I recently had the pleasure of being hospitalized for 8 days. I call this a pleasure because I have never been hospitalized before and it was quite a learning experience (that I hope to never repeat). Also, because my personal experience with Western medicine is relatively limited, my hospital-stay can be likened to a fast-track course in how Western medicine operates. It was fascinating!
Among the many lessons I learned throughout my 8 day convalescence, I learned a lot about the power of healing touch. Although I was constantly being “touched” (to have monitors attached/detached, blood work drawn, etc.), it was never something that I looked forward to nor did I find to be healing. The “healing” that I found in the hospital was through various large needles being stuck in my body for various amounts of time. This led me to think about new patients that are anxious or nervous about their first acupuncture treatment. If a person’s context of “needles” lies within a similar experience to my hospital stay, no wonder there is so much anxiety! The context of needles from a Western perspective compared with an acupuncture treatment is vastly different; in fact, there is almost no comparison! First, the goal of acupuncture needles has nothing to do with traditional needles. Acupuncture needles are much thinner, so much so that it is almost unfair to call it a “needle”. Second, acupuncture needles are used to interact with the person’s qi energy—not to add or take away anything substance from the body. Another way to understand this concept is how the acupuncture needles are simply serving the body as a guide its own energy back into balance. This is a vastly different concept from the needles I received at the hospital, which were used to either delivery or withdraw fluids from my body.
Finally, the most important differentiation is intention and energy! When an acupuncturist administers needles, it is with an energetic intention to direct the patient’s qi. Very rarely does the insertion of an acupuncture needle cause pain, nor is it the goal of acupuncture to inflict pain. (Which is also true for Western needles, although there is always some sort of discomfort) Here’s the point: the purpose of touch in Chinese medicine (and most complementary modalities) is the source of healing itself. This healing touch allows the patient to relax and open their own energy channels and allow healing to occur. This approach to health is vastly different from Western medicine but still has a valuable and important place in the healing process. My first stop after my release from the hospital was to the acupuncture office so that my recuperation could continue beyond the hospital treatment. While the hospital stay was vital to my recovery, so too was acupuncture and energy healing. Put simply, acupuncture is soothing and allowed my body to relax after a week of fear (my own) and constant stimulation. Based on my personal experience, I wish for all patients in the hospital to be able to experience acupuncture—or any energy work—while they remain in the hospital or shortly after their release. It is as important to the healing process as the hospital stay itself.