This past Monday, I took a momentous step in my life as an acupuncturist-to-be. After discussing setting up a clean field and clean needle technique, it was time to move to the practice room to needle ourselves. Obviously, acupuncture is about sticking needles into other people, but before we start experimenting and practicing our technique on each other, the school feels it’s a good idea to have us practice on ourselves first. I’m in favor of this idea. After all, if someone is going to be practicing sticking needles into me, I would much rather know that they have been doing the same to themselves and practicing their grip and technique so as to minimize the potential pain and bruising I may experience at their hands.
So, I steadied myself. I set up my sterile field, I had my leg marked up, and I grabbed a needle. Heart racing, I tried to calm myself. The thought occurs to me that trying to slide a needle through my skin is going to be difficult if my hands are shaking. I breathe deeply, reassuring myself. Finally, I feel as though I have enough confidence built up to give it a go. Breathing in once more, I valiantly thrust my needle downwards.
Only to have it snag in the skin and get stuck, refusing to budge past the tiniest bit of the tip, which is latched onto my skin. Damn. I try again. No luck.
This happens about four more times, by which point, my nerves have given way to “goddamnit, I KNOW I can do this!” And then, finally, I succeed! It’s not a perfect insertion: I get the needle through the skin but then have to apply a surprisingly large amount of pressure to coax it past the skin barrier and into the muscle tissue below, but I do it! I’ve needled myself!
As the remainder of class wears on, I manage to successfully stick myself four or five more times. To my great relief, each time gets a little easier, and I even manage to needle LI-4, which is located in the fleshy part of the back of the hand, where the thumb meets the index finger (yeah, one handed needling!).
But nothing will ever quite replicate the feeling of joy and success of getting that first needle in:
It’s the first of thousands. And I did it myself.