Japanese Pediatric Acupuncture:
Questions and Answers

Japanese Pediatric Acupuncture

Japanese Pediatric Acupuncture, called Shonishin, is a type of acupuncture specifically designed for the treatment of children. It is based on theories from Chinese medical texts written over 2000 years ago and still considered the standard used by professional acupuncturistsi today. These techniques have been refined over the past century in Japan by a number of master practitioners, including Fukushima Kodo and Miki Shima, and brought to North America through the Japanese Acupuncture Society, and the International Toyo Hari Association. In the past 40 years, Shonishin has become an essential treatment modality for children in Japan.ii

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture works both as a healing protocol and as a preventative treatment modality. As a healing protocol, acupuncture stimulates the function of the immune system and helps your child's body to fight off infection and disease by stimulating the production of endorphins - chemicals the body produces to support the healing process. Acupuncture also affects the nervous system and causes a lowering of blood pressure and creates an overall feeling of wellbeing which is essential to health.

Acupuncture also works preventatively by treating "Lurking Pathogens"iii - the imprint of an illness which has come and gone. These Lurking Pathogens move deep into the body and can disrupt the auto-immune system later in life when the child is exposed to situations of trauma, stress or anxiety, and can cause long-term, chronic illness such as fibromyalgia, Lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, or other nonspecific autoimmune disorders.

Children respond very well to acupuncture. According to Chinese Medicine, children are very Yang - their energy is right on the surface and easy to access, which is why they tend to heal faster than adults. As well, children find Shonishin very relaxing and often look forward to their treatments.

What can Shonishin treat?

Acupuncture is a universal treatment protocol that can be used to treat many chronic and acute conditions commonly found in children: Earaches, headaches, fevers, allergies and asthma; digestive problems in newborns including colic, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; muloskeletal pain and trauma; nightmares and sleep problems, and bedwetting.

Because children respond so quickly to acupuncture, Shonishin, when begun immediately at the onset of symptoms, can be considered as an alternative to the overuse of antibiotics.

As well, the earlier you can begin treating a potentially life-long condition, the more likely it is that condition can be controlled so that it does not become a Lurking Pathogen, and lead to problems later in life. By treating asthma, ADD, ADHD, or allergies with a combination of acupuncture, diet, and lifestyle changes, your child has a greater chance of becoming a healthy adult.

Will acupuncture hurt my child?

Shonishin is a unique and painless approach to acupuncture that does not use insertive techniques. Special needles designed specifically for children are used. These needles are not inserted, but instead may be either held carefully over the acupuncture point, or brushed gently along the acupuncture pathways over the body using Pressing, Rolling, and Tapping techniques. Pediatric Acupuncture is a very gentle and relaxing experience for the child and for the parent.

Can I be in the room with my child?

Since Chinese Medicine considers human touch to be an essential part of the healing process, parents are encouraged to be present with their child during the treatment. Infants especially can be held in their parent's arms while the treatment proceeds.

Parents love Shonishin. Not only can they see almost immediate results for some conditions, but they can participate themselves in their child's healing process. Certain simple techniques can be taught which the parent can do with as simple a tool as a toothbrush - and kids often really enjoy having their parents treat them right before bedtime.

How long is a Shonishin treatment?

Because children respond so quickly, treatments often take a quarter of the time it would take to treat an adult - usually no more than 15-20 minutes.

When should I bring my child in for a treatment?

Children, like adults, should come for treatment at the onset of symptoms or soon after a Western diagnosis has been established. Often, though, parents will bring their child in for Shonishin when other treatments have been unsuccessful.

Preventatively, parents can bring their child for monthly "tune-up" treatments as they do in Japan - on or around the full moon. In Japan, it is traditional for children to have monthly preventative treatments on or around the full moon to keep their child's immune system healthy and to prevent Lurking Pathogens from leading to chronic problems later in life.

Thanks to Sensei Miki Shima and Sensei Koei Kuwahara for information, seminars and personal support.


Elyse Tera, BA., D.Ac., Dipl.Ac. is a professionally trained acupuncturist and shiatsu therapist who specializes in classical Japanese acupuncture. She is a member of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the United States.

i - A professional acupuncturist has had 3 or 4 years of full-time study from a licenced educational institution, either in Canada or abroad, and has a thorough grounding of acupuncture based on the theories and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

ii - The Pediatric Hospital of the Osaka College of Acupuncture in Japan has a staff of 10-15 pediatric acupuncturists who treat up to 1,000 children a day.

iii - The concept of Lurking Pathogens exists in Traditional Chinese Medical theory and is not recognized in Western biomedicine.

This original article was written by Elyse for publication for Tone Magazine, Ottawa, Ontario and published in their July-August 2002 issue.