By Katika Funnell, Registered Acupuncturist

Can Kids have acupuncture? How do you give children acupuncture? It may boggle the mind of a parent how to keep their child still for a treatment of acupuncture or reasons why their child might need Acupuncture. Here we discuss what’s involved, answer your questions and explain the benefits of Acupuncture for kids.

Can kids have acupuncture?

Yes! Believe it or not, children can have acupuncture and its common for parents to want to find a natural way of helping their child’s health. No one likes to give their children medications if they can help it. The aim of padiatric acupuncture is to give kids the benefit of acupuncture in a gentle and painless way.

Can you use acupuncture at the same time as using medication or seeing a doctor?

Even if your children are on medications, something like Paediatric acupuncture can help children cope with side effects of medication such as tiredness, low energy, restlessness or pain. A good example is if a child is on antibiotics, a couple of acupuncture treatments can also help boost their immune system or help the body clear excess phlegm in the case of a cold or sinus infection.

Its great if your doctor is supportive of doing whatever it takes to help a speedy recovery, as acupuncture can be a great adjunct to any medical plan.

How do you give acupuncture to kids?

It’s a flexible process, there’s no expectation for the child to remain sitting or lying still, depending on their age or personality type. There’s also fewer acupoints needled and for less time than an adult consultation.

Older children

Often Kids aged 4+ can understand when you ask them to sit still momentarily while you can perform acupuncture on them. And if your practitioner is good, they will make a game of it and engage the child. For example; “which arm shall we do acupuncture on this one? Or that one?” And letting the child choose. Or, “ok lets count to three- one, two, three. (insert needle)”

Infants & Toddlers

With infants or toddlers, it becomes more of a fluid process as the child may be playing with a toy at the time while you quickly needle the points.

What about consent?

Of course, a practitioner should only perform acupuncture on a child with the parent’s consent. Getting the child’s verbal permission if they’re old enough is also best practice. With kids acupuncture, the needles are retained for a much shorter time than with adults, and less stimulation is required. Again this is based on age. Infants need only seconds of stimulation, ten year olds can have needles left in for a few minutes.

What if my child is terrified of needles?

It depends on the practitioner- if they’re skilled and have a good rapport with children or have chosen to specialize in paediatric acupuncture, it is still possible to negotiate with a child anxious of needles to allow them access to perform acupuncture.

It all depends on how the child reacts and if there’s a true phobia of needles, I would encourage the parents to find a different method to help their child such as bowen therapy or homeopathy which are great, gentle therapies for kids.

How do children react to needling & acupuncture?

Older children

Every child is different. Some children are fascinated and want to look at the needles, get their parent to take a photo of them getting acupuncture so they can show all their friends. Others need a parent close by to hold their hand, reassure them or even distract them. Once the needles are in they are often fine to lie there and relax if they’re older.

Infants & Toddlers

Again with infants and toddlers, this is different again. Some Infants are none the wiser that you have needled an acupoint. Some children feel something but by the time the needle is removed are searching their leg or arm for whatever it was that they felt, without tears. And then there’s the occasional cry. Its impossible to say acupuncture won’t be felt by children, but with a fully qualified and registered acupuncturist, that has undergone some paediatric acupuncture training, the likelihood is that the child will feel very little or if they do feel a pin prick it is momentary and quickly made better with a cuddle from mum or dad. It shouldn’t be felt or hurt as much as vaccination, but the key is in the skill of the practitioner.

China & Peadiatric Acupuncture in Hopsitals

In China Acupuncture is a very normal part of a family’s healthcare. There are often paediatric acupuncture Doctors in their hopsitals ready to treat babies right through to teenagers. Everything from gut health to recurrent colds and poor immunity. Sleeplessness right through to behavioural issues.

In Australia, awareness of Paediatric Acupuncture isn’t widespread, but parents that seek natural therapies to help their children get better are often open to seeking Acupuncture. And if Parents didn’t know about Paediatric Acupuncture, they are very interested and curious about how it can help. I think the more parents seek natural option for their kids, the more normalized it becomes for those children and they take that with them into their adult lives.