Because I have 9 kids, I was sure when I started a practice, my focus would be on children and pregnant women–since I’ve obviously had so much experience with each.
We can’t talk about treating kids with acupuncture without discussing the world-renowned, pediatric-acupuncture-specialist, Alex Tiberi.
Have you ever seen or heard of Alex?
I met him in my first semester at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego. He arrived on his motorcycle with a leather backpack, straggly curly hair, mega tattoos, and cowboy boots.
When I heard he was one of the founders of our school, and the most popular pediatric acupuncturist in the nation, I was shocked. He just didn’t look like a kid friendly kind of guy.
Once I met him, it didn’t take long for me to realize why kids love him. He’s real.
He talks about snot, diarrhea, vomit, and temper tantrums just like a kid would–facial expressions and all. Eventually, I learned he’s a genius when it comes to kids. Alex taught me that everyone should have his/her own style.
“Alex Tiberi practices and encourages his students and fellow practitioners to practice Oriental medicine as an Art, where culture, style, expertise and individual expression come through in treatment. He instills in his patients a confidence that they are in capable hands.”
I never wound up opening a full-on pediatric clinic, but I do treat a lot of kids (and pregnant women) in my family practice. It was my privilege and opportunity to study with the best-of-the-best.
Do you ever treat kids?
In this case study, we are going to talk about ADD/ADHD in terms of TCM pattern diagnosis combined with graph analysis. AcuGraph has been a great resource for pediatric acupuncture in my clinic.
I started out with my basic TCM knowledge. Now that I’ve been able to add graph analysis to my diagnostic skills, I have more insight to the needs of my patients.
Parents appreciate a modern approach to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Kids… Well, they just think I’m cool (because computers are cool)!
This blog will be a two-part series. First, we will discuss ADD/ADHD from a TCM Pattern identification approach.
.There are four main TCM patterns relating to ADD/ADHD.
Heat – MOST COMMON (according to Alex Tiberi)
Symptoms: HOT, red face, red lips. Anger, tantrums, biting, can’t sit still. Disturbed sleep, wakes up early.
Social: Argumentative, runs around shouting, screaming and disturbing others.
Pathomechanisms: Heat in the body rises up and affects the Heart, which houses the spirit. The Heart is easily affected by heat–leading to irritability and restlessness.
• Food: hot/spicy, flavorings, food colorings
• Lingering pathogens
• Lingering fever
• Womb heat (transferred through the placenta from Mom)
*If antibiotics are used to clear a fever, heat can be lodged in the system. Immunizations can also cause lingering heat pathogens.
Treatment principles: Clear heat from the Liver; calm the spirit.
Heat + Phlegm
Symptoms: Hot symptoms PLUS mania-type symptoms including aggressivity, and violence.
Social: Willfully destructive–tearing things apart, breaking toys; hitting, kicking, and cruelty to other children. Kids do things they know are wrong, but don’t care because their morals are blotted out.
Pathomechanisms: Heat combined with phlegm rise up to affect the Heart and disturb the spirit–leading to anger and willful acts of aggression. Phlegm causes the mind to be clouded, which can lead children to do things they know are wrong–without feeling moral consequences.
• Lingering pathogen from immunizations
• Food: dairy, refined sugar, wheat
• Accumulation disorder: Eating the same damp/heat creating foods over and over
Treatment principles: Clear heat, resolve phlegm.
Symptoms: High energy, poor appetite, bloating, gas, poor memory; anxious, restless, fidgety, can’t sit still. Instead of having heat boiling up inside like the above two patterns, this patient is pale or gray in the face with possible feelings of cold.
Social: Needs attention and acts out when attention is not received; manipulation, hatred.
Pathomechanisms: When the child isn’t getting the energy from the Spleen through good nourishment, he/she reaches out to those around them (typically the parents). If qi is withheld for some reason, the child gets angry, probably because he/she is frightened from loss of energy. The qi becomes deficient and the blood does not circulate properly, withholding nourishment from the Heart. The child then becomes anxious, restless, fidgety, and can’t sit still.
Spleen Deficiency Pathogenesis:
• Lengthy childbirth
• Anesthetics in childbirth
• Long-term food accumulation disorder
• Drinking too much fruit juice
• Not having boundaries
*These children seem to be good at manipulating parents. They manage to get their way in most things. They draw on their parents’ energy, which in turn becomes more and more exhausted–thus parents are not able to stand up to the child.
Treatment principles: Tonify the Spleen
Symptoms: Frail and weak, tends towards hyperactivity when they are tired or excited. Don’t like to go to bed even though they are tired. Even though they are hyper, they don’t generally become violent. During the day they might be weak and lethargic.
Social: Easily startled, slow development.
Pathomechanisms: The Kidney energy is weak–thus can’t hold the energy down, and it rises up to the Heart and mind resulting in hyperactive behavior. Symptoms are worse when the child is tired.
Kidney Deficiency Pathogenesis:
• Constitutional Kidney weakness–weakness from the parents, genetic disorders, severe illness during pregnancy
• Long-term illness
• Severe illness
Treatment principles: Tonify kidney yin, regulate the nervous system, bring energy up.
You’ll notice each of the TCM patterns listed above affect the Heart and mind. We can’t talk about a modern-day diagnosis without considering the effect of modern lifestyle choices. I found this quote in a pediatric TCM textbook:
“Hyperactivity is almost unknown in China, whereas it is now well-recognized in the West as a major problem.”
Isn’t that sad? The lifestyle we have created in the West is obviously hurting our children.
Here’s a list of common Western lifestyle choices leading to hyperactivity and Attention Deficit Disorder.
• Spicy Foods • Greasy Foods
• Antibiotics • Immunization
• No Parental Boundaries • No Exercise
• Over-stimulation • TV, Computers, and Digital Devices
• Disruptive Home Life
Too many children are stuck in cyclical lifestyle that promotes ADD/ADHD. What help are these kids getting from their Western medical doctors? Drugs. That’s it. We, as responsible, well-educated, medical providers, need to educate our communities regarding the benefits of a Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to ADD/ADHD–involving not only acupuncture and herbology, but lifestyle changes.
Alex Tiberi taught me that kids don’t really want to misbehave.
“They do not want to be like this; they are often desperate to stop their behavior and are miserable because of it. With your treatment, you can actually ‘bring them back’ to their parents and family. They turn from aggressive, difficult children into happy, lively, and contented kids who are a joy to be with. “
It doesn’t take much to make an energetic shift in a kid’s body–yet the changes that occur are literally life changing for these kids.
In my next blog, I’ll show you a graph report from a child with ADD, and we’ll discuss how meridian imbalances were affecting his ADD and other symptoms in his body.
Talk to you soon!
Kimberly Thompson, L.Ac.
Acupuncture Research Analyst
Miridia Technology Inc.
6 Replies to “ADD/ADHD Case Study–Part 1”
Great article. I just got a 9 year piled child with ADHD and multiple psychological problems. Mother was meth addict. His adopted parents are tired of the drugs not working.
Have you had any meth babies, any ideas how to help this family?
Thank you Kimberly…really interesting! I treat quite a few children and am always impressed with how well they respond to acupuncture…looking forward to part 2! 🙂
Thanks for the useful information about ADHD acupuncture treatment. Mental issues are my primary interest of treatment and I need more sourse of information, knowledge, and skills. Please keep me posted regarding the TCM treat aspect of the issue.
Thank you again
Thank you Kimberly for a good introduction to TCM patterns in ADHD. I’m looking forward to part two.