Why Acupuncture Is Fun & Not So Scary!
After living in Portland, Oregon for five years where an acupuncture or naturopathic clinic is practically on every corner, and people seem almost bored if you tell them you’re an acupuncturist (only because they have one already, and 2.5 of their friends are acupuncturists), coming back home to Virginia provides some stark contrast. First, acupuncture is relatively new here and lots of people are excited about it, and that’s a lot of fun; however (and second), because acupuncture isn’t super common here yet, and I really emphasize that word, misconceptions about acupuncture in this part of the world still run amuck. Amuck I say! So let’s play a little game of myth-busters. Go ahead. Ask me anything you want.
1) “So Maegan, since you’re spilling your guts, I’m going to say what’s really on my mind. Does acupuncture hurt?”
Not really! Don’t get me wrong, you definitely feel stuff, and once in a while there is a little bit of hurt, but most people barely feel the insertions of the needle. I’ve worked with some pretty severe needle-phobes and the reaction when I’ve inserted the first needle has across the board been this: “That’s it?”
Besides, acupuncture needles are tiny! A needle that is typically used for intramuscular injection (most shots), is between 0.8-0.9 millimeters. The most standard acupuncture needles are about 1/4 of that size (0.2 mm)! And there are ones that are even much smaller than that.
Honestly, acupuncture tends to feel more weird than painful. There tend to be a lot of wandering sensations – like if I stick a needle somewhere around your knee you might feel a sensation jet down towards your toe, or your belly might start to gurgle. Sometimes you just become inexplicably aware of an area of your body, sometimes there might be a little bit of a dull ache, and sometimes it can feel like electricity. That’s always exciting, if surprising. We’re (me & you) looking to avoid sharp pain like the plague, and any tingling sensations.
I will always make sure the line of communication is open so that you can tell me how you’re feeling. That all being said, if you’re on my table, your comfort is extremely important to me. I strive to make everyone who walks in my door feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed.
I should add that there are some situations where acupuncture can be uncomfortable, like if you have a herniated disk, or plantar fasciitis, but I will always let you know what to expect, and if a little bit of pain isn’t worth the (in my opinion, amazing) benefits, that’s okay. It’s your experience and you can take as much or as little from it as you need.
2) “That means you think acupuncture is safe?”
Yes, definitely. The risks involved are extremely minor, especially as compared to the normal risks you undertake when you… I don’t know, take a drive down the highway or go to a public place. The World Health Organization estimates based on the literature that the risk of an adverse serious event is 0.024%. There is evidence that most of these events are related to severe negligence – things I found truly shocking when I read through them, and injuries of this type in the US are probably even rarer.
A lot of the issues that have been reported in the literature stem from using re-usable needles that are poorly sterilized. YUCK, that’s disgusting! I only, only, only ever ever ever use single-use, sterilized, disposable needles. Only the best for you, people!
Here’s the real, ugly truth of acupuncture: sometimes you get bruises; if you get cupping it can leave some marks on the skin for up to a few days; sometimes people are a little sore, especially after their first appointment; and they tell me that the rare person gets dizzy or faints, but in the hundreds of patients I have seen I’ve honestly never seen this happen even in the person who told me up front that she passes out and seizes every time she gets any kind of needle stick. I am proud to tell you that on my table there was no fainting and no seizing. Just some suddenly falling asleep.
3) “Do you reuse needles?”
This is just in case you’re skimming the article and didn’t read completely through #2. I’ll just copy/paste:
YUCK, that’s disgusting! A lot of the issues that have been reported in the literature stem from using re-usable needles that are poorly sterilized. We only, only, only ever ever ever use single-use, sterilized, disposable needles. Only the best for you, people!
And again, yuck.
4) “What if I don’t believe in acupuncture – will it still work?”
Happens all the time. Animals don’t “believe” in acupuncture, and it works incredibly well for them! Remind me to tell you another time about the time my mother practically demanded I give her injured cocker spaniel acupuncture…
5) “If I’m sick I shouldn’t come in for my appointment – right?”
EDITED: During COVID times, yeah, you should reschedule.
6) “Acupuncture is fun you say?”
I think so! Yes, acupuncure is fun. I mean, not in the drinking lots of beer or playing contact sports kind of way, but fun because it generally leaves you feeling quite good – relaxed sometimes, energized sometimes, and you get some “you” time. Doesn’t lying in a peaceful room with dim light and soft ambient music playing while acupuncture needles relax muscles/release endorphins/increase circulation sound like a good time? Yeah, I thought so.
You are considering booking a consultation at our clinic in Richmond, Virginia, we would love to see you.