This article on acupuncture provides parents with great tips on the benefits of acupuncture and how it can help your family.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a method of healing that developed in China at least 3,000 years ago. Today, acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of points on the body by a variety of techniques including needles, electrical stimulation or pressure points.
Traditional Chinese medicine recognised that there are pathways of energy flowing through the body, carrying nourishment and information to all tissues and organs. When this natural flow of life force is interrupted, disease can be the result. It is the role of the acupuncturist to restore this flow and balance in the body.
How can acupuncture help my child?
For children, acupuncture is particularly beneficial in balancing their health and building immunity. Practitioners often observe that children show marked improvement during the course of their treatment, with their spirit, happiness, energy and immunity all improving.
Specific childhood problems which are known to respond to acupuncture include asthma, eczema, ear infections, sinus congestion, and bed-wetting. Acupuncture is also great at reducing pain in chronic conditions, such as Crohns disease or arthritis. More generally, acupuncture is helpful in countering children’s fatigue and boosting energy.
How can acupuncture help me?
Acupuncture has become increasingly popular in Western society as people have recognised its ability to provide excellent results, without the use of drugs or medicines which may further disturb the body’s natural balance.
During pregnancy acupuncture may be suitable to alleviate morning sickness, or heartburn. It is sometimes also used to induce labour after pregnancy has gone to 42 weeks. The benefits of acupuncture are becomming increasingly well known throughout the Western world.
What should I expect during our first visit to an acupuncturist?
During your first visit, the acupuncturist will ask you a wide range of questions about you / your child’s health, lifestyle and current issues. The aim of acupuncture is to treat the person, along with the disease. This means that the acupuncturist looks at the patient as a whole, finds the cause of the illness and the imbalance in the body causing it. To build a complete picture of your health, the acupuncturist will ask not only details of the immediate problem, but also take a precise history of past illnesses, familial tendencies and any medications they are currently taking.
The treatment usually involves very fine needles being placed in various acupuncture points on a person’s body, depending on the condition being treated. The number of needles used varies from two or three to ten or more, and they are left in place for an average of twenty minutes. On insertion of the needle there may be a dull pain or tingling sensation. The removal of the needles usually causes no discomfort and there is generally no bleeding from an insertion point. Needles should be sterilised, and sterilisation must comply with standards set by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
For babies and young children, it is more common to use acupressure, which involves applying pressure to the key points, rather than the use of needles. This technique is also highly successful, and more likely to be accepted by your little one! There is no recommended age at which needles should begin to be used: some acupuncturists introduce needles at 5, and others at 12. You will need to discuss what is appropriate for your child when you go for your first visit.
The number and duration of visits required will vary depending on the condition being treated. The acupuncturist will advise you of what is required during your first visit.
How do I find an acupuncturist?
When searching for an acupuncturist, you need to be aware that there are different types:
- Some are not qualified, but have trained “on the job” and have built up their expertise in this manner.
- Others have become qualified acupuncturists through training at colleges which require a minimum of four years of full time study in Traditional Chinese Medicine, including Western anatomy, physiology and pathology as well as acupuncture.
- Some highly experienced acupuncturists have had their knowledge and experience recognised, and become members of the NZ Register of Acupuncturists.
- In some cases, a medical practitioner of another sort (physiotherapist, doctor, or midwife) may have become a qualified acupuncturist in addition to their existing qualifications.
Who you choose as an acupuncturist will depend on your personal preferences, and also word of mouth recommendations. However, we recommend looking at the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists as a starting point, in order to check the credentials of your practitioner. These people have had their experience and qualifications “vetted” as well as being required to adhere to the sterilisation standards set by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
Other healthcare practitioners can also be a resource for referrals to acupuncturists. More medical doctors, including neurologists, anaesthesiologists, and specialists in physical medicine, are becoming aware of, or trained in, acupuncture.
To find a New Zealand Registered Acupuncturist in your local area visit www.acupuncture.org.nz.
How much will acupuncture cost?
The cost of an acupuncture visit varies across the country, but a typical charge is approximately $60 per visit. Visits are typically 45 – 60 minutes in duration. Your acupuncturist will be able to tell you the estimated number of treatments needed and how much each will cost. Treatment may take place over a few days or for several weeks or more. Physician acupuncturists (i.e. doctors and physiotherapists) may charge more than non-physician practitioners.
Acupuncture is becoming increasingly well recognised by the “mainstream”. There is now ACC funding available for the use of acupuncture in injury treatments, and Southern Cross Healthcare will also pay for some treatments. Make sure that you ask about these options before booking your appointment, in order to save some money.
Helpful websites & articles
This is the website for the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists and it’s excellent. Clearly written and informative, it is also easy to navigate and gives you a quick method of finding a qualified acupuncturist in your area.
For more information on asthma, eczema and allergic conditions, see our section on Allergies