At CHOC, we have a licensed professional acupuncturist who has special training in pediatrics. Acupuncture involves the gentle insertion and stimulation of sterile, single-use disposable needles which are thinner than any used in Western medicine. They are routinely referred to as “cat whiskers” and are well tolerated by children of all ages. These are painlessly inserted at strategic points on the body that are thought to have certain electrical properties, which affect chemical neurotransmitters in the body. Many of our patients seek acupuncture treatment for relief of pain, nausea, fatigue, stress, anxiety and other conditions.

Acupuncture is offered among our integrative health services. It is important to discuss acupuncture with your child’s doctor to determine if the treatment is right for them.

young girl, acupuncture needles

How does acupuncture work?

According to theories of traditional Chinese medicine, the human body has more than 2,000 acupuncture points connected via pathways or meridians. These pathways create an energy flow (Qi, pronounced “chee”) through the body that is responsible for overall health. Disruption of the energy flow can cause problems in the body. Acupuncture may correct these imbalances when applied at acupuncture points and improve the flow of Qi. Acupuncture theories today are based on extensive laboratory research and have become widely known and accepted. In addition, controlled studies have shown evidence of the effectiveness of acupuncture for certain conditions.

In general, acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system, which, in turn, releases chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals either alter the experience of pain or release other chemicals that influence the body’s self-regulating systems. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

How to Do Acupressure on Your Own

Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but can be done without the use of needles. You can perform acupressure on your own body whenever you need help with feelings of pain, nausea, stress and anxiety.

Acupuncture and acupressure are part of the art of the traditional Chinese medicine system that has been used for more than 5000 years. In Chinese medicine the body is viewed as having channels or pathways where energy travels. When there are problems in the body, these channels don’t function well and the energy gets stuck like a traffic jam. This is when symptoms like pain or nausea occur. Applying pressure to specific points on the body will open the channels and help your energy flow smoothly. This can help pain, nausea and anxiety go away. For example, if you feel nauseous, there is a very powerful point on your wrist that can make you feel better just by pushing on it.
Just yourself, although, you might want to ask someone else (like your mom or dad) to help. Acupressure points can be turned on by applying pressure to them with a finger.
  • As often as possible—the great thing about this is that you can’t do it too much.
  • Do it before symptoms start, during the symptoms and after you feel better.
  • Begin before any procedure or receiving medical treatment (i.e., chemo).
  • Use it to prevent stress, anxiety, nausea or pain—any time you want to feel more relaxed.
1. Breathing and pressure are important parts of opening the energy channels.

  • Pick the appropriate pressure point and take three deep breaths before you start.
  • If someone is applying the pressure for you, take the deep breaths together.
  • Close your eyes and imagine something that flows smoothly like water.
  • Apply pressure with a gentle circular motion for about one minute.
  • Take three more deep breaths and repeat.
2. Specific pressure points on the body are activated to help with different types of symptoms.

Ears: You can treat pain in your tummy by rubbing your ears. Remember, start with your three big breaths! Bring your thumb and finger together at the top of your ear. Gently rub, massaging in a downward motion to your earlobe. If you find a spot that feels really good, keep rubbing it. This is your body telling you where it wants some attention.

Tips of the finger and toes: The most powerful points to activate the flow of energy are located in the tips of your fingers and toes. Did you know that when people bite their nails they are moving stuck energy by activating these points? Start with your three big breaths. Gently rub the tips of all five fingers and all five toes. If one of these points feels really good, stick with it. Your body is telling you “That’s the spot.”

For pain: A main point for pain control is located in the webbing between the thumb and index finger. Bring your thumb and finger together and notice the top of the area that protrudes. Start with your three big breaths. Pinch the webbing between your thumb and index finger together with a gentle but firm pressure for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat as needed. This point is very helpful for headaches.

For nausea: The main point for nausea is located on the underside of your forearm. To find it, measure two finger widths down from the middle of your wrist crease. The point is located between the two tendons in the middle of your forearm. (Tendons are the bands you can see when you wiggle your wrist.) It is important to use your child’s fingers when measuring to find the point.

For anxiety: One point for anxiety is between your eyebrows. To activate this point, close your eyes, place your palms together, bring your hands up toward your face. Press on the point with the tips of your middle and index fingers. Take slow deep breaths and hold this pose for a minute. You will feel calm and relaxed.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, acupuncture regulates the flow of vital energy through the body. It is believed that each acupressure point is connected through your nervous system to a place in your brain that is in charge of a specific symptom (like headaches or nausea). Pressing on these spots helps the body to make feel-good chemicals (endorphins) to ease the not-so-good feelings.

Applying pressure to these points also relaxes muscles and allows better blood flow, which helps oxygen and nutrients move through your body and helps your immune system work better too. Research to test scientific theories about how acupuncture might work to relieve pain is under way.
Remember to keep practicing this regularly, even when you are feeling healthy, so that you’re comfortable with it. Practicing and being comfortable with acupressure will also help it to work better when you need it, like when you are in pain.