-Michelle Gellis AP LAc DiplAc
“The lines on our face are an outward manifestation of our inner world”
Facial Acupuncture is a profitable and sought-after addition to your acupuncture practice. For the time being, due to concerns over covid-19, many of us have turned to telehealth to treat our patients. Adding Facial Acupuncture to your telehealth is a wonderful way to support our patients both physically and emotionally and for those of us who are reopening, how to treat our patients face if they are wearing a mask can pose new obstacles.
Telehealth can be a great way to perform an intake for new patients, and to support existing patients. Telehealth provides an opportunity to expand our practice, it is safe for those patients who might have otherwise not come to us because of the needles and provides us away to reach a wider patient base.
Chinese medicine is uniquely suited to help our patients during this difficult time, and to get a deeper understanding of our patients while still limiting our contact with them. Many of our patients have had a lack of outside care. Spa type treatments such as facials, fillers, lasers etc. are done through hands-on contact. With these services shut down, our patients have not been able to receive the treatments they are used to. However, as acupuncturists we have a multitude of diagnostic and treatment tools at our disposal.
One way you can perform your diagnosis is via one of the medical video platforms that are available. This can be for new patients, checking in with established patients or each time before treating a patient. Talk to your patients regarding their diet, alcohol consumption, sleep, and stress level during this time. Many have been dealing with anger/frustration, grief/loss, fear/isolation, or over- nurturing of home schooled children or aging parents. Each of these emotions relates to one of the five elements in some way and can provide clues to diagnosis. Using some five element skills you can also diagnose your patients facial color and the sound of their voice. Tongue diagnosis can be done both through telehealth video and through a photo. Although you cannot feel their pulse, you can ask them to count their pulse to get the rate or use their fit bit or other device. Lines in the face can also provide diagnostic information. Nasolabial lines and Crows feet=fire, sagging jowls and marionette lines=earth, horizontal lines on forehead and/or furrowed brow=anger/sadness/sympathy/skepticism/pain, lip wrinkles top=over nurturing/bottom=bitterness and more. Other diagnostic clues specifically for cosmetic patients can be signs like hooded eyelids or dark spots.
Treatment through telemedicine can take many forms. Support through verbal offerings can be a wonderful way to get energy moving. Asking into what your patient is going through, how are they dealing with it, and providing healthy alternatives in the form of recommendations for any area you may have specialized knowledge in such as Qigong, meditation, breathing exercises, nutrition etc. Acupressure and or ear seeds are very effective for various facial conditions. Through telemedicine platforms you can use visual aids and teach easily located facial and distal points for acupressure to patients such as SI19, LI20, GB14 and LI4 in addition to instruction on placement of ear seeds. There are several points that correspond to the face right on the earlobe!
Facial cupping and Facial GuaSha are safe, effective techniques your patients can practice at home. They stimulate blood flow, increase collagen and provide lymphatic drainage. If you are not familiar with these protocols, I offer several CEU classes on these topics on my website which you can demonstrate to you patients. A Microneedle Derma Roller is also a useful tool for patients to use at home either between telemedicine treatments or once you open for between treatments. Aculift brand is approved for use in the treatment room by the American Acupuncture Council and is effective on wrinkles, cellulite, stretch marks, loose skin, acne scars and reduction of hair loss, as well as being excellent for pitted skin & stretch marks. Lastly, herbs can be recommended that can help with skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, dryness and sagging.
Once you re-open your practice, you may have concerns about how to treat your patients if they are wearing a mask. Whether you are treating them for cosmetic, neuromuscular facial conditions or 5E block clearing, there are points on the face that can be difficult to access if your patient is wearing a mask. I have outlined some points that can substitute for points you would normally use.
Points that lift the face:
ST8, TE17, GB2, Distal points on LI & ST can treat the mouth/lips.
Other options: Dr. Tan, Scalp Acupuncture, Auricular points. There are other protocols I teach such as submuscular needling of the Auricular Muscles and treating along the supraorbital nerve to treat the areas of the face you cannot reach when a patient is wearing a mask. When thinking about entry/exit blocks the only point you cannot access is LI20. One alternative would be acupressure or accessing LI18 which is just lateral to the SCM in line with ST9. Wearing a face shield in addition to a face mask can be beneficial as well.
Maintaining your facial acupuncture practice in the midst of a pandemic can be especially challenging. But given the right set of skills and forethought, supporting our patients on a body, mind and spirit level is quite possible and can widen the breadth and depth of your practice tremendously.