Healing Acupuncture

Does It Hurt?

A common assumption about acupuncture is that it hurts. You are, after all, getting stuck with needles. Fear of pain from acupuncture needles is one of the most common reasons people forgo acupuncture.  Often to the astonishment of those who take the plunge, acupuncture usually does not hurt. No pain, though, does not mean no sensation. There are instances where acupuncture needles are inserted without the recipient feeling a thing, this is especially common with styles of acupuncture that utilize extra thin needles. 


 However, most of the time acupuncture produces some kind of sensation at the site of needling. This moment, when a person literally feels an acupuncture point working, is known in acupuncture lingo as de qi. It is a good thing. The "Qi" has arrived! Another way of thinking about de qi is that the acupuncture needle has accessed the energetic material that it needs to produce movement throughout the body. When the point is activated, change is initiated. 


Acupuncture Can — but Should Not — Feel Sharp

 Everyone experiences de qi differently, but de qi is never sharp. When an acupuncture needle gets inserted, if you feel sharpness beyond the level of a mild mosquito bite, tell your acupuncturist. He or she may try needling the point again, or may simply remove the needle if the area has become sensitive. A feeling of sharpness from an acupuncture needle occasionally happens; it’s nothing to worry about. However, acupuncture should be a comfortable experience. Most acupuncturists want their patients to speak up about any discomfort during the treatment. If yours doesn’t, find a new acupuncturist. 

5 Common Acupuncture Sensations

Okay, so acupuncture feels like something and that something isn’t sharp. Then what does it feel like? Here are the five most common descriptions of how acupuncture feels:

 

Heavy
Having an acupuncture point needled can feel like a weight is being placed on the area. Sometimes this feeling of heaviness expands, spreading throughout the body part where the needle was placed. This heaviness is calming rather than oppressive. 


Achy
Along with heaviness, an achy sensation can occur at the needling site. It usually dissipates after a few seconds, but occasionally a point will ache or even throb slightly throughout the treatment. This is normal but it can be intense, especially on points that are located on the hands and feet. If it feels too strong, tell your acupuncturist so that he or she can adjust the stimulation. 


Electric
The needling of certain acupuncture points can feel almost like you’re being shocked or zapped. It’s usually a surprising, traveling jolt that quickly disappears. One of the most common acupuncture points for causing this sensation is Pericardium 6, since the median nerve runs directly beneath it. 


Tingly
A patient once told me that she feels like a Christmas tree when she gets acupuncture. Acupuncture points can cause tingling at the needling site as well as throughout the body. Sometimes this happens immediately upon needle insertion and other times, which is where the Christmas-tree analogy comes from, it happens while you’re resting with needles. Points intermittently tingle like twinkling lights. 


Warm
A spreading sensation of warmth sometimes engulfs the area around an acupuncture point. This typically occurs a minute or two after the needle is inserted. It is a pleasant feeling, like internal heating pads are being applied to various body parts. If acupuncture causes you to feel something other than these five sensations — or nothing at all— that’s okay, too. These are just the sensations that occur most often. 

What You Can Expect

 Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine: 

  •  The parts of your body that are painful 
  • The shape, coating and color of your tongue
  • The color of your face
  • The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse in your wrist

This initial evaluation and treatment may take up to 2-3 hours depending on your needs. Subsequent appointments usually take about an hour to an hour and a half.  A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve one or two treatments a week. The number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated and its severity. In general, it's common to receive six to eight treatments. 

During The Procedure

Acupuncture points are situated in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your acupuncture practitioner will tell you the general site of the planned treatment and whether you need to remove any clothing. A gown, towel or sheet will be provided. You lie on a padded table for the treatment, which involves:

  • Needle insertion. Acupuncture needles are inserted to various depths at strategic points on your body. The needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes little discomfort. People often don't feel them inserted at all. Between ten and 30 needles are used in a typical treatment. You may feel a mild aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth.
  • Needle manipulation. Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after placement or apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles.
  • Needle removal. In most cases, the needles remain in place for 20 to 40 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no discomfort when the needles are removed.

After The Procedure

Some people feel relaxed and others feel energized after an acupuncture treatment. But not everyone responds to acupuncture. If your symptoms don't begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be right for you.


Results

The benefits of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure, but many people find it helpful as a means to control a variety of painful conditions.


Several studies, however, indicate that some types of simulated acupuncture appear to work just as well as real acupuncture. There's also evidence that acupuncture works best in people who expect it to work. Acupuncture has few side effects, so it may be worth a try if you're having trouble controlling pain with more-conventional methods.

How Many Treatments Do I Need?

This will depend on what you are wanting to work on. It is important to know that one acupuncture treatment will not adequately address your issues. Chronic diseases that have set in the body for a extended period of time, will take time to be corrected. Even acute issues like a cold or flu may require 1-3 treatments to be successfully eliminated

Try to commit to 5-10 treatments before you make an opinion about its efficacy, although you should see results before that.