People often ask me if they need to believe in acupuncture for it to work. This question makes me smile. For one, I have to remind myself that acupuncture is still a mystical experience for some people because it’s not well understood. But it is an effective, straight-forward method of helping the body to heal.
My favorite way of explaining how belief is not necessary for acupuncture’s effects is that the populations it works best on are pets and kids.
We know that Fido is not fretting over whether or not his acupuncture treatments are going to cure his arthritis. And the toddler is surely not ruminating over her acupuncture session and creating a placebo effect. It is true that kids and animals both respond to acupuncture more quickly than adults, and often require fewer treatments. I believe that not stressing over the healing process is a large part of what allows kids and animals to heal quicker.
Sometimes people are surprised that children can receive acupuncture. If you have never experienced it, it is helpful to know that it is nothing like getting poked by a syringe! Most people find it to be a painless and relaxing experience.
Kids are most apprehensive in response to their parents being apprehensive. Sometimes children are even braver than adults when trying acupuncture for the first time. Especially if Mom or Dad tries a needle or two as well, curiosity wins out and most kids will be willing to give acupuncture a try.
Chinese medicine is a whole system, and acupuncture is just one part. Nutrition therapy, Chinese herbs, massage, exercises and healthy habits are all important branches of traditional Chinese medicine. When working with children, I like to provide as much at-home care as possible to empower parents to treat their child at home and limit the number of office visits they need.
Traditional Chinese Pediatric Medicine includes acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, and a style of massage called Tuina. What type of treatment a child will receive is based on their individual needs.
An appointment begins with gathering information about the condition, and some physical examination. Once the acupuncturist has reached a diagnosis, they will begin treatment. If they are doing acupuncture, it is likely only to take about 20 minutes. The younger a child is, the shorter the acupuncture treatment they need.
When the needle is inserted in an acupuncture point on the body, the body has a variety of healing responses. There are now numerous research studies that show many different effects acupuncture has, but not why it has the effects. We can prove some of what acupuncture does through research: changes in neurotransmitters, blood cell counts, hormone levels, immune system function, brain activity, and blood circulation. But we cannot yet explain why acupuncture has these effects.
After the needles are removed, the body continues having the effects for many hours afterward. Treatments come in a series, and the number of treatments needed depends on the condition. Sometimes an acute problem can be fixed in just a couple of sessions, but some serious chronic issues may take a couple of months of weekly visits.
Herbal medicine and nutrition therapy can be just as effective as acupuncture for most conditions, in cases of children who are afraid of needles. Acupuncture and herbs work very well in combination, and most people choose to do both together to get the fastest relief.
The most common conditions I see children for are skin problems, dental issues, digestive problems, bed wetting, sleep issues, ADD/ADHD, diabetes, upper respiratory infections, and autoimmune disorders. Chinese medicine can also be very helpful for teen and pre-teen depression/anxiety and eating disorders.
Please consider trying Chinese medicine if your child is ill. It is best if you can find an acupuncturist experienced in treating children, so be sure to ask. Acupuncture and Chinese Medical Pediatrics should always be a consideration for treatment to keep our kids healthy in a safe, gentle and effective way.
Miranda Black, MAcOM, LAc
Radiant Family LLC