Acupuncture for children: Dispelling common myths

Acupuncture, Integrated Health Clinic

Acupuncture is the last thing that most people think about for their child’s health.  I’d like to dispel some of those myths today so that more families can feel free to explore this alternative therapy.

1) My child is terrified of needles

If your child has had to have a blood draw or vaccine, this may bring up traumatic memories or at least, painful ones.  Acupuncture needles are very different from a hypodermic needle.  The needles that I use for children are even finer than adult.  They are about 1/15th the size and very fine like a strand of hair. The two are so different that I suggest to parents that they don’t call them needles but “taps” instead. 

During a pediatric acupuncture session, I show children the special, tiny “taps” and we have a chat about it.  If they are open to proceeding then, depending on the age, we agree on how many needles they are comfortable using or what areas we should work on for that particular day.  If they aren’t ready yet, then that is perfectly fine as I have other non-needling tools and acupressure/massage which can be just as effective.  The most surprising thing is that so many children love acupuncture and look forward to coming back!

2) My child cannot sit still for that long  

For adults who have received acupuncture, you may recall lying on a table for 15-50 minutes at a time, but for young kids and infants I'm happy to report that this is not at all the case.  Treatments can be much shorter and simpler because their bodies heal much quicker and more readily.  For example, in a treatment for an infant, the needles stay in for as short as 1-2 seconds and as they get older sessions become longer (10-30 minutes for children 5 and up).  There is always the option to be treated while playing with toys, running around or being held by a parent if that feels more comfortable.

As acupuncturists, we are able to treat children very simply for a variety of illnesses and relative to many conventional treatments, it is very safe

3) Acupuncture Is not safe for my child  

In a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, they reviewed 31 different published journal articles, including 23 randomized controlled clinical trials and 8 meta-analysis/systematic reviews.  Their conclusion: “Overall, acupuncture is applicable to the pediatric population. There is evidence for its efficacy in postoperative symptoms management and strong potential for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting and pain. Acupuncture also seems to be fairly well tolerated in children in that the incidence of side effects is low and mostly inconsequential. Nevertheless, parents should be cautioned to seek properly licensed practitioners who have experience in treating children.” [i]

Acupuncture, Lucy Mei Lee

The American Academy of Pediatrics published an article on a systematic review also on the safety of pediatric acupuncture.  In their conclusion it was determined that a majority of the adverse effects were mild in severity and that serious adverse effects might have been caused by substandard practice. The final results support what has been found with adult studies, which is that that acupuncture is safe when performed by appropriately trained practitioners. [ii]

4) My child has no conditions that acupuncture can treat  

If your child is the picture of health, then that is wonderful.  However, if there are health concerns that you feel are not being well addressed at present then it may be worth having a conversation with an Acupuncturist.  With very simple treatments and techniques, new born babies up to teenagers can improve with conditions such as seasonal allergies, digestive problems, bed wetting, chronic bronchitis, anxiety, insomnia, sports-related pain, skin conditions and many others. 

For example, Science Daily recently published an article on a study done in Sweden on infants wherein they found that acupuncture was an effective treatment for colic over standard care alone.  Excessive crying in babies affects 1 in 5 families causing stress for parents and discomfort for the young ones.  The group with the least symptoms after the two week study had acupuncture at one single acupuncture point twice weekly. [iii] [iv]

Interestingly, the babies in the study were 2-8 weeks old and it was found that “(they) tolerated the acupuncture well. Sleeping babies rarely woke during treatment, and 200 of the 388 treatments given involved no crying at all.”[v]

As acupuncturists, we are able to treat children very simply for a variety of illnesses and relative to many conventional treatments, it is very safe. The biggest surprise is that your child may actually enjoy treatment.  If you would like to schedule a free 15 minute consultation about your child with our acupuncturist, simply contact our office at your convenience.

[i] Denise Adams, Florence Cheng, Hsing Jou, Steven Aung, Yutaka Yasui, Sunita Vohra (2011). The Safety of Pediatric Acupuncture: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from  

[iii] Kajsa Landgren, Inger Hallström. (2017). Effect of minimal acupuncture for infantile colic: a multicentre, three-armed, single-blind, randomised controlled trial (ACU-COL). Acupuncture in Medicine.  Retrieved from

 [iv] BMJ. (2017) Acupuncture may alleviate babies' excessive crying (infantile colic), study suggests: Needling twice weekly for 2 weeks reduced crying time significantly. Science Daily.  Retrieved from

[v] Amanda MacMillan. (2017) The Soothing Benefit of Acupuncture for Babies. Time. Retrieved from

'Tis the unwind?

Acupuncture, Lucy Mei Lee

We are quickly approaching the holiday season including Winter Solstice, which officially marks the longest night of the year and the return of the lengthening days.  In Chinese medicine, we consider winter to be a time for restoration and going inwards in opposition to summer when the abundance of sunshine gets us moving and wanting to be outdoors.  That may seem easy as the weather makes staying inside a little more tempting, but it may be harder than you realize.

Acupuncture, Lucy Mei Lee

    This idea of waxing and waning energies is described as “Yin and Yang Theory”, which is portrayed in this iconic black and white symbol.  In this theory, everything is divided up into relative “yin” and relative “yang” categories which work together to mutually oppose as well as support each other.  You cannot have one value without the other: up/down, in/out, left/right, male/female etc.  Daytime belongs to yang (brightness, movement) and nighttime belongs to yin (darkness, stillness), which means that winter is the most yin time of year.  What does this mean for our health and well-being?         

It means that during winter, taking time to be quiet and reflective is even more essential.  That certainly can be challenging amongst all the demands of the season to shop, socialize, decorate etc.  While these kinds of activities help to bring brightness on the darkest of days, we must remember to honour that inner calling to slow down and regenerate as well.  So many other animals are hibernating right now and I’m sure many of you have felt the temptation to curl up in the blankets just a little bit longer.  So, I would encourage you to do so and stop judging yourself for it; sleep a little longer, read a few more pages of that book, sit quietly in a chair and take an internal inventory or review of your year. 

You might be pleasantly surprised how taking it a little easy now can set you up for a better health in the spring

While there is a real concern for Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is well addressed in many articles out there with helpful tips including Dr Marita Schauch’s (here),  we must also remember that there is a natural decrease in sunlight occurring that may be affecting our energy levels.  With that in mind, ease up on how much you are demanding of yourself right now and be sure to check in with yourself on how many events you can realistically do comfortably.  You might be pleasantly surprised how taking it a little easy now can set you up for a better health in the spring.

I also encourage everyone to make sure you have things to look forward to this winter season.  Perhaps a yoga or meditation class is just what you need to set aside some quiet time to go within.  A counselling session could also help put things into perspective.  My patients find that acupuncture is wonderful way to recharge your batteries and let go of stress.  There are so many “shoulds” at this time of year, make sure you add something in for yourself, now or in the New Year. 

Happy holidays everyone.