What makes acupuncturists happy? An Acupuncturist’s Perspective and the Art of Cupping
Acupuncturists are a misunderstood lot. We generally love helping people but there are a few things that make our day glow. These little things for an acupuncturist would make the average ordinary person would probably raise an eyebrow quizzically to. For example, when we are needling the now famous point for nausea, PC-6 (see the diagram) the point is actually needled between the two tendons on the wrist.
Some patients have a very good distinction between the points helping to make inserting the needle effortless and pain free. Another thing that makes acupuncturists sing with delight, is when they can access the back for a round of cupping and have a cleared runway. What I mean by that is when you perform cupping (cupping creates a suction on the skin and is great for alleviating muscle tightness and soreness), you need to have a clear surface. Sometimes, the people who need it the most, are men, who have hairier backs. Now I know we can’t fight what we are born with but having a patient with a hairy back creates existential angst in acupuncturists. The cups won’t stay on for long and if you leave the room you hear the cups falling off the back and hitting the floor with the sound of a depth charge sent to destroy the enemy submarine below you.
In cases like these it requires finesse and a little old boy scout preparedness. A disposable razor, and a little shaving cream as well as a lot of aplomb in explaining to guys why we need to shave them so we can perform cupping needs to be done so we can get the cups to stay on them. We like to get the therapies done so we can help people, but sometimes this can rub men the wrong way. I mean hair, especially in the wrong places, is a sensitive thing, just ask your wife. I can recall the times I did not insist on shaving the back. The man was named Bobby, and he had a lot of hair on his back. The cups kept flying off and I had to keep running back and forth into the room to re-affix the cup that lost the suction, only to be hurling back into the room to fix another. Meanwhile the other patient, is waiting thinking, well I don’t know what the patient I was in consult with was thinking at the time.
Lately, I had another patient named Mike. Mike had significant neck pain and a vertebra form the neck that would get pushed out of place when he looked upwards in neck extension. We were working on this neck and right shoulder pain. I recommended that we do the cupping. I however, insisted, that he shave his back and keep his back well-manicured in order to get the best results from the cupping. To my surprise, in all of my 18 years as an acupuncturist, I never met any guy who was compliant. The next week Mike told me he had his wife rub in the hair removal cream into his back and helped him clean it. Imagine, looking through the eyes of an acupuncturist to find a beautifully cleared back. He actually took what I said seriously. Well suffice it to say the acupuncture music in my head started playing and my heart soared. We have been cupping and treating him with acupuncture for 4 months now. Mike loves the cupping and says it is the part of the treatment that he looks most forward to – and can I make a confession here, so do I. I can’t tell you how that has changed my outlook on treating men’s backs. I mean, the forethought that Mike had to do this, and to involve his wife in it, all for the noble cause of relaxing his back.
You don’t get a lot of cases like these. Most advice is never followed upon. But Mike, you made my day and have inspired other acupuncturists who will be reading this blog. Being an acupuncturist can sometimes be a brutal lot. Most people come in, impatient for results, not knowing or trusting the medicine. It’s not like the dental community. I mean everyone is sold on getting their teeth cleaned. Not yet so for the profession of acupuncture.
So, nothing makes an acupuncturist happy and smile more, than a well-manicured back. At worst, we could be accused of being quirky but in the end, it just makes us that much more amusing to “civilians”. As we try to treat patients it’s the simple pleasures and pleasantries of manicured backs and easy needle insertion that allows those that ply this trade to feel really happy. As I write this I realize just how different we acupuncturists are We look at things through a different eye. But then again, most people don’t have to look at hairy backed people! So what makes an acupuncturist happy?