I have a confession to make: I am needle-phobic. I was certainly more afraid of needles before I ever got acupuncture than I am now. But even today, if someone wants to withdraw my blood from a vein there’s a chance I may actually pass out.
You may find this ironic, but it’s true. Eleven years ago when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in a holistic health field, Chinese Medicine was a top choice because of all the benefits it offers. There was just one problem…the needles. After all, you have to be able to receive acupuncture in order to successfully give it, right? So I gathered my courage and got a treatment at the student clinic at one of the schools in my area. I was too afraid to watch the needles get inserted, but I can remember not feeling them as they went in. After they were in place, I felt surges of energy whooshing up my arms. It was a bizarre and pleasurable feeling.
When I meet people who tell me they don’t like needles, I am able to have empathy and understand exactly how they feel. I also have confidence that I can help them through their anxiety. When a patient is anxious, I’ll show them an acupuncture needle so they can see how tiny and flexible it really is. It is about the size of a cat’s whisker.
Part of the anxiety around needles is the fear that the treatment will hurt. Here is what I do to ensure a pain-free needle insertion: I put the needle in with a quick, firm tap. Pushing it slowly through the skin may seem gentle but believe me, it is not comfortable. When I do it quickly, most of the time people feel nothing at all and are surprised when I tell them the needle is inserted.
All this is not to say that you should not feel anything during an acupuncture treatment. You want the sensation of the needle connecting with your body’s energy, electrical system, or “qi.” It may feel like a dull ache, pressure or heaviness, a tingling or a zinging sensation. The intensity of that feeling will vary from point to point on the body and from person to person. You should feel it, but you should not be on the ceiling from the intensity. I always ask the individual I’m treating for feedback so that I can decrease the sensation if it is ever uncomfortable for them. After a person knows what to expect, they become very comfortable with the experience and often actually enjoy it.