Acupuncture is an ancient healing practice that has been exploding in popularity in the modern world. Even many mainstream Western doctors are now recommending acupuncture to help people with a variety of health challenges, from chronic pain to infertility. Scientific research has shown that this ancient practice is effective for many different conditions.
Many people are curious about acupuncture but aren’t sure quite what to expect. What exactly is acupuncture? What is it like to get a treatment?
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a healing system that stimulates particular points on the body using very tiny needles, in order to bring about a greater state of health. An acupuncturist will determine specifically where to place the needles, based on your symptoms and what you would like to accomplish with the treatment.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the intention of acupuncture is to stimulate the flow of life force energy (called chi). The needles are placed along meridians, which are pathways of energy that are believed to flow throughout the body and affect the functioning of various organs.
Many Western practitioners believe that acupuncture can be used to affect physical structures in the body, such as nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. A practitioner could also hold both of these views at the same time; acupuncture could affect both the flow of energy and the physical structures of the body.
A certified acupuncturist is a highly trained professional. To become an acupuncturist in the US, a person must complete an educational program at the master’s or doctoral degree level, and must also pass a certification exam. If you’re considering acupuncture, it’s a good idea to ensure that you choose a certified acupuncturist. This helps to ensure both the safety and the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatments.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Many people are understandably alarmed at the prospect of needles. However, acupuncture needles are much smaller than the needles you may have encountered in other contexts, such as getting a vaccination or having blood drawn. In fact, acupuncture needles are so small that many people don’t even feel them.
Most commonly, people report feeling tingling or warmth in the area where the acupuncture needles are inserted. Sometimes, the area may start to feel heavy or numb. People don’t usually report that the needles hurt, although some people feel an ache in the treated area.
Does acupuncture work?
Although it’s an ancient practice, acupuncture has been extensively studied by modern science. Research has found that acupuncture is effective for a wide variety of different conditions. Some of these include:
Low back pain
Nausea and vomiting (such as that associated with chemotherapy)
There are likely to be many more conditions that acupuncture is effective for, which just haven’t been studied yet.
How often are acupuncture treatments performed?
In most cases, a series of acupuncture treatments are performed. Going once a week for a few weeks or months is common. Sometimes, the treatments are performed more or less often than that. After the initial course of treatment is finished, people often continue to come for maintenance treatments every few months or so. Your acupuncturist will give you specific recommendations, based on your health concerns and your goals for the treatment.
Some people choose to have regular acupuncture treatments as part of their self-care, to help maintain their well-being. Most people find that receiving an acupuncture treatment is a very relaxing and calming experience, much like being at a spa. Even if you don’t have any specific health issues at the moment, you could still try out acupuncture as part of your self-care.
This treatment has very few side effects and is considered to be extremely safe when it’s performed by a well-trained practitioner. Of course, if you have any medical conditions or take any medications, it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor or other healthcare provider first, before you try any new treatment modality.