I love Chinese medicine because it is authentically holistic and it can be as spiritual, artistic and esoteric and as medical and physical as the practitioner wants it to be. I am an acupuncturist and an herbalist so I prescribe Chinese herbs to my patients. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are ancient practices from China that addresses the body holistically.
Chinese medicine is actually an umbrella that contains Qigong, tai chi, herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, acupuncture and feng shui, among others. All these different practices are used to change how energy moves in the world and the body. Acupuncture is the use of very small, stainless steel needles to change the way energy and blood flows in the body and to help the body function optimally.
In acupuncture, the needle stimulates micro-blood vessels and micro nerves to increase blood flow and calm the nervous system. There have been studies showing that in acupuncture points, there are these little tiny systems of nerves and blood vessels that change, relax and move more efficiently when needles are inserted.
From an Eastern medicine perspective, Qi is known as life force energy or prana. It could be also thought of as like this innate electricity in the body that keeps us alive and is constantly flowing. Acupuncture causes the qi to flow better and when qi flows better, then it gets more energy to the organs and the whole body functions better.
One question I often get is, does acupuncture in Marlton hurt? I will say that there are many different sensations that are often felt in an acupuncture treatment, and there is different timing for these sensations, so when I insert a needle, sometimes there’s a sensation felt at insertion. It can feel dull and heavy, a little bit like a pinch or it doesn’t feel anything at all. It really depends on the point, the person and the technique used. It is possible that there is very minimal feeling when the needle is going in.
After the needles are in and the patients are resting on the table, there are also different sensations that can be felt. Sometimes, people will feel heat or like a mentioned earlier, a dull throbbing or like their limbs are really heavy. The sensations are not painful, they are indicating that the qi is working and moving through the body in a way that the body is probably not used to, because a lot of people never had an acupuncture before.
Sometimes, a limb or a muscle will twitch and that is okay too. That just means that things are being reset and the body isn’t used to this type of movement. It’s actually a good sign when the body reacts with different sensations. Chinese medicine is based on a foundational theory of Yin and Yang. The Yin Yang theory is really a worldview and a whole paradigm about how the world works and how to best live this life.
It may seem completely black-and-white, like its symbol. As an example, when we take a breath, we inhale and then exhale. They are opposite mechanisms and they always depend on and need each other. In terms of gender, everybody has a certain amount of yin and yang in their body. It’s not like people who identify as male are all yang, and people who identify as female are all yin.
At different times of day and year, we’re going to have different balances of yin and yang. At different ages, children tend to have a lot of yang. They are very energetic, their energy often moves up and they have a lot of heat, whereas people who are slower, quieter and possibly older, are going to be a bit more Yin.
In terms of non-binary people like myself, we have different amounts of yin and yang just like anybody else. That is why Chinese medicine is awesome for non-binary people and trans-people because an acupuncturist’s job is to adjust the changing levels of yin and yang in every patient at any moment. I’m not always looking at somebody through the lens of sex and gender, I’m looking at them like, ”Okay, maybe the yang is a little tired and worn out and how do we get it stronger?”
So beyond helping people feel better physically, I also work with people’s emotions and spiritual blocks. When I’m working with somebody and I feel their pulse, I can use my intuition to ask, “Are you frustrated, or is there something that might be pulling you out of alignment?” That’s also impacting how the muscles might be out of alignment.
Just as there are physical symptoms, they are often linked to spiritual and emotional obstacles, feelings or hurdles that someone is currently facing. With trans-patients, what we’re looking at specifically is self-esteem and owning our identity and recovering from violence, whether it’s violence from an external source, violence from a past life or violence in our thoughts and how we think about our bodies and how we deal with the current constraints of our bodies, which can be very stressful.
I work with more trans-specific themes like scar treatment and more of the spiritual and emotional issues like confidence, verbalizing how we’re feeling, verbalizing our identity and being able to stand up and be who we are moment to moment. There are often emotional changes with HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that people may not be expecting or might not know much about before going on HRT.
Every channel of the body all have emotional aspects to them. So even though an acupuncture session might not be inherently for emotional and spiritual issues, just by getting acupuncture, the emotions are going to be helped by unblocking areas of stagnation and also helping emotions course through the body and get released, so that patients don’t hold the emotions in their body for longer than is appropriate, because many emotions are held in the body for too long, which often leads to pain and other symptoms.
Acupuncture can have the effect of making people feel more emotional, which is okay, and those emotions do need to come up and out for that feeling to be resolved and for people to be able to move on. A lot of people are uncomfortable with certain areas of their body, which is completely okay. We all have different comfort levels with different parts of our body.
My take on that is that my practice is very patient oriented, and so I’m not going to touch, needle or expose any part of the body people don’t want treated. I might ask, “Okay, for this treatment I would like you to wear a tank top, is that okay?” If someone says, “No, I’m going to wear a sweatshirt.” I will be like, “Okay, we will work with different points and with whatever part of the body is available for treatment at that time.”
The sessions are not about gritting through pain and they’re not about being overly vulnerable to the point of discomfort, it’s about increasing comfort and increasing feelings of safety. The way I achieve that is by allowing patients to direct me with what areas of the body they’re okay to be treated at that time.