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Pediatric Acupuncture

By Dr. Jonathan Gimbel DOM

I came to think of pediatric acupuncture as an oxymoron when I was a student at Northwest Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the 90's. We had a special clinic for children and I heard an occasional yip or scream when I passed the treatment room. I decided to forgo that specialty and concentrated on adult treatments. A few years after graduating from the program, I continued to train in Japanese classical acupuncture and was introduced to shoni-shin which is Japanese pediatric acupuncture (sho / little; ni / children; shin / needle).

My main instruction was with the Toyohari Association of Japan and North America, 80% of whose membership is made up of blind practitioners who have developed a comprehensive treatment approach based on contact or touch needling (hifushin). This is ideal for treating children, since it is not necessary to insert the needles into the skin but instead the needles can be held at or even above the acu-point. Once a child sees that even with the use of needles there is no painful insertion, it is not difficult to develop trust. Also, since children are by nature very yang, treatments progress quickly, as techniques are modified to adjust to the age and size of the child.

Early in my practice I encouraged children to name things. So acupuncture became tippy-tappy, moxibustion became heaty thingies, and zanshin, a form of guasha, was performed on the upper back while intoning the mantra "boop,boop,boop". It has been possible, over the years, to successfully treat a variety of childhood illnesses, even the epidemic of H1N1, which hit children particularly hard six years ago, responded very well to simple shoni-shin treatments. It is possible to do successful treatments on childhood asthma, tummy aches, even skin rashes with no discomfort for the child. I would like to see a wider use of these methods if only to cut down the over prescribing of pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Jonathan Gimbel, DOM, is an instructor and clinic supervisor at the Santa Fe campus and is the owner and founder of Pinon Community Acupuncture in Santa Fe.