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.