Category Archives: Acupuncture

Forgotten Medicine: Squatting and Floor Sitting

  In November of 2007, I interned at the Guangzhou Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), in Guangzhou, China. When traveling in China, I observed that Chinese people, young and old, rested in a flat-footed squat. While our upscale hotel boasted western toilets, squat toilets prevailed in every public place that I visited, including the hospital, restaurants, and tourist attractions. Back home in the land of criss-cross-apple-sauce, I rarely, if ever, saw anyone squatting. To my knowledge, no one was using a squat toilet. I lived in Japan and Korea during elementary school, so I was not a stranger to squatting to use the bathroom. During my China internship, however, I discovered a strange phenomenon: squatting to pee took more coordination than I remembered. Truthfully, it felt a little awkward to sit in a deep flat-footed squat of any kind. An epic adventure in a local shop’s restroom, involving me and a tiny squat toilet, which was located partly beneath a sink and nearly flush with a wall, left me plagued with a question…how on earth do they do it? Shortly after returning to Wisconsin, I became pregnant with my first child. I planned a homebirth with a certified professional midwife. While reading about natural childbirth, I discovered that in traditional cultures, women often squat to give birth. Squatting widens the pelvic outlet and takes advantage of gravitational force.¹ It was on. I began doing squatting exercises regularly, determined to squat my baby out. Ultimately, I gave birth in a supine position, leaning back against the side of the birth tub. Though I squatted throughout my labor, I had little squatting stamina while applying the extreme downward pressure that I found necessary for giving birth. My recovery from childbirth was difficult. Every part of my pelvis hurt: SI joints, pubic symphysis, hip joints, ischial tuberosities. I delivered my daughter naturally, but my postpartum pelvic pain left me strongly considering taking pain medications. Soon afterwards, I experienced a mild cystocele. The symptoms resolved over several months with the use of acupuncture, herbal medicine, and the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy®. At 30 years of age, however, I was a wreck about it. Intuitively I knew that something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just me. Given that childbirth is imperative to the survival of our species, common sense dictates that healthy young women should be able to vaginally deliver babies without … Continue reading

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Does Acupuncture Hurt?

  When people discover that I’m an acupuncturist, the first question I’m always asked is, “Does it hurt?” Unfortunately, fear of needles is one of the biggest deterrents for people who are suffering and could benefit from acupuncture treatment. Thus, I believe that the complex topic of needling sensation deserves my heartfelt and in-depth interpretation.   Patient Comfort   My patients’ comfort is my priority. Pain is a very individual experience, so I never judge a patient’s response to acupuncture, and the vulnerability he or she entrusts to me is held near to heart. The first acupuncture treatment is a learning experience for both of us: patients learn what to expect when receiving acupuncture and I learn how best to treat them. There are a lot of sensations that are completely normal, but if my patient feels uncomfortable at any time, I remove the source of the discomfort immediately. I cultivate the principle of non-violence; never expecting a patient to “tough it out” in order to feel better, continuously monitoring reactions, and adjusting my treatments according to the individual.   Insertion Versus Retention   There are two distinct aspects of an acupuncture treatment: needle insertion and needle retention. After needles have been inserted, they are retained for an average of 20 minutes. The patient lies comfortably on a massage table in a darkened room with relaxing music in the background. During this time, although the patient may have an awareness of needle location, there is no pain. I check on patients every 10 minutes and am commonly greeted by a sleeping patient when I re-enter a room. Before I walk away from a patient I ensure that they are not experiencing any discomfort; if my patient feels nervous or uneasy, I remain in the room or check on him or her more frequently.   The needling sensations I am about to discuss are short lived, occurring only during needle insertion, which takes approximately 5-10 minutes.   Pain Versus Sensation   For someone who has never had acupuncture, the only real frame of reference regarding needling sensation is hypodermic needles. Acupuncture needles are extremely fine, flexible even; once I was told that 18 acupuncture needles will fit into the inner diameter of a hypodermic needle. Acupuncture certainly does not feel like getting a shot or having blood drawn.   I like to differentiate between pain and needling sensation. When a patient … Continue reading

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