Pediatric Acupuncture

One way to build an acupuncture practice is to specialize.  Many practitioners struggle with specialization, others know exactly what they want to specialize in and some, like Robin Green, LAc, find a problem and become a specialist by solving it.   Morgan Hill Family Wellness Acupuncture and Herb clinic treats all family members, including children.

Not all acupuncture schools discuss treating children in their programs, although pediatrics is getting more popular.  Robin says she wasn’t all that interested in treating children when she was in school.  Her interest began in her first year of practice.  Of course, she may have been pushed towards this when her infant son had an issue with eczema that just wouldn’t resolve.

Robin says, “None of the conventional medical treatments we tried worked to treat his eczema, instead by the time he was nine months old, it got worse spreading throughout most of his body   At that point, I decided to do some training in holistic pediatrics to see if I could help him with acupuncture and herbs.   In the process of helping him, I began to share my son’s story with my patients and they started bringing their children in to see me.  That is how my pediatric practice began.”

Needles are such an issue to many adults and to children of a certain age.  People don’t realize that acupuncture needles are not the same the syringes they are thinking of. However, Robin says children under about 15 months of age haven’t developed that fear yet and she is able to do quick treatments that get rapid results.  As children grow with acupuncture as part of their lives, they are less likely to fear the treatments even when they are older.  Robin says she is able to do treatments that prevent imbalance rather than try and heal it after it has developed.

Interest in pediatric acupuncture has grown in the last few years.  Robin says, “The pediatric acupuncture field had grown significantly in the last decade.  This is due in part to more research that has shown benefits for pediatric pain management. About 40% of all pediatric hospitals now offer acupuncture for pain management.  It seems like monthly there are more and more articles published in magazines, newspapers and on television about the benefits of acupuncture for children.  Also, parents use the same treatments on their children that work for them.  Once parents understand how acupuncture is safe, painless, and effective acupuncture is for themselves they often bring their kids in too.  ”

Of course, pediatric acupuncture isn’t all about pain management in an acupuncture clinic.  Robin sees patients for low immunity, eczema, asthma, allergies, coughs, bronchitis, sinusitis, colds and flus as well as anxiety and digestive disorders.

Besides the fear of needles, another issue with pediatric acupuncture is the relationship issue.  The practitioner has to relate both to the child and the parent and be trustworthy in the eyes of both.  Establishing these multiple lines of trust can take some thought.  Robin says, “In kids under age 8, most parents stay with their child during treatment.  Occasionally, it’s easier to help a child with sensory or ADD issues alone in the treatment room while the parent waits in the waiting room.  After age 8 about, 50% of the parents stay in the treatment room.  When I treat kids without their parents present a lot them open up to me and tell me about things that go on in school or home that they may not have shared with their parent present.  Many parents are relieved that their child has another adult to confide in and notice a difference in compliance with the child’s treatment plan.  Teenagers are mostly likely to want to tell me things they don’t want their parents to know.  Anything they say to me is confidential unless it would cause harm to themselves or someone else and once they know that many of them open up to me.  I often have parent tell me about the bad behaviors of their teen (staying up too late, not eating well, drinking to much soda, etc.) that they need help getting through to them about.  Being their acupuncturist means I can discuss these issues and help them make better choices and take the pressure off the parents.”

Given the special needs of the very young and the need for an acupuncturist to think very carefully about their relationship to different people in the patient/practitioner relationship, I asked Robin what she would recommend if someone was thinking of specializing in pediatrics.  Robin says, “Specializing in pediatrics takes a lot of extra training to attain the expertise needed to confidently address the myriad of health issues and patient-parent issues seen in pediatrics.  I would recommended taking as many pediatric acupuncture courses as possible, taking a physical exam and red flags trainings and get clinical experience observing someone who specializes in pediatric acupuncture.”

Recently Robin has had an article on pediatric acupuncture in Acupuncture Today and is working on increasing her pediatric patient load.  She has another colleague in her office that sees adults.   Robin also says, “My larger vision is to help the acupuncture pediatrics field grow so that all practitioners could get the training they needed to confidently see children.   I would also like to write a practical guide to acupuncture pediatrics for practitioners and parents, teach acupuncture pediatrics to other practitioners.  My first step in that direction is my new blog, and I’m going to have my first externship at my office soon.”

I ran into Robin online as she worked on her first website years ago.  I was struck by how she had a very clear sense of what she wanted from her site and was very adept at getting it done. Her design choices were simple and elegant and really seemed to highlight who she was as a practitioner.  I asked her what her marketing experience had been.  Robin worked at health clinics while going through college and watched what those practitioners did.  She gets most of her patients through word of mouth and patient education.   She says she does this “without the qi talk”.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows she is preaching the choir here.  If you haven’t checked out Robin’s sites, I highly recommend a visit.

Thoughts on the Five Elements and Society

Energy invades everything and everyone.  The principles of Feng Shui discuss the same elemental properties as acupuncturists use.  One talks about the environment, the other discusses the body.  Why wouldn’t these same elements be used to describe society at large?  Heart centered people are those who draw people to them.  Fire leads to connection.  Earth people are those who mother and offer compassion.  Metal people are those who make the hard decisions and, if not the leaders, are those invaluable thinkers who understand how to get where they are going.  Water people are the wise thinkers who probably counsel caution.  They are the ones talking about “Should we?” while scientists ask “Can we?”  Wood is the creative leader who is making things happen.

Socially each person connects, mothers or allows themselves to be mothered, creates, reflects and collects (and let’s go) throughout their lives.  In a healthy community there is enough collection to get through hard times and enough connection to create empathy for all.   The community is growing but only so far as it can be sustained.

Culturally, the US is out of balance.  For the last few decades, the people of the United States have come to embrace a sense of “doing it yourself,” ignoring the need for strong ties in a community.  Each person should go out and get what they want.  It has underrated the element of fire, which creates connection.  Ignoring the connections that would be built by a healthy fire element and minimizing the importance, the people of the United States increasingly show less and less compassion.

If someone can’t make it in this world, people angrily state that they shouldn’t have to pay their money for the bad decisions of others.  They didn’t make the mistake. Someone else did.  That person should pay.   Political rallies bring out the bullies who yell that someone who is sick and doesn’t have health care should just die.  How much less compassionate can a society get?

Additionally, there is a fear that someone will take what is theirs. Fire is not around to control metal.  Everything is precious and nothing is being let go of.  It is my money.  My property. My country.   Nothing is shared.  The government, which is a collective of the people, and therefore probably falls largely under the element of fire (connections) is supposed to be shrunk. No new taxes because taxes will take away that which is seen as precious.  No longer is it important to have close friends.  It is only important to have lots of money, to care for oneself by hiring people to do those things that would be freely given in a community based culture.

Enough money is not enough.  Riches are enough.  We see that on television in shows like American Idol. How many young people see that as their only chance at a “good” life because otherwise they work at a low paying job that may offer satisfaction but doesn’t offer great wealth and fame?

Underlying that hoarding, of course is fear.  Water isn’t being fed and metal is too busy hoarding and directing wood that there is no time for wise reflection.  There is only time to act, quickly, out of fear.

Without water to feed it, wood suffers.  There is increasing anger over little things.  Anger drives more wedges between those trying to form community.  Differences are highlighted and commonalities are lessened, making it harder and harder to offer compassion to others.

It seems like it is impossible to start to make changes.  However, each person can work to balance their own energies and that can create a more balanced society.  Awareness of fear based actions is the first step to changing them.  Offering self compassion for the difficulty in making those changes can be the first step to re-awakening compassion.  Seeking true creative expression towards other connections rather than just directing energy towards more money is also helpful.  Rather than rushing through the drive-thru at Starbucks, stop and say good morning and smile.  Such small things can go a long way towards beginning to restore balance.

The big changes need great momentum.  We are seeing, however, great changes being made through people sitting together to “Occupy” their cities and their country.  They are sitting in solidarity, in connection.  If nothing else, perhaps this will balance society energetically so that the bigger changes can come about.  There will be enough fire to constrain the out of control metal element.

James Rohr on Tungz!

Acupuncturists are not often computer fans. In fact, a lot of practitioners eschew technology and are quite proud of it.  A few of us embrace it. As much as I love the internet and can make a good website, I have to say I’m blown away by self taught app developer, and acupuncturist,  James Rohr. Rohr’s application is called Tungz!.  Available for android or the iphone, as well as the ipad,  Tungz is a great way for lay people to get a look at what a healthy tongue does and does not look like.

Rohr says, ” I’ve been giving lectures on tongue assessment for many years now, and I thought the subject matter would lend itself to a nice app.  I’m a big fan of technology and education, so this app is a natural combination of those two interests. ”

I found out about Tungz! when Rohr mentioned it in an online group for acupuncturists.  As I went to check it out, I was expecting something for practitioners, but it’s actually an introductory tongue evaluation for patients.  Rohr says, “Because of the ease of use and the accessibility of the pictures, I actually think this app will be a great tool for practitioners to share with their patients to help build their practice.  How many times have we heard someone say, “I’m healthy.  I don’t think I need acupuncture.”  Practitioners know that Chinese medicine has a very narrow view as to what is actually healthy. A quick glance at a tongue and comparing it to the healthy pictures can show the potential client right away if their tongue shows imbalances.  Another thing I hear quite a bit in my practice is “I love the treatments and I think my _______(husband, wife, children, co-worker, etc) could really benefit, but they don’t think they have anything wrong with them. What can I do?” If the patient has the app, they can show the app to the person they want to refer and if the tongue is different, the prospective client can see for themselves that their body is sending a signal thru the tongue that their Qi is not in harmony.”

One challenge in creating the application was getting good clear pictures of tongues.  Not only can flashes drown out color but quivering tongues are often blurry.  Rohr has asked for people to send in more photos of their tongues and the response has been good.  One person said, “Wow, do you also read minds? 🙂 I was quite impressed with what you said about my health by one single look at my tongue!!”

Rohr has been in practice since 2005 after graduating from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.  He has also trained at Chengdu University. Lest you think his background was in computer science, Rohr has an undergraduate degree from Stanford in anthropology.  Rohr taught at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine at their Chicago campus.

Rohr now works at an integrative health center in Florida and divides his time between that and private practice.  His areas of interest lie in treating stress related disorders and “chronic conditions”. If developing apps and acupuncture aren’t enough, Rohr also has a line of organic teas, designed around tongue diagnosis.

Reading about everything Rohr has going on, I  had to wonder what’s next.  Rohr says, “I’ve just opened a new clinic in South Beach here in Miami, FL. I’m very excited about the new space.  I’m also working on a book about rethinking chronic illness. I hope to have that out sometime in 2012. I’ve also launched Tungz Teas, a line of organic teas using some western and eastern herbs in formulations to help support people’s constitutions. For the uninformed, there are some great tasting teas. For the eager and educated patient, there is the option to search for teas based on tongue features. I’m excited to see how this business grows in the coming year.”

Check out the Rohr’s websites for his app as well as his line of teas. The teas integrate well with his Tungz. He’s definitely a practitioner bringing this ancient medicine into the digital age.


The Art of Acupuncture: 2012 Calendar

I’ve been creating things for acupuncturists.  In fact, that is one reason I have moved this blog from general health to being more acupuncture oriented (again).  At any rate, I have had cards on Zazzle for a few years now and if you need something to send to patients, I think they’re great.   Certainly they aren’t for everyone, but I’m hoping that having a different, more playful Western take on the medicine, they’ll be remembered and noticed and not just by acupuncturists, but by their patients.

This last week I made a calendar with all acupuncture images.  After I did it, I wanted writing. I’m in the process of a move, so I couldn’t just find appropriate quotations so I stated looking at point names.  One of the great things about that was that it really reminded me about points and their meanings. Do you know how many points have “Gate” in the name?   I’m thinking that next year, perhaps, I’ll do one with a specific set of points, like Celestial Window. However, the calendar has to sell. I hope that you’ll take a look and even if it doesn’t suit you, I’d love it if you could pass the word along to other people.

How Are Acupuncturists Like Writers?

How are acupuncturists like writers?  They’re both artists.  Writers create worlds with their words and acupuncturists create health with their needles.  Both tend to love doing their art. Both tend to struggle to make ends meet.  There are always those out there who manage a business that feeds them, but in both professions, there are more who struggle to make ends meet.  I have always written so I follow some blogs on professional writing.  I’m intrigued by Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s work on the Business Rusch.  She’s writing for writers and there are a few common things writers tend to do that acupuncturists also tend to do.

Writers want to think that all they have to do to be a professional writer is write.  They want to leave publishing, marketing and getting paid to someone else.  Writers have the advantage here because there are systems in place that let them do this (although there are downsides to this, so don’t be too jealous).  Acupuncturists want to think they are professional if all they do is treat patients and do it well.  In both cases, they need to understand the business side of their art.

Kris has a great list for what writer’s don’t do, which I’m quoting here,

  • Writers strive for survival, not wealth
  • Writers don’t have financial goals
  • Writers don’t know their worth
  • Writers don’t get rich because they don’t envision themselves rich
  • Writers refuse to learn when and where they have power
  • Writers lack a sense of entitlement
Now substitute acupuncturist for writer.
While entitlement and the idea of Playing to Win (which is part of the conversation in the full article) may make people uncomfortable, note that Kris isn’t saying you must have a winner take all mentality.  You do, however, have to consider that you want to do your best work in all aspects of your business.  I can see a lot of practitioners saying they don’t care about getting rich.  You don’t have to get rich,  but care about taking care of yourself and asking for enough. Enough might be more than you think it is.
In order to be professional, you need to figure out the answers to a lot of those questions. It’s not bad to take care of yourself first.  How else do you have a way to care for others? How much better is your healing when you know that your rent is paid and you have enough for food?
The business side of the practice is not the most glamorous but it is the part that puts food on the table and keeps the roof over your head so you can keep doing what you love, which is healing people.  You have to be willing to know how to do both.  There are tons of great coaches out there to help.  There are books on the topic. Lisa Hanfileti even has the Acupuncture Business Academy. Learn what you need to learn. It’s important.  If you can’t learn it for yourself, learn it for the patient who will need you ten years from now. If you don’t, you may not be practicing in ten years.