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First Visit Success - The Needle Phobic Patient

By: Jeffrey Grossman, L.Ac.

For most people, the first visit to any type of practitioner can be a bit nerve racking. Imagine how it can be for patients who have a needle phobia.

There's no getting around it. Needles are our primary form of healing. We know how thin and tiny they are, and that they cause minimal discomfort. But to our needle phobic patients, they are huge, thick and cause a lot of pain.

As practitioners of Acupuncture, the needle is our most useful tool for affecting change. That is why we have to break down the "huge and painful" needle myth once and for all.

With a few inquiring questions and a short show and tell of needle size, length and flexibility, you can begin to put relaxation and ease back into your patients' experience.

Here is one suggestion that may seem a bit over-the-top, but it has worked quite well for me:

On their first visit ask your patients if they have had acupuncture before. If they had acupuncture in the past, inquire about their experience: what they were told, what they experienced and if they had any concerns. If they have never had acupuncture before, ask them what they know about it. In either case, give them a brief "3 Minute Acupuncture" introduction.

Then I ask them about their experience of the needles. Obviously, if they have never had acupuncture before, their only needle reference is usually from a shot or vaccination. Most of the time patients will express a positive experience, but needle phobic patients will shuffle, look away and cringe.

This is when I ask if they have ever seen an acupuncture needle before. You'll probably discover that most patients have not taken a close look at the needles, and many may have even avoided looking at them.

Here's where the show and tell comes in for those who want to see them and have never experienced an acupuncture needle before. This is what I do to lighten up the scenario and to educate my patients:

First, I pull out a huge 28 gauge, 7-inch needle.

Their eyes expand to the size of their heads and they will usually say something like, "are you kidding!"
Next, I Inform them that this is certainly an acupuncture needle, but one that we will never use.

Then, I pull out a 16 gauge, 1-inch needle.

I inform them that this is the average size of needles used in an acupuncture session. I turn it, flick it and bend it, showing them that it is not much bigger than a cat's whisker.

This may not work for every needle phobic patient, but it has worked really well for me. In most cases, your patients will sigh with relief. If you put any or all of these suggestions to use, I would be happy to hear about your experience(s)! Once again, good luck, and I wish you good health and prosperity.

About the Author

Jeffrey Grossman, L.Ac. is the President and Creative Engine of Acupuncture Media Works, LLC.

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