Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Teenage Years

Uncategorized Nov 26, 2018

Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Teenage Years Online Course in 2019 with Rebecca Avern

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The teenage years can be a challenging time for both the teenagers themselves, their friends and families. The stereotypical image of a teenager often involves loud music,  a mobile device, acne, greasy hair, and, of course, mood swings. And when you consider everything that teenagers are going through, it is really no wonder that their bodies and minds can get a little out of balance!

As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, you can help.

Puberty and Adolescence: Eastern and Western Views

Puberty involves a complex series of physical and emotional changes carried out under the control of the endocrine system. This triggers the growth of pubic and axillary hair in both sexes, enlargement of the genitals and production of semen in boys, and breast growth and menarche in girls. This is an important change, but the same hormones that are responsible can also cause side effects such as pimples and seborrhoea of the scalp. They can also let loose an emotional rollercoaster which may become all the more bumpy due to issues at home or at school.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), puberty is viewed in a similar way. Children begin developing into adults governed by their seven or eight year cycles of jing (essence). In boys this triggers the production of semen, and in girls it causes the ren mai and chong mai to fill, allowing menstruation to begin. All of these changes require a lot of yang energy, but this may be poorly controlled leading to moodiness, tantrums, or impulsive behavior. Another key feature of puberty in TCM is that during this time, a teenager’s qi is very open, which could leave them more vulnerable to external disease.

Some of the most common issues experienced by teenagers include:

  • Headaches
  • Acute or chronic pain
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Allergies, asthma, and eczema
  • Acne
  • Digestive issues
  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders

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The Key Causes of Disease in 21st Century Teenagers

It is widely believed that teenagers today are under far more pressure than those of previous generations. Not only do they have the stress of taking some of the most important exams of their lives, but they are also increasingly involved in extracurricular activities such as sports which while generally beneficial, have the potential to increase stress levels outside the classroom too!

Another modern phenomenon which could add to the stresses of teenage life is social media. When you are a teenager, you want to fit in, and social media can reinforce this need further. The anxiety of being talked about, not being talked about, or feeling excluded can be extremely powerful, and cyber bullying is a very real problem in this digital age. Staying up late and looking at electronic screens can also interfere with normal circadian rhythms leading to insomnia, when what the teenage body really needs is rest.

Although 21st century teenagers have a lot to deal with, mental health issues in younger people are by no means a new thing. Teenage anxiety and depression have always been common, and low self-esteem can lead to self-harm or eating disorders, problems which are likely worsened by constant exposure to unrealistic body images in the media.

Another big problem for modern teenagers is living in a world where we are constantly exposed to environmental toxins. Food is often laced with antibiotics and hormones, and research suggests that girls are now going through puberty at younger ages than ever, possibly as a result of this.

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The Practicalities of Working with Teenagers

Working with teenagers is extremely rewarding as they generally respond very well to treatment. Imagine yourself as a teenager. How much could you have benefited from the calming, balancing effects of acupuncture?

The sad fact is that teenagers have to go through a lot, and experiencing drastic physical changes while trying to find their place in the world can be too much for some.  However, as an acupuncturist, you are in a fantastic position to help. Not only can you use acupuncture to calm symptoms, but you will also have a unique opportunity to impart dietary and lifestyle advice, giving your teenage patients a healthier start to their adult lives.

Being able to address physical and emotional issues simultaneously is a fantastic advantage that we have over conventional medicine for this age group, and we should put it to good use!


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