Around 10% of the world’s population has a fear of needles. Being a member of that 10%, I have to admit the idea of acupuncture seemed like some kind of twisted joke to me. Who would want to be stuck with more than one of those awful needles? And people enjoy this? Turns out, most of what I knew about acupuncture was made up of common misconceptions of the practice. Turns out, the needles used for acupuncture are incredibly small and the benefits are huge.
The first system of acupuncture dates back to China in 100BC. Since then it has since gone through periods of great interest and complete disregard, however, in relatively recent years, scientists have redirected their attention toward the practice. Originally acupuncture was said to help balance Qi (pronounced chee) throughout the body. For most modern practitioners, acupuncture is focused on nerve endings and stimulating the body. While these ideas sound unrelated, they both focus entirely on what needs to be done to keep the body in balance.
How it Works
Acupuncture works by the insertion of tiny needles into the top layer of skin in select acupuncture points. There are around 400 of these points on the body. Each of these points is home to nerve endings connected with different systems and organs in the body. Inserting the needles at these points stimulates the nerves and so affects the body. The acupuncturist will decide which points to focus on based on what you need.
By stimulating the different organs and systems of the body, acupuncturists are basically reminding the body of what it needs to do to heal itself. If you’re looking into acupuncture in order to increase your overall wellbeing, the acupuncture points chosen will help to balance your body’s interconnected systems. Basically, any problem you are suffering that has an internal source can be lessened by acupuncture.
Most often acupuncture is a treatment sought by those dealing with pain of any sort. It helps with back pain, headaches, neck or shoulder pain, postoperative pain and pretty well any other sort of pain. However, there are many ailments that can be relieved by acupuncture treatments such as digestive issues, allergies, insomnia, asthma and more. The most common benefits, seen by anyone who seeks out acupuncture treatments, are better sleep, higher energy levels, lower stress levels, and better digestion.
What to Expect
Acupuncture doesn’t serve as a quick fix. It needs several treatments to make a difference. Think of it this way, you don’t expect one day of antibiotics to kick your sinus infection to the curb. It takes days before you feel normal again. The same goes for acupuncture. For general maintenance, patients will have one treatment a week, or every other week. For injuries or other ailments, you might need to go in more often.
The needles used during acupuncture come in different sizes. If you have a fear of needles, all you have to do is mention it and they’ll use the smallest needle size available. When the needles are inserted in the acupuncture points, it’s described as a heavy feeling rather than any sort of pain. A lot of people don’t feel the needles at all.
Once the needles are inserted, the acupuncturist will leave them in and let you relax. The average acupuncture treatment lasts between 45 minutes and an hour. Once the treatment is over, some people leave feeling energized others leave feeling relaxed.
Finding an Acupuncturist
If you’re ready to jump on the acupuncture bandwagon, make sure that you check with
your insurance. Many people make the mistake of assuming it isn’t covered, but a lot of insurance companies are adding it as the practice gains traction.
There are sites out there that will help you find an acupuncturist in your area, but the best way to find a great acupuncturist is through word of mouth. Ask friends, co-workers or family members who have tried acupuncture if they have someone they would recommend.
Keep in mind that certified acupuncturists have completed between 2,000-3,000 hours of training and have passed the board exams given by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
So no, acupuncture isn’t some kind of torture, it’s a kind of healing. And with more and more people, even those who are scared of needles, turning to it every day, this practice of balancing the body is going to be around for thousands of years to come.