First things first: acupuncture doesn’t always mean using needles.
What?! That’s right, and it is especially important to call out at the very top, front and center for parents, as you’ve probably already thought to yourself: Acupuncture? No way. My kid is terrified of needles.
Pediatric Acupuncturists use multiple no-needle techniques like gentle massage, small tools to lightly tap and brush the skin, breathing practices, acupressure, nutrition recommendations, herbal medicine, and more!
For the purposes of this article, remember that acupuncture also includes and encompasses these safe, gentle modalities.
We do use acupuncture needles with some kids. For little ones, we use the thinnest needles possible that are about the width of 1 to 2 human hairs. Yes, that’s teeny tiny — and they’re often painless. Kids surprisingly love acupuncture needles (as demonstrated by the photo)!
But why would a child see an acupuncturist?
Tons of reasons!
The American Academy of Pediatrics published clinical guidelines in 2017 showing strong research for acupuncture effectively treating the following in kids:
- Eye issues
- Neurological conditions (relating to the brain and spinal cord) like Cerebral Palsy
- Tic disorders
In addition, acupuncture can work wonders for kids experiencing anxiety, hyperactivity disorders (like ADD/ADHD), allergies, asthma, colds, colic, ear infections, digestive problems, sleep issues, menstrual pain, sports injuries, and much more!
Acupuncture is a whole system of medicine that looks at health comprehensively through mind, body, spirit — plus it complements Western medicine and the care your little one is getting from their pediatrician. More people thinking about and caring for your special creation? Yes, please!
Why does acupuncture totally rock for babies, kids, and teens?
1. It can calm their nervous system (and help with sleep and digestion!)
Kids are little growing balls of energy! It’s not uncommon for them to be running around full speed one second and then crashing with an all-out cry fest a moment later. These extremes can be super tiring on their bodies. Plus, our society is very much go-go-go, do more, aim higher. This puts us into a sympathetic-dominant state, aka fight or flight and stress! And we all know stress is not good for our health.
Acupuncture to the rescue! It helps kiddos drop into a parasympathetic state, aka rest and digest. Hello, relaxation city! This state can help with better sleep, digestion, and your child’s body can repair and heal faster. Plus, giving kids time to practice relaxation techniques (at any age) can help them build resilience for knowing how to handle stress in the future when they encounter it.
2. It looks at the root cause of the problem and can help with common childhood health issues.
While East Asian Medicine can most definitely treat the symptoms your child is facing, it has additional superpowers — uncovering the root of the problem. For example, recurrent ear infections, that never-ending cold, skin irritation, or allergies galore. These pesky issues that keep coming back or never fully resolve can result in missed school days and crummy moods (or all of the above).
The combination of therapies in a Pediatric Acupuncturist’s toolbelt can treat the root cause of the symptoms which often has a cascading effect and reduces the severity and frequency of your child’s issues. Pretty cool, right?
3. It supports your kid’s developing immune system.
Think of acupuncture treatments like a preventive blast. It supercharges your kid’s body. Quite literally acupuncture increases activity in various cells and substances related to the immune system and its response. For the nerds out there, we’re talking: red blood cells, white blood cells, cytokines, T-cells, interferon, interleukin, serotonin, and more.
4. It works, and often quite quickly.
Kids are ever-changing. Unlike adults who have been experiencing issues for years — like back pain from a basketball injury in 1999 — kids have been experiencing their issue for far less time.
Why does this matter? They respond well and quickly to treatments like acupuncture. Often you’ll see a significant change within a few visits.
5. It’s fun!
Going to a medical clinic can be really scary for kids. Working with an acupuncturist means they’ll have time to talk, play, and provide treatment. Sessions range anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes and are known to include lots of laughs!
[Guest Post] Ari Skye-Babbott is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine (March, 2021). She’s a board-licensed acupuncturist in California and Oregon and a public health professional with over 10 years of experience consulting with federal and private health agencies.
Dr. Ari specializes in pediatric acupuncture and her mission is to help kids and families heal and thrive with acupuncture care that’s playful, creative, and collaborative. She has a mobile family acupuncture practice in a converted school bus in San Diego, CA.
In addition, she’s an outpatient Acupuncturist and the Associate Director of Integrative Medicine Clerkships at UCSD where she finds great joy teaching medical students and residents about acupuncture through integrative medicine rotations.
Annually she volunteers and provides patient-centered care to underserved populations in rural Fiji.