Updated: May 8, 2020
The History of Shonishin:
For me the journey into Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) coincided with parenthood. For that reason, Paediatric health care has always been a strong interest to me.
Before I go on to explain the methods used in Paediatric Acupuncture treatments, I would like to offer some background on the development of Shonishin, which is needle free Acupuncture and why this altered therapeutic treatment is required when supporting our junior patients.
The use of the specific paediatric style of TCM in the treatment and prevention of childhood diseases traces back to the development of Shonishin in 17th and 18th century Osaka, Japan. Shonishin is a unique, non-invasive needle free healing method particularly useful for children from babies to 7-11 years old. Ultimately however the roots of paediatric TCM extend as far as the Song dynasty ancient China (960 – 1279) where the distinct differences between children and adults were identified and treatments were adapted.
Why children's treatment is different:
There is a Chinese quote referring to the treatment of children “Yin and yang organs are clear and spirited. They easily and quickly regain health” This phrase is so apt in describing the wonderful way in which children respond to Shonishin treatment. While children’s systems can be sensitive and quick to ill health, they also are without all the barriers to healing that we develop as adults therefore respond effectively to minimal treatment.
Other than the obvious size and developmental differences between children and adults there are many variations in how disharmony in children presents and responds in clinic. When considering our Yin and Yang balance children are extremely Yang in nature. Yang is an active and moving energy. With this tendency towards Yang imbalances in children can often be ‘hot', such as fever, anger, emotional outbursts and inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. As mentioned earlier children’s systems are also more sensitive. While this is a positive when it comes to quick results in treatment it also means their delicate Qi balance is more readily influenced or disturbed. They can also be more easily affected by emotion, which as we know has a strong influence on our overall health. When their sensitive balance is tipped ill health can be quick to progress. The most common health issue I see in babies and young children are digestive disturbances. When you consider that the main pastime of a growing baby is the new job of digesting and absorption food it is not surprising that this is where we see many of our imbalances. The Spleen governs digestion so when a baby’s digestive system is taxed a Spleen Qi deficiency is common.
Different types of children:
Children in their essence can be considered as strong or delicate. In Chinese Medicine another way of describing this would be the terms ‘excess’ or ‘deficient’. Identifying what type of nature a child has can indicate what treatment they will respond best to. There are some common traits of excess and deficiency that I will list below:
Can be red in the face
Can tend to behavioral issues
When ill it can be severe
A child with a strong nature will often demonstrate patterns of excess when ill. Therefore, it is important in treatment to disperse and move that excess energy for healing to occur.
Pale in colouring
Sleeps a lot
Lower in energy, happy with sedentary activities
Quick to cry
May become ill easily
A child with a delicate nature will tend towards deficiency when ill. In this scenario tonifying is important.
Regardless of if we are dealing with a child or an adult patient Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) seek to find the root cause of dis-ease by looking at all factors influencing health, body, mind, soul, the environment and lifestyle.
Factors impacting children's health:
When exploring causes of dis-ease in children the following factors are considered:
External Pathogenic Factors-
Unless you are already familiar with TCM theory then these factors may be new concepts for you to consider. These factors affecting our health are considered in both adults and children.
Wind: Generally sudden in onset and attacking the upper body and in particular face and neck wind is often a primary cause of ill health. Often quick to combine with other external pathogens. A common paediatric example of wind invasion is a wind-heat cough and skin conditions such as eczema.
Cold: Generally, yin in nature and often associated with wind cold often causes tight severe pain. In children I find one of the most common causes of cold invasion is due to cold drinks and foods and this can affect Spleen Qi and present as stomach disturbances and digestive issues.
Dryness: Yang in nature and common in hot dry weather and prominent in the lung presenting with a dry cough.
Heat: This is also Yang in nature. Commonly in children this can present as fever, hot skin conditions and redness. Irritability and emotional disturbances of frustration and anger are another manifestation. Shonishin is extremely effective when it comes to clearing heat.
Damp: Yin in nature, heavy and watery in nature and often associated with the Spleen. Once again this may affect digestion which is governed by the Spleen.
Lingering Pathogen: This is an occurrence that is common when there has been an illness or infection that has been treated but continues to linger with mild symptoms or general weakness.
Children’s health is extremely sensitive to emotion and can be easily impacted by both emotion around them in the home or school environment or their own experience of emotion. Stress, worry, anxiety, grief, anger, fear, shock and joy all have a part to play in our overall experience of health and can manifest in a range of health imbalances. A common example in children is the connection of fear with our Kidney system that manifests as bladder weakness and bed wetting in young children.
As I mentioned earlier Spleen Qi deficiency is common disorder I see when treating children. It is very easy to overwhelm the delicate digestive system of a child and it is becoming more prevalent as our western eating habits tend towards over consumption and a diet rich with convenience foods that are highly processed, full of sugars, gluten, dairy and additives.
Other considerations with diet include:
Hot or Cold energy foods – If your child is naturally of a cold disposition and they are eating food with cold energy such as banana then this may make for difficult digestion.
Hot or Cold temperature food – Eating ice cream when the child is already of a cold nature is going to make for a cold stomach and deficient spleen.
Food allergies – common allergies are dairy, gluten, additives, refined sugar, nuts, tomato and shellfish. These can contribute to a range of health issues including stomach pain, hyperactivity, eczema, mood imbalances, rash, exhaustion, irritability and in the worst scenario severe allergic reaction.
When looking at lifestyle factors affecting children’s health the things that we consider include, but are not limited to:
Pressures at home or school causing stress
Over stimulation from technology
Undue expectations and pressure on academic or home performance
Lack of rest time
Lack of boundaries
Excess boundaries being overprotected