Pediatric acupuncture first began as Pediatric Tuina in China (earliest literature is from the Sui and Tang dynasty, 581 to 907 C.E.) and Shonishin in Japan.
In China, pediatrics as a specialty is one of the oldest topics discovered in the Chinese medical literature. Sabine Wilms discusses that as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), there is mention of pediatric treatments in at least 19 volumes within the Imperial Library. Sun Simiao was a notable author in the early Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) who emphasized the treatment of children and women above any other medical issue. Qian Yi (1032-1113, Song Dyn.), who is credited as the “Sage of Pediatrics,” recognized that there are unique characteristics of children that distinguish them, not as small adults, but as having a distinct physiology and pathophysiology that require modified treatments. Refining and experimenting with both moxa and massage, the movement towards non-needling children was recognized as beneficial, resulting in the creation of new techniques.
The history of Japanese pediatric acupuncture and massage, called Shonishin (meaning: sho=little, ni=children, shin=needle) was first recorded in the 1650’s and was likely utilized much earlier than that. Children are very responsive to acupuncture and the various massage treatments that go along with it, which lends itself to great success. Shonishin massage involves gentle scraping and tapping with small instruments along the acupuncture channels of the limbs, abdomen and back. This tapping and scraping in certain ways, reinforces the healthy directional flow of qi in a child.
Both Shonishin and Pediatric Tuina utilize channels or meridians that flow within our bodies. These modalities help to balance these channels and encourage the energy, or, “Qi” to flow in the proper direction, build it up if it needs to grow, or disperse it, if it needs to move. Children’s body systems are immature, and are in the most yang phase of their life. Until a child reaches the age of 6 or 7, the channels are not completely formed. Utilizing this method of treatment helps to energetically “fill up” the channels up for proper growth and healthy development, as well as to encourage healing and resolution of problems. Occasionally, needles are used for pediatric acupuncture. Needle use is minimal and retention time (time the needles are in the body) is very short. The massage is done with hands as well as various tools that are tapped, rubbed, or pressed on the body surface as a very gentle, non invasive treatment approach.