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 Acupuncture: What Happens When You Have Acupuncture? 

What Happens When You Have Acupuncture?
Needle Insertion
Needling Sensation
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What Happens When You Have Acupuncture?
Some people are frightened by the thought of acupuncture and may feel that it takes a great deal of courage to inflict 'the needles' on themselves. The first, and probably the most important fact to understand about acupuncture, is that it is not a frightening experience. It does involve the insertion of fine needles through the skin, and most acupuncturists use between six and eight acupuncture needles at each treatment session. The needles used are smaller than injection needles, in fact an acupuncture needle fits into the central hole of a normal injection needle. Acupuncture needles have a doweled end, not a cutting end like most hypodermic needles, and therefore are far less likely to cause tissue damage or bruising when inserted.

Needle Insertion
The insertion of an acupuncture needle is not a painful experience. Patients sometimes sit with eyes closed and teeth clenched asking, 'When are you going to put the needles in?', and are often surprised to learn that the needles are in place before they have finished asking the question. It would be wrong to suppose that the insertion of an acupuncture needle is devoid of any sensation, but those who experience acupuncture do not usually describe it as a painful sensation.

Needling Sensation
The Chinese state that if acupuncture is to achieve its maximum

effect it is necessary for the acupuncturist to obtain a 'needling sensation', over each acupuncture point that is used. This involves the needle being moved slightly while it is in the skin, and the sensation experienced by the patient will vary. Needling sensation is not painful but it is a dull, bursting or numb sensation around the site of the inserted needle. The sensation may also travel up or down the channel being treated; the stimulation of an acupuncture point on the right knee may precipitate the experience of a strange burning or numb sensation in the right ankle. Needling sensation is probably best defined by the statement, 'When needling sensation is experienced the needle no longer feels like a needle!'

Some acupuncturists use an electrical stimulator to excite acupuncture points as a substitute for obtaining needling sensation. Electro-acupuncture causes a tingling sensation over the acupuncture points that are being stimulated, but the Chinese believe that this does not replace the need to obtain needling sensation. If the stimulator is mistakenly turned to a very high intensity then the patient will experience some discomfort, so it is wise to be cautious when using electrical stimulators, and to adjust the intensity slowly and carefully.

(Excerpted from Acupuncture-Its Place in Western Medical Science)
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 About The Author
George Lewith MA, MRCGP, MRCPGeorge Lewith attended Trinity College, Cambridge and Westminster Hospital Medical School. He has worked as a Senior House Officer and Registrar within the Westminster and University College Hospital Teaching Groups in......more
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