How to Receive Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Hugh Hayward - Chinese Medicine Practitioner

Listen to this blog post on Soundcloud

Most people surfing the web in search of acupuncture and Chinese medicine knowledge will find a surplus of information on topics such as; which illnesses can be treated? How does it work? Does it hurt? etc. My opinion as a practitioner and as a regular receiver of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, is that this is one of the most important aspects of being a patient, and it is all too often overlooked. 

I have heard some patients remark on how acupuncture “just isn't for me” or that “all of the practitioner’s pins were painful”. 

Rarely do I hear them ask, “Was I doing my job as a patient?”.

This can be why expected results were not achieved from their therapy. Often practitioners forget to describe what role patients themselves can play to benefit their own healing process. Taking the journey to health through Chinese medicine can require more than just showing up to a session alone. With the guidance of their practitioner, patients can learn how to take responsibility for that journey and their bodies, and become the master of that process. 
As the practitioner only sees their client for a short period of time comparatively; this journey to health is the rest of the time, in the hands of the patient. 

Here are some useful ways to receive acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and some techniques to remember while receiving the actual treatment. 

Communicate openly with your practitioner. 

The practitioner will not take offence if you respond with pain or a request. It is their job to heed your words and actively listen to your spirit and body. You know your body like no one else, so be an active medium for the practitioner to do their job effectively. 

This communication should be maintained in all aspects of treatment during acupuncture, Chinese massage, and in taking Chinese herbal medicine. It is important to let your practitioner know if you are in pain or discomfort, or if you are prescribed herbs that you will probably throw down the sink!There are alternatives to gross tasting formulas, unbeknown to all naturopaths ;), and your practitioner will find them for you. 

Be honest to yourself and your practitioner about the desired outcome and treatment plan. 

If you think that the treatment plan which is chosen for you is out of your price range or time schedule, or down the track becomes difficult to maintain, it is crucial that you let your practitioner know and admit to yourself that things will probably not work out. Help us to help you. It can be difficult for your practitioner to discuss your options with you if you don’t follow through with therapy. Getting better or even maintaining the work that has already been done is less likely without this communication. 

The practitioner has your best interests at heart and ultimately if you have a few sessions with no relief and then decide not to try again, it can reflect poorly on the industry because you did not get results. It can also look bad for the practitioner because they did not have the chance to rectify either, their mistake in giving you unrealistic expectations, or their mistake in not communicating how important this is. 

You might have missed a great referral opportunity and the practitioner might have missed valuable criticisms, rather than the benign conclusion.

At Cosm Natural Health we don’t always find set treatment plans helpful as they can create unrealistic expectations for the patient and also imply that if you are better before the plan is up, you have wasted the left over sessions. We find that each pathology is completely different and responds differently depending on the patient. There is a much better way to gauge prognosis and that is to educate the patient on what to look out for in their own body, keep us up to date, and stay honest. 

This is not to say the we do not offer the option of purchasing sessions in bulk, it just means that there is no pressure to use these treatments at once for the one illness. 

Try to maintain a relaxed state during treatment.

A lot of patients will come to us after a long and stressful day of work and some have difficulty leaving that tension behind. It is so important that while you are receiving treatment, you use the time effectively. If you are thinking about project deadlines or returning emails, you are not present and neither is your body. 

The best and most potent results to treatment come from being relaxed and being still, totally focused in the moment of needle insertion and aware of the bodies response. As we are tapping into points relayed by the nervous system, the brain can learn to receive and recognise this as something beneficial, rather than something intrusive. We totally understand that someone inserting pins into your skin strikes most people as being rather intrusive, however with a little practice in receiving them, the experience can be next level!


This applies to Chinese remedial massage as well. A focused practitioner should never push beyond the patient’s mental limit. Focus must be shared in the treatment and then pain will cease to be pain and return as just variable sensations. Pain is the brains way of telling you: Something is happening to your body and we need to pay attention to it. Paying attention to pain on every level, becoming aware of the sensation of pain in a controlled environment, inhibits any negative reaction. I don’t want to sound like a masochist, but as a Chinese medicine practitioner I can understand in the brain, where the barrier between pain and pleasure gets fuzzy. 

The Technique

So the technique to match these numbing theories is much like the art of meditation. People who meditate, do so to alleviate existential suffering. The same can be applied to physical pain. 

  1. Upon location of the acupuncture or acupressure point, take a breath in and out and hold for 3 seconds.

  2. Aim for an undisturbed focus on the point on your body and the mental stillness which ensues.

  3. As any mental thoughts or images of pain or apprehension begin to creep in, continue the breath. Sharp or dull or numb. You can’t begin to anticipate which it will be, so do not try.

  4. If the point is sharp, do not let this carry to the next. Continue the breath and if it does not feel better inform the practitioner. Usually if sharp (which is rare) it will only last a couple of breaths.

After a bit of practice you will master the art of receiving acupuncture or massage and you will really experience that the effects are cumulative. The more therapy you receive the better your body responds. Speaking from experience, now that I have had countless treatments as a patient, usually after the 2nd pin I am feeling every muscle in my body relaxing and my stresses melting away. 

Fortunately you don’t need to be a patient to practice relaxation. I incorporate breathing techniques in my acupuncture, Chinese massage and Chi nei tsang sessions, with just about all of my patients. It helps to speed up recovery and makes it easier to do my job as a practitioner.
We only see you for a fraction of your healing journey so if you can take the techniques home or to that stressful work environment you will notice dramatic improvement in your health. If you maintain most of these recommendations and techniques during treatment, at the very least, you will enjoy your sessions more than previously, and start to learn to master your own self.