By Aimee Heckel Camera Staff Writer
Licensed acupuncturist Monica Edlauer performs acupuncture on Wyley Rose Jarvis, 5, at Boulder Family Acupuncture on Valmont Road in Boulder. ( Jeremy Papasso )
When 2-year-old Eevee came down with the croup, her mom didn’t take her to the family doctor for steroids.
Instead, her mom waited until she was asleep, sneaked into her room and briefly stuck tiny needles into specific points on Eevee’s neck.
When Eevee woke up the next morning, the barking cough and all symptoms of the respiratory illness were gone, says her mom, Monica Edlauer.
Edlauer runs Boulder Family Acupuncture, a clinic that provides acupuncture and herbal medicine for the whole family — including children. In fact, Edlauer’s specialty is prenatal and pediatric acupuncture.
When Eevee, now age 4, visits the clinic, she runs into her mom’s office and sings, “Mommy, put needles in me!”
Edlauer says boys especially love the laser, which she uses to stimulate points for children older than 7 who aren’t quite so excited about needles.
The most recent data by the National Health Interview Survey found that 150,000 children across the country have used acupuncture to treat a variety of conditions — most commonly, a cold, stomach aches, headaches, ear infections, asthma, allergies, eczema, sleep problems — even teething and bed-wetting.
A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics determined that acupuncture is generally safe when performed by a trained professional — yielding fewer adverse effects than conventional pain treatments, in fact.
Although there are no statistics on how many local children have been treated with acupuncture, it’s nothing rare. You can find acupuncture for kids at Boulder Community Hospital or at Lafayette’s community clinic, Left Hand Community Acupuncture. The Longmont nonprofit Acupuncture for Veterans and Their Families offers free acupuncture for children of service men and women 5:30-7 p.m. Thursdays at the American Legion.
Boulder Family Acupuncture offers children’s wellness clinics during the full moon every month. The next is 3-7 p.m. Monday, March 25. The idea: Take your kids every month to rebalance and restore their energy and keep them well, as recommended by Japanese acupuncture.
Of course, the catch: Most insurance does not cover acupuncture, so a monthly visit at $40-$55 may not be realistic — although Boulder Family Acupuncture and some other area facilities offer sliding scales, and the wellness clinic is offered at a reduced rate. Still, acupuncture is not widely considered a mainstream medical treatment that Western society can explain — despite studies, such as a 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, that show it is at least partly effective for some conditions and not purely a placebo
Kids from birth to age 7 are welcome in the full moon clinics.
Edlauer treats women who are trying to get pregnant and also once they are pregnant. In fact, she says prenatal acupuncture can help your baby’s attitude after birth. Place a special needle on the “Happy Baby Point” and activating this spirit plane helps “release karmic baggage” and improve the mood once your baby is born, Edlauer says. It might be difficult to design a study to measure that; however, a Stanford study in the March 2010 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that regular acupuncture can lessen maternal depression during pregnancy.
Acupuncture — without needles?
If the idea of sticking a needle in your toddler sounds impractical, you’re not alone; most local practitioners don’t use needles on young children, depending on the kid, says Caroline Adams, with Left Hand Community Acupuncture.
“Especially with kids, after vaccinations, if you say I’m going to put this needle in your body, they don’t like that,” Adams says.
Instead, they practice a variety of different alternative treatments.
Edlauer uses a type of Chinese medical massage called tui na, which works with points on the meridian in a similar way that the needles do. She also uses herbal medicine, moxabustion (burning of herbs to bring white blood cells to the surface), cupping and shonishin. This treatment uses small rounded silver, gold or stainless steel tools to stroke, rub and tap on points and channels on the skin.
Daisy Lear, an acupuncturist in Longmont, also uses auriculotherapy, whereby you stimulate parts of the external ear that are believed to be connected with other parts of the body.
She uses a Japanese machine called a hibiki, which is supposed to test the “reactivity” of the points on the ear to indicate which parts of the body aren’t doing well.
Kids like the hibiki because it makes a funny buzzing noise and they get to hold one end of it and see the numbers pop up on the gauge.
Lear also teaches kids and their parents how to stimulate channels using a soft toothbrush, your finger or, for tiny babies, a Q-tip.
“It’s more fun. We can be silly treating kids,” Lear says.
She says she first got into pediatric acupuncture through her own kids, now age 4 and 10. Whenever Jacob, the oldest, got sick, his mom treated him with cupping, a Chinese method that creates a partial vacuum by sticking special cups onto the skin.
He is so familiar with the technique that he gave his mom a cupping session on her back a few weeks ago.
She says she used the hibiki, along with homeopathic medicine, to help her youngest son through teething.
Children’s sessions are also typically shorter: 45 minutes instead of 90 for the first session. A shonishin session typically lasts 15 to 20 minutes at Boulder Family Acupuncture.
Adams, with Left Hand, says children have a slightly different meridian system than adults do, too, and they tend to respond much quicker. If she does use needles with a child, she typically only uses a few and leaves them in for a second to just a few minutes.
“One misconception is that I’m using a whole lot of needles and turning their child into a porcupine,” Adams says. “Also, it is so much about diet and lifestyle, too.”