When acupuncture needles are first inserted into the body,
most people feel very little, if any, sensation. It is not until
a needle is inserted to its proper depth and an appropriate degree
of stimulation is applied that what we call the "Qi sensation"
is achieved. "Stimulation" can be a matter of simply twirling
the needle in place, giving it a mild or moderate lift and thrust,
applying heat, or even hooking the needles up to a mild electric current
(electroacupuncture), but the end result is the same: the Qi sensation.
The arrival of Qi at an acupoint has been described in many ways—a
dull ache, "electric" tingling, heaviness, numbness, distention—and
it often feels different depending where on the body the needle is placed,
the nature of the disorder being treated, and the overall health of the
patient. It may radiate up or down a limb or the trunk, or may be localized
at the site of insertion. Sometimes the patient even feels the sensation
in another location entirely from the one being needled. The Qi knows where
Qi may come on quickly, sometimes surprisingly so, or it may take a moment's
stimulation to draw it to the point. Sometimes the acupuncturist feels the
arrival of Qi before the patient does, through contact with the needle,
while at other times the patient feels it first and alerts the acupuncturist
verbally. Either way, the goal is to bring the Qi to the needle, so that
the effects of the acupoint (each one has its own unique effects) can be
realized and the benefits retained. Without the arrival of Qi, the
effectiveness of the treatment is significantly lessened, so a good
acupuncturist strives to achieve the Qi sensation with every point used.