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Acupuncture: Not Just for Adults

by Jen Sharples

The brightly lit hallway buzzed with chatter between office staff, parents, and children. I followed Jen towards the community acupuncture room. Pausing before entering we discussed the headaches I’d been having since overcoming Bell’s palsy.

“I’ll add a couple needles over here,” she said pointing to the side of my head.

“Okay, no problem.”

The room was dark save for the light coming in through the closed blinds. Soft music played across the room from where I sat. A client to the left of me had her eyes closed and breathed steadily. I settled myself into the cushioning and relaxed as Jen placed the needles into specific points on my head, arms, and legs. She’d be back in an hour.

Though many people may not understand what it is, we have all heard of Acupuncture. A medicinal healing modality originating in China, it involves the pricking of soft tissue using thin needles to relieve pain and various physical, mental, and emotional conditions. In the US alone, 38% of adults use it while only 12% of children do – though that number is rising according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). More information on this study can be found on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) website (https://nccih.nih.gov).

Shortly after my treatment Jen and I discussed the benefits of Acupuncture for children. As an adult, I’ve been seeing her for four years, but I’ve always wondered how children can benefit from it as well. She has been a licensed acupuncturist since 2010 and has been practicing at South Shore Community Acupuncture housed within MV Pediatrics since 2012.

What is the ratio of adult acupuncture to pediatric acupuncture?

“At South Shore Community Acupuncture, we see mostly adults, but we've been seeing more and more children over the years. It takes some time to build trust and rapport with children, since they're often coming into the pediatric practice for their vaccinations, so there tends to be lot of fear with new types of treatments and providers. But ultimately, we've had kids that do really great with acupuncture and they start to love and look forward to coming for their treatments!”

What are the top conditions you treat children for?

“We treat babies and children for all sorts of conditions. For babies, mainly colic and constipation. I've also treated babies during and after their vaccinations to enhance general wellbeing and immune function. For toddlers and older children, I see them for digestive issues (constipation, loose stools, and stomachache), asthma, ear infections, chronic colds, chronic runny nose, seasonal allergies, anxiety, ADHD. Those are probably the most common things we see in clinic. But kids can be treated with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for just about anything.”

And what room do you typically treat children in? I don’t recall ever sitting next to a kid.

“We typically see kids in a different treatment room since they usually have an adult who accompanies them during their treatment. Once they're old enough to sit still for 20+ minutes, they can start to come into the community room, where we treat adults. For kids under the age of 8, we do a Japanese acupuncture treatment called Shonishin, which does not involve needles. Shonishin uses small tools to brush and tap the child's skin on the arms, legs, back, head and tummy. We do that in a different room and that treatment can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes.”

Oh, that’s very cool. And lastly, is there any other pertinent information that parents, or even society, should know?

“Acupuncture can be done on anyone - from babies to the elderly and anywhere in between. When you treat kids, they generally need a smaller "dose" of acupuncture, meaning their treatments are pretty short and we use fewer needles (or none at all if we decide to do Shonishin). If a child is anxious about trying acupuncture, sometimes we start with applying pressballs on their arms or legs or on their ears. This is a form of acupressure, where we place a small, stainless steel bead on a clear piece of tape onto an acupuncture point, which provides a mild stimulation of the point. This can be effective and an easy way of starting acupuncture treatment with kids until they feel ready to try it.

Kids also respond really well to Chinese herbal medicine. There are lots of very safe and effective Chinese herbal formulas that treat a wide variety of conditions such as cough, allergies, colds, runny nose, ear infections, asthma, digestive issues, etc. My hope is that more parents are open to trying acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for their children (and for themselves). Acupuncture is such a gentle and safe way to correct imbalances within the body and can be effective in helping to strengthen the immune and digestive systems, in addition to being beneficial for general health and wellbeing.”

Jen Sharples' writing career began when I was 8 years old. After a hiatus to become a licensed massage therapist and energetic healer, I have returned to my first love. My inspiration comes from nature, spirituality, love, heartbreak, energy, and all forms of healing.

jensharples11@gmail.com – 781.915.4584

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