Kid-Friendly Acupuncture

By beth Jacobsen

If you’re on pins and needles about your child’s health, you should consider taking her to an acupuncturist for ear infections, stomachaches, allergies, fevers, or even attention-deficit disorder. The kid-sized needles—they’re about the width of a human hair—don’t hurt, but to help allay what seems to be a universal fear of needles, acupuncturists often start by demonstrating on themselves, mom, or even a pet. Usually, the parents do the panicking. “Most children don’t even know needles are being used,” says Ellen Silver Highfield, a Harvard-affiliated acupuncturist at Children’s Hospital in Boston. “I have pictures of smiling 5-year-olds with needles in them.”

Even so, many acupuncturists choose to forgo the needling altogether, and instead offer these poke-free approaches.

Acupressure.
This method uses manual pressure instead of needles. A 2003 study found that it was more effective than medication for treating bed-wetting.

Shonishin.
A noninvasive Japanese version of acupressure for children, shonishin uses metal tools to gently tap, rub, and scrape the body while stimulating acupuncture points without penetrating the skin. “When done consistently, shonishin effectively strengthens your child’s immune system,” says Tara Faith Brockman, LAc, who holds monthly shonishin clinics.

Laser Acupuncture.
Low-intensity laser beams take the place of needles.

Electro-Acupuncture.
A pen-like device delivers a warm, tickling sensation—using ultra-low levels of electric current—to traditional acupuncture meridians.