The short answer is, yes! Although acupuncture using single-use sterile, disposable needles is the most common way to receive treatment from a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, we do have many other tools at our disposal. Chinese medicine is a complete system of medicine with its own forms of diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and therapies that are used to treat a wide variety of complaints and also for prevention. Some of the common things that patients come to us for are:
– back pain
– sciatic pain
– knee pain
– menstrual pain
– post-surgical pain
– irritable bowel
– constipation/ diarrhea
All of these things and more are treated very effectively using acupuncture needles. But what do we do if someone is very anxious about being needled?
Do I Have to Have Needles?
Going to see an acupuncturist can feel intimidating for some, especially for those people who have had traumatic experiences with having blood drawn or other procedures using hypodermic needles. In this case, as providers, we do everything we can to make the person feel comfortable and at ease in the treatment room. Sometimes this means receiving the benefit of acupuncture without needles at all! Another instance where we may not use needles is when treating children. There are many other ways in which we can effectively treat the whole person without the use of needles.
Tui Na and Acupressure
Tuina is Chinese medical massage. This Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) therapy uses massage techniques to balance the flow of Qi through the meridians. You wear loose, comfortable clothing and may be seated or lying down. During the treatment the practitioner may use a wide range of techniques, from massaging the soft tissue, acupressure or manipulations to herbal compresses, liniments, ointments or heat. Tuina is different than “spa massage” because its intent in medicinal. While it may result in stress reduction, pain relief or increased range of motion, the treatment itself may be uncomfortable because many of the massage techniques can be quite vigorous and deep. The purpose of the massage is to balance the Qi and the result is that you leave feeling lighter, freer and more energized.
Tuina is also wonderful way to treat children and they are very receptive to it. We are able to treat a lot of common childhood complaints such as constipation, diarrhea, stomachaches, common cold, asthma, etc. though the use of tuina massage. Many of these complaints can often be resolved with the use of tuina and herbal therapies alone.
TCM has a sophisticated pharmacopeia of herbal medicinals. Most of the medicinal formulas are herbal but some formulas include animal or mineral ingredients as well. Unlike Western herbology, Traditional Chinese Medicine does not use single herb remedies; its formulas can have as many as 18 ingredients. There are many ways to take the herbs. Traditionally people boiled the herbs to make a decoction. This method is time consuming and, depending on the herbs, can taste terrible. To make the herbs easier to take, more and more TCM formulas are available as liquid extracts, tablets, capsules or granules. When a formula is used topically, it is available as a lotion, cream, salve or poultice. At Integrative Acupuncture in Montpelier and Williston, we try to use USDA certified organic herbs whenever possible. We do offer herbal consultations here at our clinic so that those who would prefer to use herbal medicine only can do so.
So, yes, it is possible to have the benefits of acupuncture without needles. But more often than not, when I have someone come in to see me who is very apprehensive about getting needled, they almost always leave being pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and relaxing having an acupuncture treatment can be. In fact, they often will fall asleep on the treatment table! So if you are putting off discovering the benefits of acupuncture because of a fear of needles, rest assured that there are many other way in which we can achieve our therapeutic goals.