I have been receiving acupuncture treatments for chronic and acute health conditions for about four years now. I thought about trying acupuncture for a long time before I became desperate enough to see an acupuncturist. At the time I was on a medical leave of absence from work because of irritable bowel syndrome. I was suffering and not responding to any prescriptions. All I could do was helplessly wait months for the doctor to do more tests that came back with normal results. I made a full recovery because of acupuncture treatments. I was pleased to find that acupuncture really was painless. My health began to improve after my first acupuncture treatment. When doctors were not able to help me, I received amazing results from acupuncture. Acupuncture is painless and effective. I have always received exceptional care from acupuncturists. They really do want to help you get well and have a painless acupuncture experience.
Acupuncture is only one part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese herbal medicine, a form of bodywork called Tuina, and an exercise form called Qi Gong are also parts of Traditional Chinese medicine. These treatments have been used in China and Asia for thousands of years, and are much older than what we know as medicine in the West. Today, in China, there are Traditional Chinese medicine hospitals, and hospitals where patients can receive both Chinese and Western medical treatments. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine do not deserve the “alternative medicine” label. In Asia, this is mainstream medicine.
When I bring up the topic of acupuncture the first response I receive has to do with the needles and fear. Nobody likes to get poked and stuck! The needles used in acupuncture are unlike any other type of needle. They are nothing like needles used in Western medicine to draw blood or used for injections. Acupuncture needles are much smaller, finer, thinner, and painless. They do not draw blood or inject anything into the body. They will not leave marks or scars. They do not produce the same traumatizing sensations as blood draws, IVs or injections. They are more like thin wires, and they are inserted only in the top layers of the skin. They do not penetrate deep enough to reach veins, muscles, bones or any other internal structure. Needles are used only once, and are handled with the same care as in any other medical setting. If you feel afraid at your first treatment, talk with an acupuncturist about your fear. When you are able to relax and receive treatment you will find that acupuncture is painless.
During your first acupuncture treatment you will go through a long and thorough medical history. You will be asked to describe your symptoms in detail, including mental or emotional symptoms. You may be asked to describe your urine, menstrual blood or stool. It may be embarrassing, but it will help the acupuncturist determine your diagnosis. He or she will take your pulse in both wrists, pressing on different parts of your wrist using three fingers. He or she will also want to look at your tongue. These are all ways for the acupuncturist to diagnose your condition. I find this is much less invasive and totally painless when compared to most Western medical tests. I spend more time talking about my symptoms, sensations and feelings with the acupuncturist than I have ever spent with any other doctor.
The acupuncturist should explain your diagnosis. It is very different from Western medicine. He or she may refer to chi, meridians, yin, yang, dampness, heat and organ systems. Anatomy and disease in Chinese medicine does not always correspond to anatomy and disease in Western medicine. When I received acupuncture for stomach problems, needles were put along the stomach meridian in my legs and feet. When I received acupuncture for migraine, the needles were put in my arms and head along my gallbladder meridian. It may not make sense to someone only familiar with Western medicine, but I have found these treatments to be very effective. If your diagnosis is confusing, ask your acupuncturist to explain further.
Now is the time for the actual acupuncture treatment. You will lie on a massage table. You may be asked to roll up your pant legs to the knees or roll up your shirt sleeves. You might need to pull your shirt up a bit to expose your stomach or back. In some cases it might be necessary to wear a hospital gown so that the acupuncturist can insert needles on other parts of your torso. The actual insertion will be quick and painless. The acupuncturist will put the needle on your skin, and tap once with his or her finger to insert. You might feel nothing, or you might feel a strange sensation. If you feel pain, remain calm and tell your acupuncturist. Acupuncture should be painless, so report any discomfort immediately. The sensation that I receive is a sort of painless heaviness. It feels more like a large pebble is sitting on my body at that spot. Next, the acupuncturist will spin the needles. This is simply a painless rotation of the individual needles, spinning them between his or her fingers. This may create a new sensation in your body, or you may feel nothing at all. This is a painless way to activate the chi energy at the acupuncture points.
After the all the needles are inserted you will lie there for at least 10 or 15 minutes. This allows the acupuncture to work. You will be left alone in the room to relax. The placement of the needles will most likely make it difficult to move. You can think, meditate or nap. If you anticipate getting cold, make sure to ask for a blanket or heat lamp. When the acupuncturist returns, he or she will remove the needles. Take your time getting up from the table. You may feel dizzy, sleepy or just very relaxed. Move at your own pace and take as much time as you feel is necessary to recover.
Your acupuncturist will most likely give you herbs to take home and use until your next appointment. He or she will give you instructions. If you have any questions about the herbs or dosage, don’t be afraid to ask. Now, you can go home, relax and be well.