We are two clinical social work interns from The University of Texas at Austin currently interning at Samaritan Center. We were both intrigued by the integrative medicine team at Samaritan Center and wanted to know more about the services offered. We both decided to try acupuncture for the first time and document our reactions and experiences so that other first-timers would have a better idea of what to expect.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
According to Kim Layne, the Director of Integrative Medicine and a Licensed Acupuncturist at the Center, acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that involves inserting tiny needles into specific points on the body to foster relaxation and facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal itself. It is holistic, in that it treats the whole person. And it is a “root and branch” type of treatment that can address both symptoms as well as root causes of discomfort, illness, or pain.
People who regularly receive acupuncture say it is extremely relaxing. “We see patients who complain of insomnia all the time who frequently fall asleep during a treatment,” explained Licensed Acupuncturist Natalie Knight. “Studies are indicating it activates the parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ aspect of the nervous system, which results in reduced inflammation, a reduction in pain, and an improved sense of well-being, among other many other benefits,” Knight added.
“People spend much of their lives in a state of chronic stress, which is an inflammatory state that impairs many bodily functions over time – digestion, sleep, immunity, hormone and blood sugar regulation, cognition… the list goes on. Pain is always worse when stress is elevated. Acupuncture has the effect of giving the body a break, allowing it to be in a more relaxed state, and restoring function to its various systems. When the body works the way it’s supposed to, people feel better AND they are literally healthier,” said Layne.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
How do I prepare before?
There are several pages of paperwork you need to fill out before your first session of acupuncture at Samaritan Center, so arriving early will help everything feel calmer. Wearing loose clothing, especially pants that you can roll up above your knees can be helpful, depending on what the acupuncture is treating. Other than that, just come as you are.
Will it hurt?
I was worried about this before I started – I’m not a huge fan of needles and I have to admit that I felt a little nauseated when I saw the first one come out. I was surprised to find that it really didn’t hurt at all – there were few places that felt a little bit uncomfortable or itchy, but mostly I was able to forget that the needles were even there.
What kind of questions will the acupuncturist ask?
The acupuncturist will ask you questions about the problems or areas of discomfort that you’ve indicated on your intake paperwork. She will also take your pulse and look at your tongue. Kim, my acupuncturist, was wonderful about providing as little or as much explanation of what she was doing as I felt comfortable with. If there’s anything you don’t want to discuss, just say so!
What is it like?
I found acupuncture to be very relaxing. After having the needles placed I was worried that I was going to just be staring at the ceiling for thirty minutes, but I quickly dozed off and had an extremely refreshing nap. I felt like the session helped my mind and body to become more in tune, and I appreciated the quiet time in the middle of a hectic day.
The entire session is blocked for an hour and you are receiving the actual acupuncture for about 30 minutes
Natalie lead my appointment. The session started with a consult where I shared what brought me in and Natalie provided an outline of what an acupuncture session entails. After discussing what was going to be treated in that session, we went next door to the therapy room, which consisted of massage tables divided by privacy screens.
The needles do not go through clothes, so depending on what the acupuncturist is treating will reflect what articles of clothing need to be removed or shifted. With the needles being very thin-with medical grade sterilization- it felt like a gentle tap repeated in various places on my body. Once all the needles are in the intended areas I was left in private to relax for 20-25 minutes, at which point Natalie returned to remove the needles.
We finished the session with a consult back in the office, where the session started. Since this was my first acupuncture session, Natalie shared to be sure to hydrate, take it easy and listen to what my body needed.
I have returned three times since. My stress levels feel less erratic after acupuncture and my hormones have become more balanced. Receiving acupuncture feels like going to a yoga class or finding a quiet moment in the day; it is a space where you are asked to relax your body and calm the racing thoughts to experience a positive shift in your body and mind.