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I am a sensitive person. I am a feeling, sensing, intuiting, perceptive person. Being that person, I feel sensations strongly in my body. I am not interested in painful therapeutic experiences. I am interested in therapies that are comfortable and make a profound difference in my body. Acupuncture fits the bill.
I was initially drawn to study acupuncture, because of how the needles calmed down my sensitive and often reactive nervous system. I walked out from my appointments with mental and physical calmness. What I understand now is that acupuncture encourages a parasympathetic state. In other words, the opposite of fight or flight. True and deep relaxation.
I understand that we all lead crazy lives. Our nervous systems are tuned up to ‘sympathetic’ (fight or flight) responses in an ongoing kind of way. We aren’t running from tigers, but stress piles up easily with our busy schedules, and we have to mindfully adjust to change our habitual stress responses. We need to actually practice being in a parasympathetic mode, and acupuncture encourages this state.
It may seem counter-intuitive that needles can be comfortable and relaxing.
However, it is true.
But still, does it hurt? Typically, no. First, you need to know that acupuncture needles are very different from medical needles used to give injections. Those needles are designed with a hollow core, so they can push substances through to the person. Necessarily, the needles are thicker to accommodate a hollow center, and the sides of the needle are very sharp. Acupuncture needles on the other hand are very thin and very sharp which actually allows them to enter the skin easily and with minimal discomfort. Many acupuncture needles can actually fit through the core of one hypodermic needle. Cool, right?
In fact, 7 acupuncture needles can fit through a medium gauge hypodermic needle.
Second, there is a difference between sensation and pain. I would be lying if I said there was no sensation associated with acupuncture. In fact, one of the benefits of acupuncture is that it puts us in touch with our bodies. Being in touch means sensing and experiencing through the body. When acupuncture needles are inserted, there can be a quick sensation of ‘sharpness’, but it doesn’t last for more than a flash, and often patients don’t feel it at all. I hardly ever hear my patients say ‘ouch’. I do commonly hear them ask ‘is it in?’ After the initial sensation during insertion, common feelings are warmth, release, tingling, and a slight but comfortable achiness. These sensations often quiet down, and many times I find that the experience is so comfortable and restful, my patients have actually fallen asleep.
Lastly, responsiveness of the acupuncturist is key to your experience. It’s really important that you tell your acupuncturist if you feel any discomfort, because this is not the intention. Needles can be adjusted and/or take out to ensure your comfort.