In my acupuncture office in Ridgewood, NJ, I’ve coaxed many reluctant people through painless acupuncture sessions Many people fear the needle and this becomes a barrier for many to even look into trying acupuncture. But in actuality, the difference between getting a painful treatment and a pleasant one, is in the positioning, not just the needling.
By positioning, I mean the position that the body is placed in before receiving a treatment.
1) Things in life hurt less when you are flexible: The easiest way to prevent pain during an acupuncture visit, if you are needling into an arm, for example, is to keep the elbow slightly bent. To position the patient like this, I have them lay down on their backs, with their arms at their sides. I then slightly bend the elbow so there is a slight bend in the crook of the elbow. What this does is keep the muscles in a relaxed and “un-stretched” position. Inserting the needle in a relaxed muscle becomes painless. Contrast this to an elbow that is extended. If the muscles in the arm is tensed, the needle will bounce off of the tight, hardened muscles, causing the feeling of pain. By keeping the elbow flexed, you keep the muscles flexed, so the needle insertion doesn’t ram up against the tightness of the arm muscle.
2) A pillow more for your back: If you are getting treated in the lower back, it is very easy for tension to build in the lower back as the treatment progresses. This pain can build so the treatment becomes less and less comfortable. To avoid the discomfort by treating with needles in the lower back, again proper cushioning with pillows, under the waist, help support the back muscles. To do this, I place a pillow or two under the waist. This causes the lower back to exaggerate it’s curve, which in turn, supports the lower back by flexing the lower back which helps open up the discs in the lower back. This helps to support the lower back so the effects of gravity are not bearing down over the lower back. This positioning technique helps take pressure off of the spine or discs.
3) Placing extra support under the arm: In some of my bigger patients, invariably one arm can dangle off of the table when they lay down. For others, depending on where they are needled on the arm, the arm needs a better position to avoid pain. So to fix this problem, I’ve placed alongside the body at a 60 degree angle to open up the upper muscles in the arm. To do this, I use a simple solution using a tray table with a pillow. Simply doing this helps to spread and rotate the arm outwards, so that there is enough “give” in the muscles to avoid tensing the muscles. This added space, is the added cushioning that is needed to help the body relax the arm in a comfortable flexed position.
So any acupuncturist worth their salt, realizes the importance of body positioning. Positioning the body correctly, can make acupuncture more painless. This becomes a big issue because so many people avoid acupuncture because they cringe at the needle. So I’ve highlighted the importance of positioning, a forgotten factor for more painless and effective acupuncture sessions.