As I've said before, most people have no idea what to expect during their first session of acupuncture. Time and time again, I hear the inevitable statement of surprise that having numerous needles inserted into the body can actually be enjoyable. For many people, the sensation of acupuncture feels almost like an out-of-body experience. This isn't surprising, considering how much tension we hold in our bodies without realizing it. Most of us don't even know what it feels like to be completely free of that tension, so when the needles trigger that muscular release, it's a very pleasant surprise. The other night, I was having a conversation about the difference between having acupuncture in China and in the U.S. In China, acupuncture is promoted much more as preventative medicine, which means that treatments are geared toward staving off problems before they begin. Patients in China also see acupuncturists much more often than in the U.S.-sometimes several times a week. As a results, treatments tend to be quick and efficient. The acupuncturist will often needle without saying a word, leave the room, then have an assistant remove the needles. Bedside manner isn't a concern; the goal is to treat as many patients as possible in a limited amount of time.
In the U.S., we tend to focus more on the patient. Most acupuncturists I know spend a good deal of time with people, explaining what is going on. In my practice, I feel that the best part of my job is gaining a rapport with my patients. I enjoy seeing them, and I think (hopefully!) they feel the same about me. I enjoy creating an experience for them that goes beyond the simple insertion of needles-when they leave my office, I want them to feel like they have just come back from a vacation. There is certainly a place for those who want to provide low-cost, efficient acupuncture treatments, but that is simply not the way I have chosen to run my practice. What can I say?I like to pamper my patients!
This being the case, I would like to bring up the importance of feedback. I had a patient come in the other day and tell me what she liked about the last treatment, and ask if I could repeat it. I was happy to oblige, and happier still to know that she felt comfortable giving her input. When you come into my office, I want you as comfortable and serene as possible. If there is something I have done in the past that you particularly enjoyed, speak up! It's my job to keep you feeling good. Conversely, if there is something about the treatment that you didn't like, I want to know that as well. I can't fix something unless I know about it.