My 5th patient in the student clinic in acupuncture college was a man with excruciating neck pain. I was slow and interviewed him for 2 hours, and learned that he was about to have his 3rd operation fusing vertebrae together because they had no other options. He was a thin, pale, former amateur boxer who was a sceptic of acupuncture, but he had no other ideas. He returned the next week for his first treatment, and told me that the neck pain had decreased significantly.
Was it from the therapeutic relationship, or the relief to tell his story or a placebo you might ask? Let's get rid of the placebo argument. Acupuncture has been used on cattle in China for over 1000 years, and my cat can have acupuncture under his pet insurance policy. It works on animals, and there's no placebo effect on them. In Chinese medicine emotions are a cause of disease just as much as a virus, physical trauma or DNA trigger.
The first treatment can be unsettling for someone who has a difficult story to tell. Many people I see have had years of struggle with medical conditions or personal circumstances. I always look forward to hearing these stories and learning what the person is asking for. The acupuncture points have names that match land topography, ancestral meetings, and emotional connotations. Every person asks for something different in the treatment, wrapped in the package of his or her story.
Chinese medicine explains how each of the 5 main emotions affect the energy of the channels. You'll know first hand about the stomach energy when you've hiccupped or vomited; in a healthy person it doesn't go up. When we think too much, the Spleen and Stomach energy gets tied in knots, you can feel that in your stomach when you're stressed. When the Heart energy goes the wrong way, we get high blood pressure, while with the Liver, it's migraines and headaches. These energies get interrupted by everyday life and need resetting. Dr Daniel Keown writes about the acupuncture points helping to trigger communicator cells to work better, by using those points as nodes to send out better signals. In each session I try to treat your Shen (sparkle in your eye), Jing (drive and willpower), and Qi (reserves of energy and direction the energy is travelling). The state of our physical body can affect our emotions and vice versa. After a few sessions of acupuncture you may be getting out of bed a little more refreshed, noticing less pain, or feeling like you can finally find time to do a Tai Qi class or join a book club. Acupuncture is used to help acute pain, but also to stay well. An old saying is that a Chinese doctor was always paid when the patient was treated while in good health but not if that person became ill. It's hard to know the truth of these ancient stories.
Kids don't tend to have reactions after a first treatment, unless they have regular migraines. In Chinese Medical theory kids aren't supposed to have headaches [J Scott]. Adults have built up years of food, injuries, environmental chemicals, toxins from the air, emotional baggage and more, so there is unwinding to be done. I can normally tell from the pulses if a person will feel exhausted after that first treatment. We check 6 positions on the wrist pulses to gather signs of the person's health. I let people know there could be a surprisingly strong reaction after I do a treatment called the Aggressive Energy Drain. The needling is superficial and gentle but the effect can be enormous. I've had feedback that a woman was crying for 3-4 days, migraine sufferers have had an intense migraine immediately, and most commonly people go home and have to sleep because they feel wiped out. The other most common reaction is having a surplus of energy. The next treatments are much subtler but still change the person's built up patterns back to a better equilibrium.
With cupping, the treatment reaction is obvious, you'll possibly have black, purple or red circles or streaks in the area cupped. Acupuncture points can bruise or be sore for a few days, but these treatment reactions are overall extremely safe when performed by a qualified acupuncturist. People often ask if acupuncture is all I do, well, yes, I'm a one trick pony as my colleague Hillary says. Acupuncture is a complete system of medicine with a lifetime of historical and current knowledge to absorb and integrate.
Thank you for reading my blog.