Acupuncture for Children

The popularity of Chinese Medicine has grown exponentially in the West in the last 30 years but while many adults are open to treating their own ailments with acupuncture and herbs, it is still not as widely embraced as a treatment for children.

Why is this? This is likely due to fears many parents have that their children will not tolerate the standard treatment of needles and herbs. What many parents don’t know, however, is that pediatric acupuncturists have a variety of noninvasive techniques that can effectively and gently treat children. 

Chinese medicine can be a powerful adjunctive treatment for many common pediatric health conditions such as asthma, eczema, allergies, and upper respiratory infections and should be considered by parents as a viable alternative solution.

Techniques Other Than Needles

A visit to a pediatric acupuncturist won’t necessarily entail treatment with acupuncture needles. Due to licensing laws, acupuncturists are labeled according to just one of the many techniques they use, but it doesn’t define the full scope of their services. 

Acupuncturists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of disease according to the principles of Chinese medicine, and their training involves much more than just the use of needles. They learn to treat imbalances in the body with needles, but also with noninvasive methods such as massage (tuina), shonishin devices (metal tools that rub, scratch, and press on acupoints), cupping, and moxibustion. 

Sometimes magnetic balls will be taped to certain points, and parents will be instructed to remove them after a specified period of time. 

Most acupuncturists are also skilled in the use of Chinese herbal and dietary therapy to treat patients, so acupuncturists have many skills to draw on to treat a child. 

Pediatric Training 

Pediatrics is a standard subject taught in all acupuncture schools and practitioners are equipped to understand children’s disorders through the lens of Chinese Medicine. 

In some schools, like the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City, students have even had the opportunity to treat children in a specialized pediatric clinic. When you seek out an acupuncturist, find out how much experience they have had with pediatric patients. You will want someone who feels comfortable treating children and who has a child-friendly office.

To Do Before Your First Appointment 

Try to schedule a phone consultation before bringing your child in for their first appointment. The acupuncturist will want a thorough health history, including details regarding the pregnancy and delivery, vaccinations, diet, medications, and other concurrent therapies. 

Supplying this necessary, but time-consuming information during your child’s actual treatment time could be difficult, especially if your child is very young and needs constant attention and supervision. It is better to have a phone consultation prior to the first visit and then the appointment can be focused on the acupuncturist’s evaluation and treatment of your child.

What to Expect About Treatments

When you take your child in to see an acupuncturist, don’t expect adult-style treatment. The actual length of the treatment will be just a fraction of the time of an adult session, lasting between 15–30 minutes. 

When needles are used with children there is rarely ever any needle retention, it goes in and comes right out, whereas with adults needles are often left in for 25–45 minutes. Even acupressure treatments are short with points being massaged for 2–3 minutes each. 

The reason for the difference in treatment time is due to the relative ease of access to the qi or essential energy of children. Unlike adults who have a lifetime of energetic residue, children are still clear and react quickly and easily to simple treatments. 

At Home Follow-up 

The appointment is your opportunity to be educated about how to best support the treatment at home with diet, herbs, and acupressure massages. Ask your acupuncturist for instructions on simple acupressure protocols that can be implemented at home to reinforce the effects of the in-office treatments.

If your child is struggling with health issues such as constipation, cough, teething pain, or sleep issues, you should consider acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a possible alternative treatment. 

An acupuncturist can provide a different perspective on your child’s condition, and in addition to the treatment they receive in the office, you will also leave empowered with various tools (dietary advice, herbs, acupressure protocols) to improve their health at home. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be used from cradle to grave and can get children started on a lifetime of good health!

Jennifer Taveras, L.Ac., has an acupuncture practice at Triangle Wellness in NYC and is also the creator of the Holistic Baby Acupressure System which educates parents internationally on pediatric acupressure protocols. Her instructional book and DVD are available at