Some Answers About Qi

Lately, I've been thinking that it would be interesting to have patients fill out a "qi book" before they leave, very briefly detailing their own experience of qi during the treatment. That qi sensation is so different for everyone, and I find it fascinating to learn how it feels to each patient. Even after years of treating patients, I'm still humbled by the fact that my patients have physical proof of the needles accessing that internal energy, It never ceases to amaze me that all of the potential of the human body can be tapped into with a needle the size of a hair.

I've been getting a lot of questions recently about the body's reaction to the qi coming to the needle, and what it means. So, as a service to those current and future patients of mine, here are the answers to the most common questions about qi:

1. What does qi feel like? The qi sensation is different for everyone, but you will know it when you feel it. It can be a strong ache, a feeling of movement, a sense of heat around the needle, or any number of other sensations. However, it shouldn't be the needle itself that you feel. If I am manipulating the needle to get qi and you feel a pricking or pinching, that isn't qi, it is simply the feeling of the needle moving. I've noticed that the more sessions people have, the more quickly the qi sensation begins after needle manipulation.

2. Why is there a red circle around the needle? The red circle is the qi coming to the surface of the skin and rising up to meet the needle. It isn't a rash, or a bruise-it will go away when the needles are taken out. It usually shows up at points that patients need the most.

3. Can you (the acupuncturist) feel the qi of my body as well? Yes, and again, it is different for everyone. I get very warm when I treat patients. Also, when I find the qi, I feel like a lose my breath for a second or so. Other practitioners experience this in other ways.

4. Why do some points feel stronger than others? Generally, the more you need a point, or the more it corresponds to your condition, the more you will feel. Sometimes it has more to do with anatomy-the points on the hands and feet are more sensitive than the ones on the abdomen and back. Mostly, however, I notice the the qi sensation is centered more strongly around points that the patient requires the most.

5. Why am I more sensitive today? There are many reasons that you might feel the qi more than usual during a given day. Women who are menstruating are typically more sensitive to the needles. If you are sick, or beginning to come down with something, you may also feel extra sensation during the treatment. People also tend to feel more qi during hot weather, because the qi is closer to the surface at that time of year.

6. Why did I feel the qi more on one side of my body than the other? This can happen for a few reasons. If there is an injury on one side of the body, the qi may react accordingly. Usually, the side with the injury is more sensitive to qi. Also, it sometimes takes a few minutes and needles to "wake up" the qi. At times, the first few needles I put in are slow to attain the qi sensation...and then once the qi starts coming, the patient feels it on all the other needles.