Paediatrics is a major specialist area of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. In Traditional Chinese medicine, children are considered as having high potential and ability to grow and develop rapidly. For example, from birth to 3 years, body weight increases by 3 times, height increases by 1.5 times and head circumference increases by 0.5 times. Developments in activities, intelligence and functions of zang-fu organ are perfecting and maturing. These dynamic phenomena are summarised as “pure yang” in TCM paediatrics. Pure yang here means children have an ability to grow and develop rapidly. They are like the rising sun in the morning and infant plants flourishing and prospering. It does not mean children do not have yin or they are always in yin deficiency. In the meantime, children are young and they have delicate zang-fu organs and they have not yet fully developed physically and functionally. This means that the zang-fu organs are not fully developed. The body structure, qi blood and body fluid, and their functions are still developing. In TCM, it is described as having a weak lung, weak spleen and week kidney, and an exuberant liver and heart. 

One of the most important classics in TCM paediatrics is “Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to Therapeutics for Children’s Disease), which was published in the Song Dynasty by Yi Qian (1034 – 1115) (Compiled by his student Xiao Zhong Yan).

An English publication on acupuncture for children is Paediatric Acupuncture by Loo (Loo 2003). In this book, a clear and realistic description is provided for the appropriate use of acupuncture in the treatment of children. Conventional child development theories are integrated with the TCM paradigms to help devise more appropriate and effective treatment plans. Non-invasive acupuncture-related techniques are offered to assist in treating children who have a fear of needles. Treatment plans are provided for 22 common childhood conditions – including asthma and eczema.

An English publication on Chinese medicine for children is A Handbook of TCM Paediatrics by Flaws (Flaws 1996). The book covers over 45 common paediatric complaints, giving differential diagnosis, disease mechanisms, herbal treatments, and acupuncture treatment where appropriate. The common paediatric diseases are presented in a chronological order that they usually appear during a child’s development. There are also special sections on paediatric diagnosis and treatment with Chinese herbs for young children.

Researches have shown that acupuncture is a safe complementary medicine modality for paediatric patients (Jindal et al 2008). A review of 31 different published journal articles, including 23 randomized controlled clinical trials and 8 meta-analysis/systematic reviews have shown that acupuncture is safe and can be effective for a number of paediatric conditions including seasonal allergic rhinitis, hyperactivity, nocturnal enuresis, musculoskeletal and cancer-related pain and postoperative and chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, although more research is needed in this area.

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References:

Loo M. (2003) “Paediatric Acupuncture”, Churchill Livingstone

Flaws B. (1996) “A Handbook of TCM Paediatrics”, Ed. Wolfe H.L., Blue Poppy Press

Vanita Jindal V., Ge A. and Patrick J. Mansky P. (2008) “Safety and Efficacy of Acupuncture in Children A Review of the Evidence”, J Pediatr Hematol Oncol. 2008 Jun; 30(6): 431–442. doi:  10.1097/MPH.0b013e318165b2cc