The Neurophysiology of Shonishin Pediatric Acupuncture
Acupuncture for kids is a growing holistic modality in the United States. “Shonishin” is a gentle, non-invasive form of Japanese acupuncture for children. This type of acupuncture does not use needles like the ones commonly associated with adult acupuncture, but various tools that are used to gently activate acupuncture points and energy channels. The treatment consists of pressing, rubbing, tapping, or light scraping of the skin to provide a gentle stimulation.
It is so gentle, how could it work?
Recently the healing power of touch has has stirred up a curiosity into the realm of how the nervous and endocrine systems responds to touch. What are the physiological responses of the body to this type of therapy? How does modern research support this technique?
The Nervous System
The skin contains touch receptors from the most superficial to deep layers, of epidermis and dermis, respectively. These respond to nearly infinite levels of touch pressure. The nerve impulses from touch travel from the skin to the spinal cord and brain and are also interconnected with other parts of the body like the internal organs. Modern research has discovered that traditional acupuncture, where needles are inserted into the skin, muscle and deeper tissues, nerves are activated creating a systemic response from the body – increasing the tone of the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” state). In other words using Shonishin has a direct effect on the nervous system, an important component in how we act, think, and emote, as well as how are organs and other systems function.
The Endocrine System
The soothing, nurturing stroking of the skin with shonishin tools shows both physical and psychological shifts in children indicating a direct relationship with the endocrine system. Research has demonstrated that particular nerve endings in the skin called C-nerve fibers are activated by “delicate stroking” leading to release of the hormone oxytocin by the hypothalamus. Oxytocin is known as the love and bonding hormone and has a generalized, system effect via the amygdala which is “…responsible for emotional assessment of situations and social interactions.” In other words it allows for fine tuning of emotional states and seems to reduce anxiety and stress!! And we all know stress and anxiety play a huge role in systemic imbalance, pain, disease, and the quality of our immune system.
This information was gathered from Shonishin: Japanese Pediatric Acupuncture by Stephen Birch