An Acupuncturist's Re-Awakening - Japanese Acupuncture and Shonishin

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my relatives in Japan last summer, and during my visit, I was very lucky to study Japanese acupuncture from a master acupuncturist as well as pediatric acupuncture from an acupuncture organization.

I observed the amazing acupuncture and moxibustion skills and bed-side manners of Edward Obaidey, a British acupuncturist who's charm and humor belies the deep understanding, knowledge, and skills he has of this ancient medicine.  He studied and graduated from a Oriental Medicine college in Tokyo and has been successfully, and busily, treating patients for well over 20 years in Tokyo.  I can only begin to imagine the dedication and commitment he's had to this medicine, having to learn this medicine not in his native language, but in Japanese, and not only that, in ancient Japanese, as classic Oriental Medical texts were all written in old Japanese (it's like trying to study medicine reading Shakesperean English!).  He is a master and teacher in his own right, but he is also the dedicated apprentice and translator of one of the grandmasters of Japanese Acupuncture, Ikeda Masakazu sensei.  

Eddie sensei jokingly scolding me about something

Eddie sensei jokingly scolding me about something

Eddie Sensei's office happen to coincidentally be just a few stations away from my relative's house, so I observed him and was able to participate in some of the intakes while I visited him for 3 days.   The first thing I noticed as I climbed the 2 flights of stairs to his office was the strong smell of burning herb smoke.  Though Americans confuse this smell to marijuana smoke smell, it's actually the smell of moxa, or the burning of dried herbs called Mugwort/Aiye.  Moxa, or moxibustion as it's also known, is an ancient Oriental Medicine treatment protocol and has the ability to warm the channels, strengthen the blood and improve the flow of qi in the body.  It also helps to stop bleeding, banish cold from the body,  and is an excellent treatment in itself or with herbs and acupuncture to treat colds/flu, digestive disorders, back pain,  muscle tension,  headaches, anxiety, inflammation, carpal tunnel syndrome, female health problems, and much, much more.

Eddie Sensei extensively uses moxa in his office - pretty much on every patient.  It is here where I really saw and experienced the power of moxa.  I had the opportunity to be treated by him, and wow, what a paradigm shifting experience!  A true master indeed.  With the combination of his amazing acupuncture skills and the use of moxa by his assistants, I felt literally years of blockages melt away!  Though I had learned about moxa in my Chinese Medicine training, what was taught at school was very minimal, and nothing to the extent of how Eddie sensei uses it.   Thanks to Eddie sensei, I have now become a true believer in the power of moxa, and I now teach all my patients to use this at home (I unfortunately can't use moxa in my office as the building does not allow the use of moxa).  I use moxa on a very regular basis on myself at home, too, and I notice how my stamina and immune system has gone up and keeps me in check while the rest of the world is catching colds left and right.

I had also dabbled in some Japanese acupuncture knowledge while I was still an acupuncture student, but observing Eddie sensei resolved me to dedicate my time now to learning the art of acupuncture Japanese style.   Let me give you a quick summary of acupuncture.  There are three main types of acupuncture practiced in the United States: Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, and probably in that order in terms of familiarity and usage.  Acupuncture started in China, but as Chinese philosophy and culture spread to East Asia, Koreans and Japanese appropriated the medicine to their cultural beliefs and style.  Though simplistic in explanation, it is generally acknowledged that Chinese and Korean acupuncture tends to use a more aggressive style of needling, often requiring the use of manipulating the sensation of qi in the body after the insertion of needles, using thicker needles and more number of needles.  Japanese acupuncture, on the other hand, uses much thinner needles, very little to no insertion of needles into the skin, and much less number of needles used.  Japanese acupuncture also uses an extensive amount of palpation (using ones hands to examine the body for the use of disease diagnosis and treatment), which allows the practitioner to get immense amount of data about the patient's health and musculo-neuro-skeletal condition.  Though my acupuncture style was becoming more and more gentle as time had progressed, I am now embarking on a whole new style of acupuncture, which often doesn't even require the insertion of needle into the skin but just the touch of the needle to the skin, as well as using even thinner needles and other manipulation of the needle and palpatory skills.  I do a lot more palpation, asking, feeling, and staying with the body (while you rest or even fall asleep!) even after the needles are in to make sure I am seeing changes happening in the body the way it's suppose to via the pulse and skin tone.

Shonishin tools.  photo image:

Shonishin tools.  photo image:

Along with meeting Eddie Sensei, I was also extremely lucky, that on my very last day in Tokyo, I was able to attend a pediatric workshop organized by a group of Japanese acupuncturists.  This group's mission is to spread the knowledge of Oriental Medicine in Japan, and in order to do so, they modernized the ancient pediatric acupuncture technique called shonishin (literally means pediatric needle: shoni=pediatric, shin=needle).  Shonishin is practiced by acupuncturists who specialize in pediatric care, and in order to treat children, the Japanese in 17th century came up with specialized tools that scrape, rub, tap, and treat the body using blunt tools.  

The organization I took the workshop from wants to make shonishin and its health benefits accessible to all, so they took the concepts of shonishin and some of its tools and modernized it, using tools easily found in all homes: teaspoon, hairdryer, and toothbrush.  They call their shonishin style "SkinTouch", emphasizing  the importance of skin to skin contact and touching of the child's skin by the parent for developmental purposes.  The workshop was very fun and easy to learn, and I now use this as a basis in all of my pediatric patients, teaching parents basic shonishin massage so that they can do it at home on a daily basis.  The effects of shonishin massage is remarkably effective.  Just with shonishin, glycerin-based herbal medicine and a change in the child's diet, and symptoms the baby or child was coming in for resolves rather quickly or is significantly reduced.  Not only that, the child actually starts to get healthy, and their constitution actually improves with continuous shonishin treatments.  I have had great success in particular with children/babies suffering from asthma, rhinitis, digestive ailments, hyperactivity/hypersensitivity just using these protocols.  I am excited I have yet another needle-free tool in my repertoire to treat children!


One of the two acupuncturists teaching us about SkinTouch

One of the two acupuncturists teaching us about SkinTouch

A parent trying the hairdryer technique (In lieu of moxa) while the acupuncturist teacher engages the baby

A parent trying the hairdryer technique (In lieu of moxa) while the acupuncturist teacher engages the baby

Practicing SkinTouch

Practicing SkinTouch

I am so grateful I continue to have the opportunities to meet wonderful masters now that I've become a healthcare practitioner, allowing me to deepen my knowledge, my skills, and effectiveness in treating patients who walk in the door.  I don't know if it's because I am part Japanese, but it seems I get drawn to the gentle style of Oriental Medicine via Japanese practitioners, starting with Dr. Mikio Sankey, and now Eddie Sensei, and most recently, just two weekends ago, with Ikeda Masakazu Sensei at his seminar in San Francisco.  Wow, wow, wow.  I feel so energized once again because through this seminar, I feel I can provide even more for my patients and be even more effective with my treatments.  And I am already seeing it two weeks since the seminar with the results I am seeing with my patients.  I am humbled and grateful I can continue to improve myself to be of service to my patients.

Ikeda Sensei (L) teaching, and Eddie Sensei (R) translating

Ikeda Sensei (L) teaching, and Eddie Sensei (R) translating

Ikeda Sensei treating a pediatric patient.  We happen to get two pediatric patients during our seminar.  What a treat!   

Ikeda Sensei treating a pediatric patient.  We happen to get two pediatric patients during our seminar.  What a treat!


Success! Milestones parent-ed talk/fundraising event

My pediatric holistic health and wellness talk was a huge success at Milestones Preschool!  I was able to raise $$$ for the school as well as raise awareness of the power and effectiveness of Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) for pediatric health care needs.  

Parents loved the hands-on portion of my Iyashi Touch protocol (a type of pediatric TEAM massage I teach my families), and I could see their children were curious and eager to have some of these tried on them that night.  I had feedback from one parent the next day that her daughter made sure that she had her special toothbrush just for her :-)

Parents also asked a lot of great questions regarding my holistic nutrition talk.  I loved being able to see how engaged they got with the information, how their minds were turning, reassessing where they were in their dietary approach to their children.  It really thrills me when I see that lightbulb go off in people, and that's why I love teaching, both to the public as well as to my students at Yo San University.  Imagine, families starting to eat healthier and implementing massages on their kiddos, changing the future of our children's health, just from empowering educational talks.  I love that I can make a difference in this world, one child, one family at a time.  

I'm also excited to share that the director has asked me to come back to do more talks on pediatric healthcare and nutrition, so be on the look out for future classes!

Thank you everyone for who attended!

A picture of me teaching part of my Iyashi Touch last year.  I taught this on 1/29/14 at Milestones.

A picture of me teaching part of my Iyashi Touch last year.  I taught this on 1/29/14 at Milestones.

Pediatric Wellness first visit FAQs

To acquaint yourself with Pediatric Asian Medicine (PAM), please read my quick overview of how Asian Medicine can help your child.

Here are the most Frequently Asked Questions to prepare your child for his/her first visit to Iyashi Wellness.

What can I and my child expect for a pediatric visit at Iyashi Wellness?  Fun times and learning new ways to take care of your bodies!  Acupuncture and Asian Medicine help to heal the body, so everything I will do to your child and prescribe and teach the parents will be to help facilitate or jump start your child's innate healing ability.  

Will my child be nervous about coming to see an acupuncturist?  Most children (and adults) are weary of coming to a healthcare practitioner's office because of their experiences getting poked, prodded, palpated, drilled (at the dentist!) and the dreaded ouchy vaccine shots.  For children with chronic conditions, they may also experience not getting better as soon as they and their parents would like visiting conventional doctor's offices, so they may already be apprehensive.  So if this is your case, please be aware of your own apprehension as well as your child's apprehension.

So what can I as a parent do to ease my child's possible apprehension for their first visit?  Be relaxed yourself.  Your child will read your energy and respond to that.  Please know that your child will not be administered acupuncture in their first visit in most cases.  If the child is old enough to be aware (as opposed to babies who still have no fear), I will gain your child's trust first, and only if I feel they are ready and will benefit from acupuncture, will I give them an acupuncture treatment.  To acquaint them to acupuncture, I will casually show them what acupuncture needles are like and even demonstrate on myself or you of the virtually painless experience of acupuncture.  This will start getting your child used to the visual and idea of acupuncture and that it is something very special done only at my office.  Please do not mention the words "needles," "poke," "pokey," or "pins" to your child for our visit, or ask them if they are afraid.  Instead, if you want to bring up the notion of acupuncture, tell them they'll get to learn about "taps."  I call acupuncture needles "taps" with children toddlers and older so that I can get rid of the fear factor and also because I literally "tap" the needles into a child.  If you want to bypass this part of the conversation all together, you can inform your child that s/he will be asked questions about their health, have their pulses felt on their wrists, and they can even stick their tongues out at me!  How fun is that?!  I will also show them different tools that they can use together with me that will make them feel better and teach them about eating well so that they'll get better soon.  

Should I bring toys and goodies, like to an airplane ride, for our visit?  Yes!  I will spend a considerable time going over your child's forms and current complaint that brought you two in for the initial visit.  Although I will have some toys to keep your child entertained, please bring something special for your child to keep him/her busy during this portion of the appointment.  This is especially the case for children under age 6.

For children who have been dealing with a chronic condition and are extra apprehensive to visit a doctor's office, please bring their lovey, stuffed animal or blanket to give them comfort.  You can even encourage them to play dress up and come in their favorite pretend-play outfit to help them feel more confident - and fun - about visiting my office. 

Do I need to fill out forms? Yes.  Forms will be sent to you in a link once you make your appointment, and can be filled out online . Fill them out ahead of your visit.  Please give yourself some quiet time to fill out the forms, as it will take about 20 minutes to fill out the forms.

If you're not doing acupuncture on my child, what will my child get as a treatment?  As I wrote in Overview of Pediatric Asian Medicine, PAM is ancient, so several non-invasive methods were developed over time to facilitate healing in a child.  In my goody bag of treatment options, we have multiple non-invasive methods available:

  • Shonishin

  • Therapeutic massage: I will teach you specific pediatric massages that you can do at home to incorporate as part of your child's wellness routine. As you incorporate this in your daily routine, you will be surprised how your child will begin asking for the massages, and overall start to get more calm and healthier. Because kids know it's good for them. Really.

  • Acupressure: I will teach you and your child specific acupressure points to press at home to help with the healing process.

  • Pellets: a therapeutic application of small pellets to provide continuous acupressure to points, often in addition to acupuncture, or in lieu of it. It is similar to self-massaging an acupuncture point, but it will be a more targeted approach as the pellet will have a stronger stimulatory effect.

  • Guasha: this therapeutic treatment involves repeated pressure strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth edge, like a ceramic Chinese soup spoon or honed animal bones or well-worn coin to promote blood and energy circulation. This practice of stroking and scraping is seen in other traditional cultures of the world as well.

  • Cupping: also used in other traditional cultures, a therapeutic approach that utilizes round suction cups over a large muscular area such as the back to enhance blood circulation to the designated area.

  • Dietary prescriptions: I will provide you with Food as Medicine recipes and dietary suggestions to help with your child's condition. In most cases, changing a child's diet has a huge impact in the well being of your child.

  • Herbal prescriptions: known as tinctures, I have natural herbal prescriptions in liquid form just for pediatric use. Once they get used to the different flavor of herbs, kids will ask to take it because they know they get better when they take it. Completely, safe, these tinctures are American-made by companies with stringent safety and quality controls and can be taken concurrent with pharmaceutical prescription drugs.

  • Micro-current stimulation: this is a hand held device that emits micro current to an acupuncture point. The micro current stimulates the point and facilitates healing. It is similar to acupressure or the use of pellets/magnet, but this is one step stronger in the stimulatory effect because of the use of a micro current.

  • and lastly, acupuncture: as I wrote above, acupuncture needles will be one of my last resorts with pediatric patients toddlers and older. Babies have no concept of fear and that needles may hurt so when and if I use needles on babies, it is a very smooth experience. Also, the needles I use for pediatric patients are even thinner than the needles used for adults (which are already extra thin to begin with). Unlike with adults where the needles are left in the patient for 20-30 minutes while they rest in the treatment room, with pediatric patients, I will do a quick in and out with the needle for younger children/babies. For older children, I can leave them for 5-10 minutes depending on the child's comfort and stillness level. Acupuncture is very beneficial because it uses the body's own healing response mechanism, unlike micro current or pellets/magnets, which requires an outside source to trigger the healing response. Because it penetrates the skin, it has the strongest stimulatory effect and healing will be faster than the above methods listed.

How long are pediatric wellness visit?  The first visit will last approximately an hour.   Follow up visits will be approximately 15-30 minutes long.

What happens after a treatment?  Depending on the complexity of your child's case and his/her sensitivity, you may see your child more energized after the treatment, sleep very well through the night, have a more stable emotional equilibrium, reduction of inflammatory conditions, more regular bowel movements, improvement in appetite -- or experience a healing crisis where your child may experience, say the eczema they're battling with, flare up and then significantly subside, or their cold symptom get worse, but see significant improvements the following day.  This is called a healing crisis.

How often should we come and see you?  Please consider coming for a minimum of 3 months initially for chronic conditions.  At that point, we will reevaluate the progress of your child's condition and referrals may be provided if other adjunct care will improve your child's condition.  For acute conditions, your child may only need one or couple visits.  For wellness visits, I recommend parents bring their children in the beginning of cold/flu season, when they start school after holiday breaks, and if they are going through environmental changes or emotional upheavals at home.  Holistic pediatric care will help your child transition through the seasonal, environmental, and emotional changes that occur in a child's life.




Overview of Pediatric Asian Medicine (PAM)

Hi Moms and Dads, 

Did you know Pediatric Asian Medicine (PAM), is an excellent adjunct for conventional pediatric care?  Asian Medicine is a complete medical system - which also includes pediatrics - in continuous practice for over 2000 years.  Compared to conventional pediatric medicine, which is only about 150 years old in the way it is practiced today, Chinese Medicine was already talking about unique characteristics of children physiology as early as 400 BC.  There were already significant numbers of pediatric texts by the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) in China.

The practice of pediatrics continues very actively today, with hospitals in China that specialize in Chinese medicine pediatric care, hospitals that combine both conventional and traditional medicine, and private Chinese medicine doctors practicing Chinese pediatric medicine.   In Japan (as in my clinic), there are specialized pediatric acupuncturists that practice only shonishin, a non-needling acupuncture system, in clinics and in their private home offices.

There is a growing number of pioneering acupuncturists here in the States that are getting into pediatrics, including myself, because we know it is a much needed area that can address many aspects of pediatric care that cannot be addressed in conventional medicine.  It is our focus to promote the principles of wellness, health and resolution of illness.  Our strength is in viewing the body as a whole, disease prevention, recovery of health after an illness, and addressing conditions that are chronic and/or subclinical.  This means conditions like colds and flu, eczema, asthma, "picky eating," slow development, tantrums and emotional instability, food sensitivities, lack of concentration, and so forth.  Where western medicine would prescribe antibiotics, psychiatric drugs or steroidal creams – or worse yet, say “nothing can be done”, we Physicians of Asian Medicine prescribe Food as Medicine and dietary modifications, exercises, herbal prescriptions, heat therapy, pediatric massage and acupressure/acupuncture for illness resolution and disease prevention. 

Want to try PAM for your child?  Contact me!  Let's see how I can help you. 


For those who are ready to bring your child in for a holistic pediatric wellness visit at Iyashi Wellness, I have some Pediatric Frequently Asked Questions that will help to facilitate a smooth and stress-free first visit for you and your child.  


More on Pediatric Wellness Care: 

My 8-Part series on Healthy, Happy Eating that the Whole Family Can Enjoy starts here: