You’ve probably heard of acupuncture, where a Chinese medicine practitioner chooses specific points on your body, and sticks in tiny needles with the intention of re-balancing your system and to promote greater health.

It’s well-known that acupuncture is an effective treatment for adults. What most people don’t know is that kids can benefit from acupuncture as well, but their treatment looks a bit different.


When kids and babies get acupuncture treatments, no needles are inserted into their body.

Instead, they get Shonishin.

Shonishin acupuncture is a highly specialized form of treatment therapy for infants, children, and sensitive adult patients, which originated in Japan about 400 years ago.

It is a very different style of acupuncture than is typically used on adults.

Rather than inserting needles, shonishin treatments use special blunt tools and stay on the surface of the body.


A typical shonishin treatment consists of pressing, rubbing, tapping, and brushing the skin to provide a gentle stimulation that will reduce problematic symptoms, as well as strengthen the child’s overall constitution so it has a greater capacity to heal itself.

Shonishin treatments are very gentle, non-invasive, and painless.

Most children find the treatments quite pleasurable, comfortable, and enjoy coming in.


How to Get the Most Out of Shonishin Treatments

  • Shonishin treatments work best when offered at the very first onset of symptoms, but can be effective in more chronic cases as well.
  • Treatments usually only last about 5-10 minutes, but your appointment might be longer to give your child time to settle into the new environment, and allow the practitioner time to get to know you and give you added advice.
  • When your child is suffering from an acute condition, your practitioner might recommend that you come in more frequently until the condition passes.

For more chronic conditions and for preventative purposes it is usually recommended that you come in once or twice a week over a longer period of time.


What to Expect When You Come in for a Shonishin Treatment

  • Caregivers are encouraged to be present with the child to provide comfort and support during the treatment, as an integral part of the child’s healing process.

Infants and children can sometimes be held in the caregiver’s arms while the treatment is given.

  • After the practitioner interviews you about your child’s symptoms and overall health, they may ask to palpate the child’s abdomen, look at the tongue, or in older children they might take the pulse to get a clearer idea about what treatment will most benefit your child.
  • Once they have an understanding of the child’s constitution, the practitioner will then use blunt tools to tap, stroke, and hold certain channels and points to rebalance the child’s system.
  • Occasionally very small “press balls” that look like a sticker will be placed on the child’s body.

These add extra stimulation on certain points, and are usually taken off a few hours after treatment.

  • The practitioner may also show you simple techniques to continue relieving the child’s symptoms at home, as well as providing dietary and lifestyle advice.


Commonly Treated Conditions:

  • Coughs
  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Fever
  • Digestive disorders such as colic, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
  • Bed wetting
  • Sleep disorders
  • Failure to thrive
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder
  • Pediatric pain


Understanding Chinese Medical Theory in Pediatrics

According to Chinese Medical theory, infants and children are considered to be extremely “yang” in nature, meaning they possess a huge amount of active, vital Qi (energy).

This energy is what fuels their rapid growth and development, as well as their ability to heal very quickly and effectively.

Likewise, as any caregiver knows, this vigor also can mean that young people become ill more quickly and their health can deteriorate at a rapid rate.

Because their energy is so strong and at the surface, children and babies respond very well to treatments that appear to be much more subtle as compared with what is required for many adults.

In other words, it might not look like a lot is happening, but when it comes to treating kids and babies, because their systems are prone to change so quickly, less is actually more.

In fact, young people are much more likely to being over-treated than adults, leading to more negative symptoms.

That’s why finding an experienced shonishin provider is key.


Dr. Heather McCoy is an intern in the Classical Chinese Medical program at NCNM and is expected to graduate June 2015. She also holds a doctoral degree from OHSU, School of Medicine, Class of 2012. As an MD, she specialized in Family Medicine and Integrative Medicine. Following graduation from NCNM, it is her goal to have the educational knowledge and community resources available to offer her patient’s a truly integrative experience, combining the best of both traditional allopathic and classical Chinese medical approaches to patient care and management. She hopes to continue practicing in Oregon following graduation from NCNM.



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