A Beginners Guide to Acupuncture
Since lockdown began all the way back in March, many of us have devoted extra time to taking care of our health. Maybe you’ve been getting out into nature more, finding new tasty and nutritious recipes, or you’ve completed every single workout video that YouTube has to offer. These are all great ways to look after yourself, but they’re not the only ways. If you want to find a new way to take care of both your body and your mind, acupuncture could be the treatment for you.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical treatment, which can be traced all the way back to the Stone Age. The aim of the practice is to restore the natural balance of the body. Without this balance both the body and the mind will suffer. These imbalances are caused by disruptions to ‘qi’, which is the energy that flows through our body. To restore this energy and rebalance our bodies, acupuncture therapists insert needles into our acupressure points to release this energy and allow it to flow freely.
Like most Chinese medicines, acupuncture was once disregarded by the West. It was deemed as nonsense at worst, and a placebo at best. But in the past few decades, the treatment has become increasingly sought-after. In the US, around 10 million treatments are administered per year. Acupuncture is even used in the UK by the NHS, albeit as a complementary medicine rather than one in itself.
What Happens in an Acupuncture Session?
The thought of acupuncture might sound pretty scary to you — I know it does to me. Having needles inserted into my body by a random stranger? Just thinking about it makes me shiver. But it really works, so it’s definitely worth trying out. To make it a bit less frightening, it’s useful to know what to expect from a session.
Firstly, it’s important to know that there’s not one standard practice. Each therapist’s technique will be a little different, as they take different parts of Eastern and Western medicine to put into their sessions. However, they tend to still follow a similar pattern. Before you start your session, your acupuncturist will take the time to explain the treatment and discuss your general health and any specific issues you may have. If they don’t do this, you shouldn’t let them do the treatment. An open dialogue between you and your acupuncturist is essential, particularly when it comes to any underlying health issues you may have.
Once you have discussed your health and expectations, you will receive a treatment plan and recommended schedule. After this, the treatment can begin. The areas that the needles will be inserted into are first sterilised with alcohol. Then thin needles will be inserted into these areas. The number of needles inserted changes on a case by case basis, so don’t be alarmed if you have more or less than you were expecting. Because the needles are so thin, the treatment rarely hurts. In fact, you may even feel some immediate relief from your pain, although this depends on the individual case.
The session itself should last around 20 minutes, excluding the initial consultation. It’s best to wear loose clothing to your appointment, so clothes can be easily moved and adjusted if needed. When it comes to the number of sessions you need, this again is decided on a case by case basis. Often, acupuncturists recommend at least 2 or 3 sessions to get to the root cause of the pain; but only if this is something you’re comfortable with. If you’re unsure of what to do, just see how your first session goes and take it from there.
Who Does it Help?
At first glance, many assume that acupuncture is used to just treat back pain. Although this is a pain that acupuncture is commonly used for, it isn’t the only thing it can treat. In fact, the treatment can be used for almost every pain imaginable. In recent years it’s been used by many to manage wellness as a whole, rather than to target a specific issue. Everyone can benefit from acupuncture, as it’s a great way to stimulate relaxation and boost energy levels.
However, the treatment can be used to target specific problem areas too. From anxiety and depression to toothache and cataracts, it’s hard to find a health issue that an acupuncturist can’t treat. And even your children and furry friends can get involved too since acupuncture has been found to be beneficial for both. Just make sure to contact your GP before booking a session, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
Are There Any Dangers?
Although the treatment is usually safe and beneficial for the patient, there have been instances where things go wrong. This is sometimes down to poor practice by the acupuncturist, such as not taking the time to understand the patients’ health conditions, or leaving the needles in the patient for too long. This is why it’s crucial to take your time choosing your acupuncturist — there’s no such thing as too much research.
Don’t let this alarm you. There is risk involved with any procedure, but it doesn’t always equate to danger. More often than not, acupuncturists are highly professional. It is an important job with many risks involved, which is why they take it so seriously. It is still considered to have minimal side-effects and the WHO have deemed the treatment to be safe. Whilst it is important to be aware of the risks, don’t let them stop you from giving it a go.
Want to Find Out More?
To find out more about acupuncture in Britain, visit the British Acupuncture Council’s website. This site tells you more about different types of acupuncture and what to expect in your sessions. You can even find out more about studying to become a practitioner yourself. If you decide to go ahead and book a session, click here to find an acupuncturist near you.
Written by Siobhan Kelly
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