5 Things You Need to Know About Acupuncture Before You Try It

By Lisa Elaine Held

While it’s an ancient, Eastern healing modality, acupuncture is now pretty well accepted as an effective treatment for many modern ailments.

Especially since more people are thinking about health and wellness from a more holistic point of view, a perspective that’s at the core of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

“There are aspects of health that are purely physical,” says Ayla Lavin L.Ac., MSI, an acupuncturist at Modrn Sanctuary in New York City,” but healing has to incorporate all of the levels of the human being.”

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Still, if you’ve never tried it, you may be thinking something like: “They’re going to stick needles where?!”

To help allay those fears (in case acupuncture may be the solution to a nagging pain nothing else has worked for), we’re breaking down a few need-to-know facts, here.

5 Need-to-Know Facts About Acupuncture

1. The needles are teeny-tiny.

To be honest, calling them “needles” at all sometimes feels like a disservice, since many people picture medical or sewing needles in their minds. In fact, acupuncture needles more closely resemble bristles of a hair brush. They’re super skinny and bendy, and when they poke into your skin, you barely feel a prick. You will feel a dull, achy sensation just beneath the skin, sometimes, which varies in intensity depending on your issue.

2. It’s based on principles of Chinese Medicine.

The basic concept is based on what Chinese Medicine calls qi (pronounced chi), an energy or “life force” that flows throughout the body. When the flow of qi is blocked or stagnated, health issues arise, Lavin explains. Practitioners place needles on points along 12 meridians of the body to get rid of blockages and get your qi moving again.

3. …But scientific research shows it works.

Of course, Western doctors don’t recognize qi as an actual physical concept. Still, a ton of scientific research has been done and has found acupuncture to be effective at managing all kinds of conditions, even if MDs don’t quite understand how it’s working yet. Lavin says neck and back pain and headaches are the issues she treats the most, and the research is strongest in this area. She also treats many women for hormonal imbalances that lead to issues like infertility, heavy periods, cramps, and weight gain, or symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and low libido.

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4. And it’ll likely relieve stress no matter what.

Even if your carpal tunnel isn’t totally cured, you’ll likely get some stress relief out of the therapy no matter what you’re actually being treated for, since “acupuncture insertion stimulates anti-stress hormones,” Lavin says. Not to mention the fact that if you go to a spa-like spot like Modrn Sanctuary, you’ll be laying down listening to soothing music and breathing in aromatherapy through it all.

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5. Just make sure you go to a qualified acupuncturist.

Statistically, acupuncture is about as safe as you can get when it comes to treatment for any kind of health issue. Still, you wouldn’t go see a physical therapist or physician who wasn’t certified, and you shouldn’t get acupuncture from a shady storefront, either. Go to a licensed acupuncturist (usually abbreviated L.Ac. after their name), and feel free to ask about their training, which is pretty intensive if they’re truly qualified.

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