Barbara’s Needles

Adventures in Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine

“Painful Needling is Not a Technique” Ikeda Masakazu Sensei, Feb 27, 2009 March 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — barbarasneedles @ 2:31 am

Acupuncture often gets the reputation as being painful.  A lot of schools teach that if the patient doesn’t “feel the Qi”, it’s not a good treatment.  This usually translates to one of nine classical needling techniques called “De Qi”.  This is the heavy, distending, achey, ouch that most people associate with acupuncture. Needle-phobes and sensitive people naturally shy away from such a proposition.

As a kid, I was the one who had to have nine nurses pin me down to give me a tetanus shot, screaming bloody murder.  Even into my adulthood I have opted to have fillings drilled sans novacaine, because I hate needles.  “Why why why would you become an acupuncturist?” you may ask.  Good question.  That’s a long story, for another day.

For the record, there are eight other needling techniques that are classically used in acupuncture.  Just because we tend to only learn one in school, doesn’t mean it’s the only way. This is the topic of great debate between different systems and schools in the Acupuncture community.  I went to a mostly “De Qi” oriented school, but found a few teachers who practiced the gentler Japanese Meridian Style and spent the majority of my school years with them, learning as much as I could.

What I got out of Acupuncture school is that acupuncture doesn’t have to hurt.  “De Qi” is not the only way.  I found Japanese Meridian Therapy.  Very fine needles, very shallow insertion, and very profound effects.  I think of acupuncture as a reminder to the body to do what it already knows how to do.  Like sleep properly, digest well, not spasm, menstruate painlessly, not crave things…  Our bodies contain an innate wisdom to heal.  We just need to remind it.  My personality is one that will accept gentle reminders.  I don’t handle being shoved very well… Deep, painful needling is like a shove to me.  When I get shoved, I tend to dig my heels in and fight it, whether or not it’s good for me in the long run… So I needle others the way I wish to be needled.  Gently, with respect and humility for the innate knowledge in your body to heal itself.

I promise in my clinic, that you will never feel shoved.

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One Response to ““Painful Needling is Not a Technique” Ikeda Masakazu Sensei, Feb 27, 2009”

  1. Alexis Goldstein, L.Ac. Says:

    Agreed, needling need not be painful. However, I myself find a distinct difference between ‘de qi’ and pain, and have a love for both a good ‘de qi’ sensation as well as Japanese style acupuncture. On a related and interesting note, at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting last year there was a study looking at brain imaging and ‘de qi’ versus pain (that sharp/shooting/burning sensation none of us like). The patients that reported ‘de qi’ had the areas of the brain that responded to pain down-regulated and more activation of those related to analgesia and endorphin release. Whereas patients reporting ‘pain’ on needle insertion had activation of pain cortices and did not activate the areas responsible for pain-relief. I found it interesting that the brain does not see ‘de qi’ as pain, and responds to it differently. Don’t disagree with you, but thought I’d share as well. Love to you and your needles!


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