Number one question from new patients this week: "Do you do this to yourself at home?" After I get this question, my patients usually chuckle, as if the very idea of giving myself an acupuncture treatment is a joke. The answer? Yes, I do. In fact, I'm going to work myself over as soon as I am done writing this article. I'm on the verge of coming down with something, and I want to ward it off before it hits. Why, then, do I bother paying for acupuncture on a weekly basis, when I can do it myself at home?
Well, first of all...it hurts! I know, I know...you are all asking yourselves how I can make that statement when I spend countless hours educating the public about how acupuncture doesn't hurt. The reason it doesn't hurt, though, is because the nerves are very close to the surface of the skin. Once you get past the surface, there is no pain. So, the trick is to get the needle past that part that is laden with nerve endings as quickly as possible...which is why I am Speedy Gonzales when it comes to needling. My patients don't feel the needles (or at least feel minimal sensation) because the insertion is so quick, it gets past that superficial layer before the nerve endings even know what's going on.
Have you ever tried to wax your own eyebrows, or if you are not a hairy Italian such as I, pull a shard of glass out of your foot? You know that doing it quickly will hurt less, but the more you think about what you are doing, the worse it is...you start to become slow and careful...which draws it out and makes it more painful...which makes you hesitate more...which makes the whole thing suck even more. It's the same with needling myself. I KNOW that doing it quickly will mean a painless experience, but when I see that needle hovering over my skin, I always hesitate, and I end up putting it in with painful slowness.
There is also a lot to be said for the interaction of the qi between patient and practitioner. Yes, I can give myself an effective treatment, but I don't get that same sense of blissful, zoned-out tranquility that I get when I see my acupuncturist. The treatment is just...completely utilitarian.
Lastly, it is inevitable that the moment I relax at home with my needles in, the phone will ring, or the fire alarm will go off, or someone will knock on my door. It never fails. At least when I am in my acupuncturist's office, I can lay there without distraction. And I don't awaken from my acu-doze to find my cat playing with the needles poking out of my foot.