Kids and Needles?
Many kids are leery of needles and naturally want to avoid the pain of a shot or blood draw, which is totally understandable!
Fortunately, pediatric acupuncture is completely different than a shot! Because acupuncture needles are so different than hypodermic needles, we call them “taps.”
Taps are hair-fine pediatric needles that create a virtually painless experience.
The term “tap” references the rubbing and tapping that is done to desensitize the point before we rapidly tap the needle in. Most kids are pleasantly surprised with how easy and painless acupuncture is. We recommend avoiding the terms needle, prick, pin, or pokey when talking to your child about acupuncture.
Pediatric acupuncture includes several non-needle techniques!
Pediatric acupuncturists are specially trained to work with kids. They have many different treatment options for children, so acupuncture is optional.
On the first visit, they will show your child what “taps” are and ask if they’d like to give it a try. When most kids see how easy and fast it is, they’ll try it.
However, it’s most important for us to build trust with a child. So, if a child is still reluctant, we can switch to non-needle techniques like micro-current, acupressure, ear seeds, laser, shonishin, or a special Chinese pediatric massage called tuina (pronounced twee-nah).
Non-needle techniques have a similar therapeutic effect to acupuncture and can be effectively used instead.
In most cases, once a practitioner has built trust and rapport with a child, they will eventually try acupuncture.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Absolutely! There have been numerous studies to evaluate the safety of pediatric acupuncture. The most comprehensive study to date, The Safety of Pediatric Acupuncture: A Systematic Review was published in the journal Pediatrics in 2011.
According the authors, pediatric acupuncture is safe when performed by properly trained practitioners.
In my experience the most common adverse reaction to acupuncture is a mild and brief discomfort (about 1/2 second) during insertion of the needle. Rarely, mild adverse reactions such as temporary bruising or swelling at the needle site occur but these are uncommon due to the special techniques used in pediatrics.
In my over 13 years of clinic practice, there’s never been a single pediatric or adult patient that caught an infection from needle insertion, nor have I seen or any serious adverse reactions. They do happen, but are extremely rare and very unlikely if the practitioner you choose is licensed and has special training in pediatrics.