Can children benefit from acupuncture?

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to help alleviate various symptoms related to chronic pain, digestive issues, emotional conditions and stress. You may have heard of acupuncture and may know someone who has tried it. But did you know that acupuncture may be beneficial for children as well? When performed by an experienced acupuncturist, this therapy may be a safe way to help a child address pain or stress.

If you are considering acupuncture for your child, you may have many questions. Here are some common questions and important things to consider.

Is acupuncture safe for kids?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin sterile needles. This practice can be very safe as long as the provider is trained and licensed. Always do homework on the provider’s credentials and experience! How deep the needles go into the skin and the length of the needles are all taken into consideration by the provider. Lighter, more shallow needling with shorter needles is often used when treating children.

The age of the child, body size and what is being treated are all factors that the acupuncturist considers when deciding how to treat. When treating adults, needles are usually left in place for 20-30 minutes to allow the person to relax and allow them to receive the benefits of the treatment. A child’s health needs can be different from adults so the acupuncture visit looks different based on this.

Acupuncture can be done at any age, but is mostly used for adolescents and teens. On younger children, very short needles are used and are not left in for very long. Also, fewer needles are often used to treat children than adults.

What if my child is afraid of needles?

Children usually have had several vaccines and “ouchy” things done at health care visits, so this can make them afraid of needles. A good provider will take this into consideration and take time to talk with you and your child on what the needles feel like and what to expect from the visit. Fear of needles doesn’t have to be a barrier to treatment; there are other non-needle options the acupuncturist can provide.

Acupressure can be combined with acupuncture or useful on its own when trying to avoid needles. This involves pressing on the acupuncture points instead of needling them. Pressure can be held on the specific acupuncture points or the provider can gently massage the acupuncture points which is very soothing. The provider can also demonstrate acupressure techniques to the parent and child to use at home between their visits to support the child’s health.

What health concerns may benefit from acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a modality that has been used for thousands of years to support various health concerns. Adults can find acupuncture helpful for de-stressing, helping pain conditions and supporting well-being. For children, acupuncture can be helpful for more specific concerns such as digestive issues and upset belly. Acupuncture could also be used for helping the symptoms of anxiety. A child with anxiety might find it difficult to focus when trying to do schoolwork; acupuncture could help calm them, which in turn can help with focus. For older children who play sports, acupuncture, along with their current health plan, could help with muscle pain post-sports injury.

If you’re interested in seeking acupuncture therapy for your child, start by finding a trained and licensed acupuncturist who has experience working with children. You should also check in with your child’s pediatrician about any health concerns and how to incorporate this modality into their overall health plan.

Kylie A. Study, M.Sc, MSTOM, Dipl.OM is a licensed acupuncturist and natural wellness practitioner at the ProMedica Natural Wellness Shop in Sylvania, Ohio.