Treating babies and children with TCM
Our clinic offers treatment for a wide range of conditions commonly suffered by babies and children, including:
- Constipation, Diarrhoea, Vomiting or Colic
- Cough, Asthma or Hay Fever
- Tonsillitis and Conjunctivitis
- Insomnia, erratic sleeping patterns or Hyperactivity
- Eczema and other skin conditions
There are many patterns of disharmony which can cause illness, and to identify which is the cause of an individual child’s symptoms requires a clinician to perform a full consultation, as with an adult. Broadly speaking though there are two common imbalances which TCM understands to be responsible for causing childhood disorders such as those listed above; weak Pi Qi (the TCM organ Pi – pronounced ‘pea’ – includes functions of the spleen and pancreas in Western medicine, but does not correspond directly with either) or Yin deficiency.
In TCM the Pi is the organ responsible for managing the digestive processes, and the absorption of food nutrients. A child’s Pi does not have to work hard in the womb as all food nutrients are supplied by the mother. After birth though, the Pi has to begin working harder to absorb nutrients from food. This, combined with too much food, the wrong types of food, stimuli whilst feeding or emotional states associated with feeding (some women, for example find breast-feeding quite distressing) may result in the energy (or Qi) of the child’s Pi being weakened. This in turn can lead to inefficient digestion, and related symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea or vomiting.
Yin is the nourishing, cooling element within us all which is responsible for balancing our more fiery, active Yang element. If our Yin is deficient, Yang becomes the predominant element, which in children can lead to symptoms such as fidgeting, poor sleeping habits, hyperactivity or fever.
In treating children, the TCM clinician will also seek to understand their symptoms in the context of their parents’ health and their home environment. When they are very young in particular, children are very closely linked to their parents, especially their mother. It is common for example for a child to be calm and content if the mother feels calm herself, and conversely for the child to be anxious or irritable if the mother displays these same traits, so it is an important part of a holistic form of treatment such as TCM for the mother’s health, vitality and wellbeing to be considered when treating the child.
Similarly, a child is very sensitive to their environment, and their Qi is easily affected by external environmental factors such as changes in diet (feeding patterns, weaning, using formula instead of breast milk etc.) or routine. Changes such as these can weaken a child’s Qi, leading them to experience symptoms of illness, or to be more susceptible to external infection, as it is our Qi which protects us against external pathogens such as the common cold or Hay Fever. It is therefore important for a TCM clinician to build up a picture of the child’s environment in order that they can understand if certain environmental factors are contributing to the diagnosed disharmony.
Is Acupuncture Treatment different for Children?
The needles used for children are only 0.2mm in diameter) and in the hands of a properly qualified clinician can penetrate the superficial layer of the skin without the patient feeling anything at all. It is normal for children to show unhappiness toward treatment, often as a result of frustration, unfamiliarity and surprise. In order to achieve a relaxed treatment environment, the child’s sensitivity to the emotions of those around him or her should be considered; stray emotions such as the anxiety of the parent may be sensed by the child, leading them to feel unduly distressed or to be fidgety during treatment. It is only natural for a parent to be concerned about the wellbeing of their child, but it is also important to consider that it is similarly natural for a child to cry as a way of expressing a variety of emotions. For example, a baby may cry when having their nappy changed, and so it is not a foregone conclusion that a child is distressed or in pain if they cry when receiving acupuncture treatment. If a parent is at all anxious about bringing their child for treatment, we have some video footage of children receiving treatment at our clinic, which can help to allay any fears about the process being upsetting for the child.
Once the needle is inserted the clinician looks to obtain De Qi (’der chee’), which is a sign that the child’s Qi is responding to the treatment. At this point the child relays a different cry, look, or may give an involuntary movement. The needle is then removed. As a child’s Qi is so easily stimulated, the period during which the needle is inserted is very short; usually only a few seconds in babies and small children, and a little longer in older children.
In China it is common to have treatment every day, or every other day. One or two treatments in a week will usually suffice in the West, although the symptoms may take longer to resolve than if treatments were administered more regularly. At our clinic we have a special discounted rate for paediatric treatments, to make it easier for parents to bring their children for treatment more frequently. Please ask our reception staff for details.
Acupuncture is a very safe form of treatment. All needles are sterile and disposable so there is no risk of infection, and all practitioners adhere to strict codes of conduct and hygiene, put in place by the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the governing body for Acupuncture in the UK.