Acupuncture and Intention

There are several acupuncture points that are contraindicated during pregnancy, and these points are drilled into us from day one of grad school. When I was still a student, I remember having a supervisor tell another student to needle one of these points on a pregnant woman. When I mentioned that we were always told not to do that, he insisted that it was the intent that counted, not the actual needling. According to him, if you focused your will on what you wanted that needle to achieve, it would happen.

Honestly, I had a hard time buying into that at the time. I probably wouldn't do any harm with gentle needling on that contraindicated point; most likely it would be fine. "Probably" wasn't good enough for me, though. I didn't want to take any chances working on points that we were taught to stay away from, and I still don't. However, this concept of intention has always fascinated me. How much of what we accomplish in the treatment room is linked to our will? I have had patients say that they felt better even before I even put a needle in, because they felt cared for and listened to. From the moment someone walks into my room, my sole focus is on getting them well, and I truly believe that that focus is necessary for a successful treatment. I sometimes feel that my treatments start long before the first needle insertion; they start the moment the patient walks in the room, and I begin centering my energy on them. Actually, the treatment begins even before that-it begins the moment the patient decides to take the necessary steps to work on improving their health. The intention of the patient may be just as important as that of the practitioner.

It would be wonderful if all we needed for a good treatment was good intentions and a caring manner, but unfortunately that isn't the case. I have had poor treatments from practitioners who could not have been kinder. Despite their great bedside manner, I left without feeling any results. Whether it was due to improper point location, or an incorrect diagnosis, their intention wasn't enough to make up for a lack of skill. And on the other end of the spectrum, I once saw a very famous acupuncturist, not to be named, who is known to be at the very top of our field. I went to her expecting the best treatment of my life. When I finally met her, I found her to be brusque, rough, and quick-so much so that I was actually kind of afraid of her. She was incredibly focused, and obviously skilled, but I didn't enjoy the treatment at all. And the results of the treatment? Eh. I did get some relief, but it didn't have the "wow" factor that I was expecting.

When it comes down to it, neither intention nor skill are enough. There is power in those needles, but they need to be used wisely. And a fantastic needle technique can't make up for an acupuncturist who just wants to be somewhere else. But when you can combine that desire to make those needles work with a little bit of skill-that's when magic happens.

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