Reduced to its simplest, acupuncture is the millenia-old practice of inserting sterile, hair-fine needles at specific points in the body to strengthen, stimulate and relieve symptoms of disease. But here’s what you really want to know:
Do you feel it? Yes.
Does it hurt? No. It feels weird, like no other feeling you’ve had before, but it’s not an “ouch feeling.”
If you are “afraid of needles” should you still try it? Totally. More often than not the “scared patient” is the first to fall asleep once the needles are in and then be surprised by how relaxing the whole thing was.
Is it weird to stick needles in your body for health and serenity? Sure. It’s really weird. I’m the first to admit it. However, the fact that it has been treating patients on nearly every continent for at least 4000 years (compared to Western medicine’s 100 years) speaks to its efficacy.
Do you need to be sick and broken to benefit from acupuncture? While acupuncture can be incredibly effective at treating symptoms, the ideal acupuncture patient actually has no “symptoms” and wants to stay that way.
The gist is: Energy (or “qi” if you like) is constantly moving through the body (blood is a thicker form of this energy), and when it circulates properly, we don’t feel it. We are in harmony, balanced and strong. But when it gets blocked or becomes deficient, it causes pain, dysfunction, depression and disease.
For example, pain is actually energy and blood that have stagnated. During treatment, when an acupuncture needle is inserted, the brain recognizes “something is happening” and sends blood to the insertion point to investigate, triggering the inflammatory response and hyper-circulating oxygen, minerals, and resources both to the point of insertion and to other areas that may help the body recover.
Acupuncture often requires patients to look at health from a new perspective. Many of us are used to Western medicine which focuses on what’s sick and broken, on killing the pathogen; Western “health” is about getting us back to where we were before the bad thing happened. It’s great at this and I’m thankful for it. However, “health” in Eastern medicine is about strengthening the body’s natural intelligence so that it can employ its resources more effectively to encourage wellness, prevent illness, and put out its own fires. It’s about improving basic life functions: circulating blood, calming the nervous system, improving sleep and the digestive process, reducing stress. If our bodies are operating at peak potential we shouldn’t be sick, we shouldn’t be in pain, and we shouldn’t be agitated, tense and cranky. Sounds good, right?
Every now and then I come across someone who declares they “don’t believe in acupuncture.” While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I do like to remind these *fun people that canine acupuncture has been repeatedly proven effective and none of the dogs claim they believe in it either. Fortunately for them, acupuncture doesn’t require a person’s (or puppy’s) belief.
And fortunately for you and me, the World Health Organization lists the following symptoms, diseases and conditions to be treated effectively by acupuncture:
Common Cold, Sinusitis
Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction
Blood Pressure Regulation
Immune System Toning