Lots of patients are suprised by how often their treatments include techniques other than needling. After all a needle is just a tool in the hands of the acupuncturist, a tool to help the patient's body balance it's own energy by redistribute qi and blood in the organs, channels, muscles, tendons and skin.
So what else might your acupuncturist do during treatment?
They might use:
This is a technique where oil is spread on the skin and a gua sha tool (like a small spatula or spoon) is used to stroke and scrap the skin. Not much pressure is used but the stroking brings 'sha' (blood or light petechiae) to the surface. This is a great treatment for muscle tension particularly on the back and shoulders and migraines and tension headaches. It's a gentle technique and doesn't damage the underying tissue but in some people it can produce quite alarmingly red marks. These always fade over a couple of days. Many patients experience almost instant relief from tense muscles.
Cupping (moving and static)
Oil is spread over the skin and a glass cup with a suction device on the top is used to create a vacuuum on the patient's skin. This helps to dispell stagnant blood and lymph and improve the movement of blood and fluids in the body. I generally use this technique on the back and shoulders and it's great for nipping colds in the bud before they really get going, improving lung function and gently relieving aches and pains from tension and overwork. Again the treatment is entirely painless and most people find it very relaxing.
Skin and muscles are massaged, pushed, lifted, rolled, pressed, brushed. shaken or rubbed. This can be a gentle technique or can be more vigorous depending on the needs of the patient. It can be used for chronic and acute musculoarskeletal problems and is a great treatment for older people and children. Tui na performed on a child's back can help relive asthma and cold symptoms and on an older person it can relieve chronic headaches and neck pain. Animals always generally respond calmly to tui na and my poor cat who had a narrow escape with a car couldn't get enough of it to relieve her sore muscles and straighten her skeleton.
Press Tacks and Ear Seeds
These are very small plasters that have a seed from the vaccaria plant or small metal ball or micro needle in the middle. They are placed on the skin over an area of tenderness or an acupuncture point to improve circulation of qi and blood. They are often used in the ear but can be used on any part of the body. They have a huge amount of uses including helping with pain, anxiety, hot flushes, nausea....the list goes on.
All of these techniques when performed properly by a professional trained practitioner are safe and virtually risk free.
So don't be suprised if your acupuncturist doesn't just insert a needle into your skin. She has many more tools at her disposal to make your body relax, release tension and disipate dis-ease
Gaynor Hollis is a Classical Five Element Acupuncturist with a thriving practice in Birmingham. She is interested in all things healthy and life style related not just Chinese and Japanese acupuncture.