I Hate Needles! Is There Such Thing as Needle-less Acupuncture?
Fear of needles comes up often when I tell people that I'm an acupuncturist.
The conversation goes a little something like this:
New acquaintance: "What do you do?"
Me: "I'm an acupuncturist."
Them: "Really?! I hate needles. But a friend of mine was having trouble getting pregnant and she went to acupuncture and now she has a baby."
Me: "Awesome! The baby part. Not the hating needles. But nobody I treat really loves needles. They do love their babies though!"
The truth is that I run into very few people that love needles and the idea of getting poked with them.
Many of my patients actively dislike needles. What they do like is results. Less pain, more flexibility, periods without PMS, and of course babies!
But to answer the question of there being such thing as "Needle-less Acupuncture," technically speaking, no. There is no 'acupuncture' without the 'puncture' part.
The definition of acupuncture is literally 'to use needles to puncture the skin and stimulate points and channels on and in the body.' So technically there is no needless-acupuncture.
The good news is that no one cares about technical definitions and acupuncture points continue to exist wether needles are applied to them or not.
The even better news, for my needle phobic friends especially, is that there are many ways to stimulate points and create positive changes in your body that can be equally effective to acupuncture done in the 'traditional' way. You know, with needles.
Wait a minute. What does 'traditional' even mean in the context of acupuncture?
When we here in America think of acupuncture, we most definitely think of needles. That's what we've seen in movies and commercials. That's what we see in magazines and on social media.
Mostly women with great skin relaxing on a luxurious massage table with perfect array of backlit needles illuminated along her spine or perfectly made-up face.
It makes a pretty picture. Unless of course you don't like needles.
But the truth is Chinese Medicine, which is the umbrella philosophy and paradigm from which acupuncture comes, is thousands of years old. The earliest texts describing the use of channels and points on the body are thousands of years old.
History was never my best subject, but I'm pretty sure modern acupuncture needles were only developed in the past several decades.
I mean my teachers used to talk about how in the 60 and 70's when you went to the acupuncturist (because you were some sort of hippy, obvs) you would get your own set of non-disposable needles that were used for your treatments each time you went in and then sterilized in an autoclave after each treatment.
And FYI, word on the street was that they were quite a bit thicker than most needles used today and that they would begin to get a bit dull over time. No wonder people got the idea that acupuncture hurt (and maybe was a little risky 🤷🏻♀️)!
Thankfully we do things a lot differently today.
All the needles that I use are made in a high tech lab in Korea or Japan where they are honed to precision sharpness, sterilized with ethylene-oxide gas, and sealed into protective little pouches with just the right number of needles for a single treatment.
After they're used for treatment, they go directly into the sharps container for proper storage, disposable, and ultimate destruction (insert evil laugh here).
I never use the same needle twice. Ever.
And guess what else.
Sometimes I don't even use needles at all.
Like I said before, modern acupuncture needles are a relatively new invention (the first disposable needle was manufactured in 1978, I looked it up) and Chinese Medicine is thousands of years old.
So how did people get treated before high tech factories started pumping out boat loads of disposable needles to be delivered straight to my clinic door?
Lot's of ways! Most of them not involving puncturing of the skin.
In fact, acupuncture is actually only supposed to be used when the other methods of treatment haven't worked or the disease is very serious to begin with.
The hierarchy of treatment as set forth by the foundational texts of Chinese Medicine say this:
"First use food to treat disease. If that doesn't work, use movement and Qi Gong. If that doesn't work, use massage (Tui Na). If that doesn't work, use herbal medicine. If that doesn't work, use acupuncture."
Except in Chinese. And more eloquently.
So while acupuncture specifically uses needles, Chinese Medicine has many therapies we can use to treat a wide range of problems.
Just like Felix the Cat, I've got a whole bag of tricks.
In it I keep:
Herbal Formulas - both internal and external
Ear Seeds and Auriculotherapy
and of course my super high tech needles and a gentle needling style.
Because let's face it, even people who aren't overly averse to needles don't generally want to experience a lot of unnecessary pain.
So don't let your Fear of Needles (or is it really Fear of Pain?) stop you from experiencing the benefits of an entire system of medicine that has been used for thousands of years to treat every disease under the sun!
You could be missing out on a pain free, joy-filled life you've been waiting for!