Distal Acupuncture: Why I Don’t Put Needles Where You Feel Pain
Pam Verlander, RN DOM Community Acupuncture of Longwood
Owner-Acupuncture Physician 2901 W SR 434, Ste 141, Longwood, FL 32779
My patients are often confused by my treatment methods. It may be that they have seen other acupuncturists place needles right where there is pain. Regardless, I always explain my style to my new patients so they know why I might be using their ankle for neck pain, the forearm for back pain, etc. This style of needling is called distal needle acupuncture. I use areas below the elbows and knees (sometimes head and ears). There are 12+ channels of energy which are comprised of nerve bundles and blood vessels and have been mapped out anatomically thousands of years ago. I have the knowledge to tap into one channel and have it ‘talk’ to another channel and/or location in the body. Tapping into the channel unblocks the channel(s) and revitalizes the flow of neurological and circulatory function. The location of the needle and the channel selection is important for the success of the treatment.
There are 2 main benefits to distal needling. 1) The site of pain will not potentially get further injured by needles: You will be able to give feedback if the pain has minimized because you will be able to move, if necessary, to feel the effectiveness. 2) Faster results: Because the nerves are denser below the elbows and knees, the central nervous system has more stimulation to release endogenous opioids such as enkephalins, beta-endorphins, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine, and to stimulate blood flow to the site of pain. Ever feel lightheaded or euphoric after acupuncture? This is why. This is also why there is more pain relief when using distal needles. More brain stimulation causes a larger shift in these aforementioned chemicals. Because of this ability to tap into the body’s natural healing system, acupuncture can do more than just treat pain. Acupuncture can and does help bring the body’s organ systems back into balance and reduce stress.
It is so much fun to see my patients get IMMEDIATE pain relief. I can comfortably say that over 80% of my patients who come in with a pain or discomfort (including headaches and back pain) feel relief within 5-60 seconds of the needle placement. In a country where instant gratification is a priority, this is so important to the success of my clinic. Getting out of pain is a priority for all of my patients so I chose the best method to get these results. This method happens to be distal needling.
The following is a dialogue I often have with new patients:
(I will place a few needles and the following will occur)
Me: Is the pain the same or different?
Patient: Is it supposed to be different?
Me: That’s the idea but I need honest feedback even if the pain is the same.
Patient: Oh, ok. Weird. Yea the pain is actually starting to ease up. Is this voodoo?
Me: Yes. (haha) No, actually I give them a very brief explanation but sometimes there isn’t enough time answer all the questions. That’s why I’ve made this info sheet J. Then I tell them that they will initially need to get 4 treatments within 2 weeks to keep the progress in motion. After that, treatment frequency will vary from patient to patient.
There might be 5% of patients with multi-layered or complicated cases that won’t find full relief at my office. For these patients I am happy to give referrals to the many awesome local acupuncturists who see 1-2 patients per hour so they can get the attention they need. For most everyone else, my clinic will serve them well. Note: I do not do moxa, cupping, or sell herbs. I believe those modalities work well but are not necessary to achieve results.
Acupuncture is a very old medicine with many different lineages. I am not saying my methods are superior to others but simply explaining how and why I do what I do. At the end of the day it comes down to what gets my patients healthy as fast as possible. For me, that happens to be using distal needling.