1. Oxytocin release. Gently stroking the skin surface stimulates the C-nerve fibres in the skin which leads to the release of oxytocin in the hypothalamus. This results in a generalised reaction of calm to the nervous system and amygdala to reduce emotional states of stress and anxiety. Oxytocin is known as the hormone to give feelings of happiness, being termed the 'love and bonding' hormone.

  2. The skin reflects the state of the internal organs. Imbalances in the organs projects to certain areas of the skin via referral patterns. The relationship here is bidirectional, therefore treating the skin surface acts on the correlating internal organs. This works in part by shared spinal nerves (aka the nerves that go to the organs originate in the same place that go to that area of skin).

  3. Mechanoreceptors. Different layers of the skin house different nerve endings that send information to the central nervous system. Shonishin applies differing levels of pressure and techniques to the skin to activate these different nerve endings.

  4. Restoring homeostasis. Influencing the parasympathetic nervous system helps to bring the body into it's balanced state and optimal functioning.

Common conditions seen according to age:

  • Infancy- sleep disturbances, excessive crying, vomiting/reflux, digestive problems.

  • Toddlers- bronchitis, middle ear infections, neurodermatitis/eczema, sleep disturbances/nightmares, digestive problems.

  • Early childhood (3-5yrs)- asthma, belly aches, bronchitis, enuresis (bed wetting), otitis media (middle ear inflammation), neurodermatitis, sleep disturbances/night terrors, tonsillitis, digestive problems (diarrhoea, constipation).

  • Middle & late childhood (6-13yrs)- asthma, bronchitis, bedwetting, neurodermatitis, sleep disturbances. Stress and pressure from demands or expectations can play a factor at this age too.

If you are wondering if we can help your child, feel welcome to get in touch via email/phone, or book a consult.

References and image from the amazing book: 'Shonishin- The Art of Non-invasive Paediatric Acupuncture' by Thomas Wernicke.


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