5 Things You Need to Know About Acupuncture

Dr. Sara DeFrancesco is a Naturopathic Doctor and Chinese Medicine Practitioner in Portland, Oregon.

If you’re thinking about trying acupuncture, there’s a few things you should know.

1) Your acupuncturist may ask you questions you haven’t heard before.

To a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, the big picture is extremely important. We want to know what your mood is like, how you’re sleeping, and if you tend to run hot or cold. And we want to know everything about your digestion. EVERYTHING. Even what happens in the bathroom.

Some of these questions may seem unrelated to the symptom that brought you into the office that day, but from a Chinese Medicine perspective, everything is connected. These seemingly unrelated questions give us insight into what organ systems, channels, and energetic mechanisms are out of balance and need to be addressed.

2) The physical exam is a little different too.

You’ll notice that your acupuncturist will feel your pulse on both of your wrists for a what may seem like a long time. The pulse is a key element in making a correct Chinese Pattern Diagnosis. Your practitioner isn’t just feeling the rate and rhythm of your pulse, but is also paying attention to the quality, intensity, and size of your pulse.

While assessing your pulse, your practitioner may have additional questions for you. And you might just feel like they’re reading your mind when they ask you about a piece of information you forgot to mention.

Your acupuncturist will also want to look at your tongue. They will be looking at the size, shape, color, and any indentations or cracks on your tongue. Like the pulse, the tongue gives us more information about your organ systems and energetic health. It's similar to looking at leaf to assess the overall health of a plant.

3) Your treatment will address the symptoms that are bothering you, and much more than that.

Your symptoms, pulse, and tongue are all clues to your acupuncturist about the type of energetic pattern that needs to be addressed. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the mind, body, and spirits (in Chinese Medicine there are 5), are all related. Each organ has a physical, mental, and spirit function. (For example, the Liver is responsible for moving qi, is associated with anger, and when the spirit of the Liver is unrooted, it can cause insomnia.)

Your treatment will address your mind, body, and spirits to relieve your symptoms and to address the energetic cause of your symptoms so you can move back into balance and health.

4) You will feel the needles. And you will like it.

Acupuncture works with the qi of your body. Qi is the life force that powers every organ and cell in your body. You might not feel very aware of it on a regular day, but you will learn to recognize it.

The sensation of qi is different for everyone, but you might experience it as a tugging feeling, a warm and tingly feeling, a dull achy feeling, or some other feeling I don’t know about, because my qi is different than yours.

You might feel qi around the needle site or radiating to another part of your body. Patients often describe the sensation traveling through the acupuncture channels, even though they don’t know where they are.

Some points you may not feel at all, but some points will hurt. If there is pain, it will usually go away in a few seconds. That’s the qi moving out of a place it was stuck. If the pain is too intense or doesn’t go away, let your acupuncturist know so they can adjust or remove the needle.

5) Your life will never be the same.

Once you’ve experienced acupuncture you will notice some side effects. You may want more acupuncture. You may become interested in what your acupuncturist is doing and learn to speak Chinese Medicine. You may want to go deeper with your treatment and ask your acupuncturist for herbs, lifestyle, and diet recommendations. You may become more aware of your energy and the people, places, and activities that effect you.

And you may get to know yourself and this beautiful planet we call home in a way you never knew was possible.