Often, before people ask me how acupuncture works, they ask me, “Does it hurt?”
The short answer is no.The needles I use are so much thinner than the thick, hollow hypodermic needles you remember from when you got shots at the hospital. I can fit 4 acupuncture needles in one of those!
So, the “needles” I use (called filliform needles), are more like threads. Who is afraid of threads?
Most of my patient do not feel the needles when they go in, or if they do, it’s not painful. And once the needles are in and left there (usually for about 20 minutes), most people report feelings of relaxation. Some get “blissed out” and have asked if I put any drugs on the needles. Of course, the answer is no. The drugs are coming from your own body!
I even treat children, who after their first treatment, realize that they are not painful. With kids, I don’t call them needles. I call them “noodles”, so they are not so scary.
There are many styles of acupuncture. When I learned acupuncture in the U.S., my teachers were all Chinese. Although they taught us standard acupuncture technique, using medium-gauge (32) needles and some strong stimulation techniques, we learned that most American patients did not like this type of acupuncture, so prevalent in mainland China, and so we learned to be more gentle.
I remember after starting my internship in one of the big hospitals in Beijing, patient would complain that I was too gentle. So, I learned to be more “Chinese”. I found that Chinese people like to get their money’s worth when they get acupuncture. They like to feel the needle going in and stimulating the nerve bundle associated with the acupuncture point.
In the U.S., we use tubes to insert the needles (called guide tubes), invented by the Japanese. It turns out that Japanese people, like Americans, are very sensitive to needles. And so in China, I inserted needles in the classic way, without the tube (this is considered more “macho” in China).
Upon returning to the States, I went back to my gentle style. I met a few practitioners who were practicing a Japanese style of acupuncture and studied with them and learned that I could get amazing results with very gentle hand technique.
Do you remember the first time you needed to do something that seemed so scary to you, like giving a presentation at work, or playing a piece at the piano recital? Do you remember how nervous you felt? And how about after you finished? You probably said, “That was easy!” and wished you could do it over in a calm and confident state.
This is kind of like your first acupuncture treatment. And then soon, you will graduate and look forward to your acupuncture treatments and the health they bring back into your life.