When I tell people I’m an alternative medicine doctor and that I offer acupuncture, the follow-up comment is usually along the lines of: “Oh so you basically stick people with needles? Sounds fun!” or “No thank you, looks so painful.” But usually, it only takes one session for first-time patients to realize that acupuncture is much more than just getting poked. Acupuncture is an effective medical treatment that has evolved into a complete holistic healthcare system.
Acupuncture is Ancient Medicine
The practice has been around way longer than conventional medicine–like 2,500 years longer. Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of inserting hair-thin, sterile single-use needles into strategic points throughout the body to safely improve emotional and physical health. A doctor can ease pain, activate endorphins, release anti-inflammatory mediators, trigger neurotransmitters, increase circulation, and strengthen the immune system through these specific points. Although Acupuncture is most popular for pain relief, it is also highly effective to treat other issues like stress management, cardiovascular health, hormone balancing, digestive issues, fertility, mental health, and overall wellness.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture is a medical modality or technique for balancing your flow of energy, also known as Qi (pronounced as “chi”). Qi travels throughout the body on pathways referred to as meridians that stimulate nerves, muscles, and tissue. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) teaches us that with acupuncture, these “energy highways” can be opened and thus, bring forth relief.
Imagine your body is a complex system of highways with various on- and off-ramps, in traditional western medicine, you’d agree that this is exactly what your nerves, veins, and muscles look like. In TCM, these super complex thoroughfares are where your life-energy or chi flows. As in the outside world when 5:00 pm traffic is at a halt and the roads get jammed up, your meridians might also “jam up.” Acupuncture clears these obstructions to restore proper function of the body, release natural painkillers and neurotransmitters, increase blood and oxygen flow, and ultimately, make you feel better.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
Short answer, it shouldn’t. In fact, most of my patients don’t feel a thing. Long answer, it depends. Everyone is different and some are more sensitive than others. In general, most patients will agree that acupuncture does not hurt. I treat babies, kids, and adults regularly, and everyone leaves smiling. I utilize a gentle technique and use the thinnest needles possible–thinner than human hair. Any pain or discomfort a patient may experience could be because we are stimulating an energy point that has never been activated before. Regardless, it would be short-lived and should subside in mere seconds. Most patients describe the treatment as a relaxing experience and often fall asleep.
How many treatments will I need?
My goal is to get you feeling better as quickly as possible. Although most patients feel relief after only one treatment, acupuncture works best cumulatively. The condition that is being treated will determine how many treatments are needed. After a consultation, you’ll receive a customized treatment plan. Similar to exercise, you won’t see your body change drastically after one workout, but drastic changes will occur if you follow your acupuncture treatment plan.
How Should I Prepare for Acupuncture?
There are no hard and fast rules for this but here are a few general guidelines I give to my patients:
- Leave yourself a little time before and after your appointment. You’re not going to want to come into the office after a super strenuous meeting or major workout. Try to find a little calm before coming in. Follow a similar routine for after your appointment. You may experience a few lingering symptoms–other than feeling better–you may feel tired or fatigued. On the flip side, you may feel completely energized, but still, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
- Don’t come starving–and don’t come stuffed. You’ll want to have eaten something roughly two hours before your appointment. We’re about to work some parts of your body that may never have been “worked” so make sure you’re nourishing yourself.
- Avoid caffeine. Again, the point is to feel relaxed. Try to abstain from your morning coffee if you have a morning acupuncture appointment. You want to give yourself at least two hours before your appointment so try not to hit up Starbucks on your way in.
- Wear loose-fitting comfortable clothing as your acupuncturist will need to access your extremities at the very least, usually your tummy, and anywhere else you might be experiencing pain.
The Big Picture
I could write for hours on acupuncture. It’s an amazing way to get relief from what ails you. Acupuncture is also a fantastic way to be proactive about your health (I’ll discuss this in a later blog). Whatever the motivation, keep an open mind and an open heart, and it could work wonders for you. Acupuncture is customized to each individual to bring balance and vitality to the body. If you are looking for a safe effective way to treat illness and get your body feeling its best then acupuncture is right for you.
Ready to begin your wellness journey?
Let’s get started.