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Is This Normal?

photo credit: Ed Reschke/Photolibrary/Getty Images

I'm asked this question all the time - Is what I'm feeling normal? This question typically arises when a patient feels something unexpected during acupuncture treatment and they want to know if what they're feeling is okay. Most of the time what's being felt is okay, and many times it's an indication that healing is happening. Sometimes after needling an acupuncture point a de qi sensation is felt. De qi means "the arrival of qi", and many times it feels like heaviness or achiness. Typically the feeling only lasts for part of the duration of the acupuncture treatment, but sometimes it lingers beyond the length of the session. Not only is this feeling normal, but it may be an indicator that the treatment is working well. Then there are the many other sensations that patients report that are a bit trickier to explain. I've had patients tell me they feel like they're twisting on the table even though they are not moving. Some have said that they feel like they're floating on a wave, and one patient said they felt like a dolphin diving through the ocean while they were resting during their acupuncture treatment. Some have shared that their body feels very heavy. Others feel lighter. Also, many patients report sensations that they don't have words for, no matter how hard they try to describe what they're feeling. Is all of that normal? Absolutely. Acupuncture needles are usually inserted into connective tissue, which is a soft tissue framework that surrounds all of our cells, muscles, organs, everything in the body and it helps keep these structures in place so that they aren't floating around. Connective tissue also has nerve supply. One of the goals of acupuncture is to shift connective tissue so that qi and blood can move smoothly throughout the body. As this connective tissue shifts, the nervous system may be stimulated. It's possible that proprioceptors, the sensory nerves that tell us how we are oriented in space, are stimulated as connective tissue is realigning during acupuncture treatment, which may explain why patients have shared that they feel like they're being twisted or that they're floating or diving like a dolphin. Embrace these sensations as your rest during your acupuncture treatment. It's usually the only place where you'll have an opportunity to feel something very unique.

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