Best Poke in Town

A Day in the Life of an Acupuncturist

I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine using acupuncture and Chinese herbs to treat my patients for almost any human health condition. When I heard about's "A Day in the Life" feature, I jumped at the chance to record a day in my clinic.

First, I called all my scheduled patients to make sure they were comfortable being photographed while in my clinic. Everyone said "yes". My friend, Margie Grant, was kind enough to be my photographer and spend the whole day with me.

My first patient brought in her four week old baby who nursed contentedly while I treated her arm for carpal tunnel. Before I brought out my needles, I questioned her closely about her general health since the birth of her son. "Any night sweats or palpitations? Headaches or ringing in the ears? Anxiety or insufficient milk production?" These can be signs of depletion that I can treat with acupuncture, herbs and diet. Long term depletion can compromise the immunity and leave her and her baby more vulnerable to contagious diseases or other complications.

My next patient complained of fatigue and insomnia. She had some surgery this spring and lost a lot of blood. Her tongue and pulse reflected this. Depleted blood can cause insomnia because blood anchors the mind at night. If the blood is weak the mind is not anchored and thus cannot be quieted to allow sleep. We talked about good foods for building her blood. I inserted needles into tonifying but calming points in her wrists and legs and let her rest for about a half hour while I entertained her son in the waiting room. He and I looked at my acupuncture doll; a rubber woman with all the points mapped on her body. Then I packaged specific herbs for this patient and sent her on her way.

Acupuncture on Knee

My third patient had a sore knee. He needs to get this diagnosed by an orthopedist but his general practitioner insisted that he try physical therapy before she will refer him. In the meantime it still hurts and is slightly swollen. I suspect a torn meniscus. Acupuncture won't repair it but I can decrease his pain and swelling. I recommended he take an Omega-3 supplement like a good quality fish oil or flax seed oil to decrease inflammation.

My fourth patient doesn't really have any complaints today. She has been improving her health very successfully with diet, exercise and a "change in attitude". She was curious about acupuncture and alternative medicine in general. After talking for awhile about her health history I began to see a pattern. Her tongue and pulse confirmed it. "You have excess liver, just by constitution. Everything you have told me so far fits this pattern and it is a very common one. You are doing all the right things so keep it up." I used a point combination that is like the reboot button for the body. It finds stuck energy anywhere in the body and helps it flow freely. After her treatment I felt her pulse again. It had changed significantly for the better. She left feeling relaxed and refreshed and I was pleased knowing that I had given her a successful tune-up.

My fifth patient just had three wisdom teeth removed. She is healing well but her jaws ached. "Will you let me use points on your face? If it is too sore to be approached I can just use all distal points on your hands and feet," I say. She wanted the facial points and the others. I inserted needles in her cheeks. I also used the Master point for the face and head which is on the hands. I finished with a Stomach Channel point on the feet to drain excess energy from the opposite end of the channel, which is where her pain is located. (Acupuncture is so cool.) She told me it felt much better as she was leaving. I cautioned her it might ache more tonight and then feel much better tomorrow.

Now it is time for my sixth and last patient. She is six months pregnant and had back pain that radiated down one leg - sciatica. She has been seeing a chiropractor but so far it has only hurt more. She said she knows this can sometimes happen and wants to continue seeing her chiropractor. Pregnant women can be tricky to treat, as they can't lie on their back or stomach, so I often treat them lying on their side or sitting up in a comfortable chair. I also must avoid the "forbidden points" during pregnancy - they can stimulate premature labor. No points in the lower back allowed. That's ok because I have many ways to treat low back pain. "Tell me when you feel something, like maybe a muscle twitch or a little electrical zing," I said as I inserted a needle in her hand. "No zing but the baby just kicked," she said with a smile. The baby kicked for each needle I inserted into her hands and feet. Fifteen minutes later she got off the massage table and said, "Wow, it really feels better!" I saw her that night at a barbeque and she said, "Lucy, it really worked, my pain is gone!"

I tidy up my office and go home. I saw a nice variety of patients today. I hope this piece can give readers a glimpse into the wide variety of health conditions that acupuncture can treat. I also hope it conveys how comfortable and relaxing an acupuncture treatment can be.

Already known as an alternative remedy for alleviating backaches and migraines, acupuncture has found a niche in treating the side effects of cancer treatment, diabetes, eating disorders, infertility, nausea associated with pregnancy, skin disorders, emotional disorders like depression and even smoking and alcohol addictions. Relief can also be found for respiratory, circulatory, digestive and gynecological problems.