How to Find the Right Acupuncturist for You
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
I often tell new patients that acupuncture is so simple (so elegant and pure really) that it can sound silly when explained. This nature-based system makes observations about the general state of the body that sometimes mirror observations we might make about the weather. A classically-trained acupuncturist will think of this as harmony between the macrocosm (the outer world) and the microcosm (us). As above, so below.
For example, the body can get water-logged or heavy just like the soil can. A heavy rain or water left sitting will stagnate the soil and the nutrients can’t penetrate as easily. In the body when this happens, there will be less absorption and more fatigue or draggy feeling. Or sometimes the body can suffer from too much cold, leading to that kind of frozen-numb feeling inside.
But simple doesn’t always mean easy. This system of medicine is an art that takes time to “master,” or to meld with, in a manner that the grace of the system is expressed.
Physical therapists in Pennsylvania are currently lobbying, have been lobbying, and it seems will always be lobbying, to introduce acupuncture into their Physical Therapy practices. They want to call it “dry needling” and they seem to think that a weekend course (compared to my 3-years and 2,400 hours of study) is sufficient to allow them to add inserting acupuncture needles into their scope of practice. They argue that they understand human anatomy and won’t hurt anyone so they can therefore “dry needle” as well as any acupuncturist does.
But that is completely missing the point (pun intended here!). Can physical therapists probably insert needles without physically harming someone? Probably, yes. But that’s likely not entirely because of their skill. Acupuncture is one of the safest medical modalities you can receive. There are no side effects (other than occasional bruising). And It’s incredibly hard to actually injure someone (the needles are so thin, fine, and short).
But inserting needles into a human body is not acupuncture.
Acupuncture is the totality of the experience a patient has with a practitioner and it is the totality of that practitioner’s understanding and skill which allows the practitioner to choose a treatment in harmony with the needs of that patient.
There’s simply no way, without going to acupuncture school and understanding the medicine from the inside out, that a physical therapist can duplicate this experience.
For me, this experience for a new patient begins with my website, or with a referral, then usually becomes an email or a phone call. It then encompasses the moment they step into my office, take a seat, and begin telling me what brought them in. The “acupuncture” is a process that is continually unfolding from the moment someone considers making contact with me.
If acupuncture was simply the placement of needles, then I wouldn’t even need to talk to or interact much with my patients. I could simply take their pulse, treat what I treat, and send them on their way.
But I’ve found that the people who come to me choose to do so because I’m willing to be engaged. I honestly want to know what the patient wants. I want to support them in whatever goals they have, and I honestly care.
All of this care is part of the acupuncture. It cannot be separated. If it were, I would become a needle robot, or dare I say a “dry needler” jamming random needles into a body, and that’s just not how I want to practice.
When asked for advice about finding a practitioner, I often tell people to find someone first and foremost who they feel comfortable with. It’s not the number of needles or the style of acupuncture that matters most. It's the connection with the practitioner, which creates the conditions for you to more deeply connect with yourself, that will carry you through and get you the best results.
Because this system of medicine is not mechanical, it’s not just the needles that matter. It’s your sense of safety and freedom and your values that should feel honored as well. Acupuncture extends far beyond the placement of needles. It’s the sharing of your heart space that will set you on the path towards true healing and freedom.
Interested in connecting with me? Book a free consult by phone.