The Hub of Paediatric Acupuncture (HOPA)

No-Needle Acupuncture Techniques

Paediatric acupuncturists recognise that some children will not tolerate the use of needles.  This is largely an issue of perception rather than reality as acupuncture needles are virtually painless.  However,  it is crucial that a child feels relaxed about coming for their treatment and therefore a paediatric acupuncturist will have many other ways of delivering the treatment the child needs.  These are outlined below.


Paediatric tui na is a wonderfully effective system of massage.  Whilst being a systematic, medical treatment, it developed out of a mother’s innate instinct to stroke, touch and caress her baby or young child.  Therefore, it is practical, intuitive and easy to deliver.  Babies and children usually love it. 

Paediatric tui na involves using a variety of different movements, ranging from stroking to tapping, on different parts of the child’s body.  The areas that are used are ones that are easily accessible on babies and young children. 

An acupuncturist is most likely to use paediatric tui na if your child is approximately seven or under.  However, there are times when it may be suitable for older children too.  Your child’s practitioner will put together a routine that is specific to the needs of your child and will often teach it to you so that you can perform it on your child at home too.  Paediatric tui na may be used on its own or combined with the other modalities described.


The Japanese term shonishin, meaning ‘children’s needle’ refers to a method of treating children that dates back to the 17th century.   Instead of needles, it uses various tools to stroke or tap areas on the child’s body. 

Shonishin is a light and non-invasive method of treatment which can bring about profound changes in a baby or child.  A paediatric acupuncturist may use it on its own or combine it with another treatment method.  It can be used in the treatment of a wide range of conditions, and on children of all ages, from babies to teenagers.


Moxibustion (commonly referred to as ‘moxa’) involves warming an acupuncture point with a herb (dried mugwort).  There are various different ways of applying this warmth.  Your child’s acupuncturist will choose one which is most appropriate for your child depending on their age and condition.  The most common way of applying moxa is to hold a cigar-like stick of lit mugwort close to an acupuncture point, but not touching the skin.  Most children love moxibustion and find it very relaxing.


Cupping is another technique which has been used in Chinese medicine for many centuries.  It can be effective in the treatment of both acute and chronic conditions, as well as sports injuries and pain.  Cupping involves placing either a glass or silicone cup on a part of the body with the use of suction.  Most children find being cupped fun.  Once they have experienced it once, they tend to ask for it every time!


A paediatric acupuncture may use tiny seeds, held in place by a small sticker, on a specific acupuncture point either on your child’s body or ear.  This very gently stimulates the acupuncture point. Once it is on, your child will usually forget it is there. It is a really useful form of treatment as it works away in the background while your child gets on with their life.


A laser pen applies a quantity of therapeutic light to the acupuncture point over which it is held.  The process is totally painless.  The effect of a laser pen is as close as it is possible to get to that of a needle without actually using a needle.

In a typical treatment, anywhere between two and eight acupuncture points may be treated with the laser pen.  The pen is held over each point for approximately twenty seconds.  An entire treatment may be done only with a laser pen, or a laser pen may be combined with other treatment modalities.


A paediatric acupuncturist will use a Class 3 laser.  This is entirely different from the type of laser that, for example, a surgeon would use (Class 4 laser). Class 3 laser is known as ‘cold’ or ‘low-level’ laser because it does not produce heat or have the ability to burn the skin.  After over fifty years of research, there has not been one reported side effect when using this type of laser therapy.  

Class 3 laser light must not be shone in the eye, and for this reason the acupuncturist will not use it on your child’s face.  They may ask your child to wear glasses for an added layer of safety.


Numerous studies have been done using Class 3 laser, as far back as the 1950’s.  Of particular interest, in 1991 a study was carried out which showed that laser light travelled under the skin from one acupuncture point to another, but did not travel to places that were not on acupuncture meridians. 

The research done so far has shown that low level laser therapy can benefit a wide range of conditions ranging from bedwetting to nausea and vomiting, from pain to hair loss.  More research is being done all the time which will gradually increase our knowledge of the power of low level laser therapy.


Another way that an acupuncture point can be stimulated is with a small device that emits a gentle micro-current.  This method is completely painless, gentle and yet powerful.  It involves holding a pen-like device over an acupuncture point for a few seconds.  It is often used to treat points on the ear. 


Treatment involves not only techniques that your child’s practitioner will use during the sessions but also suggestions they may make for what you and your child can do at home. Your child’s practitioner may discuss with you and your child (depending on their age) aspects of their lifestyle which may be perpetuating their symptoms.   They will help you sift through all the conflicting information you may have come across and pinpoint bits of it which are particularly pertinent to your child.


A paediatric acupuncturist may also ask you to perform some ‘home treatments’ on your child daily.  This usually involves certain Chinese medical massage techniques which will be chosen specifically for your child, based on their nature and their symptoms.  You will be given full and clear instructions of what to do and how to do it.  Home treatment has many benefits:

+ It means that your child’s symptoms improve more quickly.

+ Many parents appreciate the opportunity to participate actively in their child’s wellbeing.

+ Home treatments involve soft, caring touch. Just five minutes or so of this a day can enhance your relationship with your child.