Many people, especially those new to acupuncture, are concerned that the needles might be painful. Sometimes that fear is big enough to stop people from trying acupuncture, even if they’re convinced it might help them.
There are many different styles of acupuncture needling, as well as varying needle sizes and quality. My own needle technique is extremely gentle, more along the lines of Japanese style acupuncture. I use only very fine needles of the highest quality. Most of my patients feel no discomfort whatsoever on insertion, including those that come to me for the first time fully expecting the needling to hurt. However, what you may experience during acupuncture is what we call a “qi reaction”, which can be anything from a sensation of warmth, tingling or very slight aching at the site of the needle. These sensations pass very quickly, sometimes within seconds, and are not unpleasant. In fact, the vast majority of patients feel extremely relaxed during treatment and often fall asleep.
Western Herbal Medicine
My post graduate degree in Oriental Medicine (M.S.O.M.) from Southwest Acupuncture College (Santa Fe, N.M.) required four full time years of study, including extensive learning of both Chinese and Western herbal traditions. The teaching staff in my graduate program was represented not only by Chinese medicine practitioners (from China and the U.S.) but also Naturopathic Doctors and allopathic MD’s. It made sense to me, even back then, that a perfect marriage of east and west would be to incorporate the pharmacology of Western herbs (science) with the energetic tradition of acupuncture. During my 19 years of practice, I’ve observed that this combination works extremely well for patients. With Western herbs, I am assured of a clean, high quality product, most often pharmaceutical grade and tested for efficacy. In other words, the only herbs and supplements I dispense in my practice are those I completely trust for myself and my family.
The old adage, “You are what you eat” is proving very true. We now know, through contemporary studies and modern science that, indeed, a healthy diet is fundamental to both healing from disease and maintaining good health. Most of us do our very best to eat fresh, whole foods. But all of us are very different, with varying metabolic tendencies, genetic makeups, and energy needs, as well as individual imbalances. So there may be very specific foods we should be eating more or less of, depending on those factors. Whether it’s chronic inflammation, cancer risk, liver problems, heart disease, digestive issues, fatigue, insomnia, weight control, diabetes, hypothyroidism (& others), there is most often an optimal diet that can be individualized to assist the restoration of a patient’s health. In my own practice, drawing on many years of studying nutrition, I often recommend very specific foods to add or avoid, in addition to an overall diet, to support patients in their healing process. In this way, we are literally using food as medicine. And what could be more natural and fitting than that?
Chinese Massage (Tui Na)
Chinese massage, also called tui na, is based on the theoretical framework of traditional Chinese medicine and as such, evolved thousands of years ago. Stimulation is applied to specific acupuncture points via manual pressure (acupressure), or “brushing” techniques to stimulate entire meridians. I incorporate this massage technique in my practice, because it works well in conjunction with acupuncture, and also because my patients enjoy it! Most of the massage I do is on the feet, because there are many powerful acupuncture points there, which can be easily accessed with manual therapy. Typically, I apply this massage after the acupuncture session is over, which has the effect of both extending the benefits of the treatment, as well as being both relaxing and invigorating for the patient.