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Can babies and children have acupuncture?

29/08/2014
acu child

I saw this little guy in China having acupuncture everyday to improve the strength of his arm. His father controls the strength of the electro-acupuncture stimulation. As you can see he’s not overly bothered by the whole experience.

I’ve treated a lot of pregnant women with acupuncture. Acupuncture is well known (and even supported with some good research now) for a range of infertility and pregnancy related conditions.

But something that most people don’t know is that babies and children can also be treated with acupuncture. Yes, with needles. Very fine ones.

During my studies in China I observed the treatment of many children with acupuncture. In the hands of a well-trained acupuncturist this form of therapy can be beneficial to a child and her parents alike.

But doesn’t it hurt them?

For the most part babies and small children barely even notice the needle going in and rarely show signs of pain.

We use very fine needles on children and usually only up to about six insertions or points, although a ten year old who is comfortable with acupuncture may have more insertions if necessary.

Treatments on children are usually shorter than those on adults. We use a technique called ‘non-retention needling’. This means that we pop the needle in, give it a tiny twiddle and remove it immediately. The treatment time is therefore very short. Older children may have a lie down with the needles still inserted if this is comfortable for them and relevant to improving their treatment outcome.

Here’s what acupuncture looks like on babies:

The biggest factor for keeping children calm during an acupuncture treatment is having a relaxed parent come along to assist with familiarity, comfort and distraction methods. I’m happy to needle children while they are getting cuddles from their parents. We can easily get to the points that we need if we work together as a team.

If a child really does not want to have needles inserted then we can stimulate the acupuncture points with a laser or by applying pressure with massage techniques. There is always a plan B to ensure that the patient is comfortable with treatment.

Does acupuncture hurt for adults anyway? Here’s what I think.

Why would a baby or child get acupuncture?

Children may gain many of the same benefits from acupuncture as adults do. Often children are treated for digestive disorders (eg. colic, chronic diarrhoea or constipation, reflux), respiratory conditions (eg. coughs, recurrent colds, phlegmy chests) and symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness and poor concentration.

To ensure the best outcome for your child sometimes I may vary a child’s (or breastfeeding mum’s) diet, lifestyle or prescribe herbs or supplements in addition to the acupuncture if necessary.

For further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health at her Broadbeach clinic and is the Chinese Medicine Senior Lecturer at the Endeavour College of Natural Health Gold Coast campus.

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