Depending on who you ask, acupuncture is either an interesting holistic healing technique or a cringe-worthy procedure. Either way, the ancient Chinese practice definitely raises eyebrows.
Despite its long, rich history (we’re talking thousands of years), there’s still a lot of questions surrounding the misunderstood method. How can a bunch of small needle pokes heal us physical and mentally? It sounds scary for sure. But acupuncture has been used to help treat everything from physical pain to depression. So, it’s certainly worth discussing the pros and cons.
Keep reading for an in-depth breakdown of all things acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Based on the theory that we all have energy flowing through our body, acupuncture works by correcting imbalances with that flow.
“There is an energy or a lifeforce in your body that keeps it alive. When you are feeling good, the energy is flowing freely and smoothly around your body in a balanced way. When this energy does not flow freely and smoothly, you may feel some discomfort, whether physical, mental, or emotional,” says Ashley O’Brian, licensed acupuncturist and owner of Acupuncture Together of Austin.
Acupuncture stimulates a spectrum of points on your body to rebalance your body’s energy flow. The acupuncturist uses a thin needle to penetrate the skin and manipulate those locations.
Another great way to balance your energy is with meditation. Try the meditation classes on Aaptiv today.
How does it work?
According to traditional Chinese medicine, our body houses a giant web of channels called meridians. “Meridians are the energy pathways that run throughout the body. They connect to major organs, the head, and run to the hands and feet,” says O’Brian. “By stimulating certain points along the meridians with acupuncture, we allow your body’s energy to flow freely and lessen or stop symptoms of discomfort or disease.”
For acupuncturists, knowing the ins and outs of the meridian system is as important as knowing basic human anatomy. The 12 meridians each have a unique yin and a yang aspect. So, this helps distinguish the flow of energy.
When you’re healthy, your two energy forces (yin and yang) are balanced and work in harmony. When those forces get out of balance, your body becomes more susceptible to illness, injury, or metal anxieties. Acupuncture’s goal is to rebalance that system, allowing your body to heal.
What can acupuncture treat?
“Acupuncture can help with any physical, emotional, or mental discomfort,” says O’Brian. “The most common things we treat are stress, anxiety, depression, migraines, allergies, arthritis, sports injuries, insomnia, digestive problems, and fertility and pregnancy related issues.”
Its benefits and healing properties blanket a vast array of complaints. Call a licensed practitioner to discuss your personal situation and find out your best option.
What can I expect?
Your acupuncturist will probably go beyond your initial physical or mental complaint. Basically, if you come in for a sore neck, expect questions about your diet and lifestyle, as well as your physical ailment. Don’t worry. They aren’t just being nosy.
“Chinese medicine considers a person as a whole, so everything about them helps us determine what may be imbalanced and causing them to not feel well,” says O’Brian. “Everything we observe about a person gives us clues to help us determine the correct course of treatment.”
What are the possible side effects
“No one trained, licensed, and practicing in the U.S. should have any patients with dangerous side effects,” explains O’Brian. “We are highly trained to avoid pneumothorax, or punctured lung, and we only use sterile, single use, disposable needles.
Less serious side effects may occur in the local area of needling. Bruising, soreness, swelling, numbness, bleeding, or temporary nerve pain may occur.
What if needles make me really nervous?
Most patients report acupuncture isn’t actually painful, but the a bunch of small needle pokes can be unsettling. Try acupressure instead.
“Acupressure can be helpful if someone doesn’t have access to acupuncture or is afraid of needles,” says O’Brian. Acupressure will use the same points as acupuncture, but the stimulation comes from pressure, not a needle. O’Brian believes it’s effective, but not as powerful,
Another option is a meridian massage. This type of massage works with the acupressure points and your meridian flow.
If acupuncture isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to balance out your energy. One is to start a regular exercise routine with Aaptiv.
How do I choose an acupuncturist?
Do thorough research before you decide on a practitioner. You want to feel completely comfortable with him or her. Make sure he or she is licensed. Don’t be afraid to call around and ask for recommendations. Also ask about education, the type of acupuncture practiced, and any experience with your particular problem.