By: Dr. Kelly Brown, N.D & Acupuncturist
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been around for centuries, originating in China. It has become one of the most used alternative therapies in the western world. Acupuncture treatments are widely accepted and one of the main components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Modern society is now incorporating acupuncture into many treatment regimes. It is often used alongside other practices such as physiotherapy, fertility treatments, mental health therapy and many more.
How is Acupuncture Performed? Does it Hurt?
Acupuncture is the insertion of thin needles into various areas throughout the body. In order to decrease the sensation of the needles as they enter the skin, they are as fine as human hair and very sharp. Acupuncture is essentially painless or equivalent to the sensation of a mosquito bite. Once the needles are inserted they often can’t be felt at all, however, some report feelings of tingling or warmth.
Acupuncture is extremely relaxing and said to be rather enjoyable. This treatment works in part by stimulating blood to flow throughout the body. After a session, patients usually feel extremely calm and peaceful, similar to how one would feel after a massage.
Conditions and Disorders Treated with Acupuncture
Pain Management- Many conditions that fall under this category are treated with acupuncture! These range from headaches-migraines, fibromyalgia, sciatica, carpel tunnel syndrome, sore muscles, chronic long term injuries, to acute injuries.
Muscles flex or tense up in order to try and protect the body after an injury, potentially causing pain or nerve impingement. In treating these cases, needles are often inserted around the area of pain or injury. The needles are used to relax any muscles that are tense or in a constant state of hypertonicity.
Acupuncture also releases the body’s natural pain management chemicals. These are called opioid peptides and they have an analgesic effect.
In addition, the increase of blood flow to the affected area also assists in healing injuries and conditions.
Stress, Anxiety, Fatigue and Insomnia- Acupuncture works very well for stress, mild anxiety, fatigue and insomnia.
Acupuncture has been shown to release a chemical in the brain called “Serotonin”, which is considered your happy hormone. When serotonin is released, it naturally decreases stress and anxiety, and improves our reactions to stressful situations.
After an acupuncture session, most people also report having very restful sleeps. This benefit should continue as more treatments are received. This effect is partially due to the balancing of cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone released during stress, which causes insomnia. It also tends to decrease rapidly during or after stressful periods, causing fatigue.
Cosmetic Acupuncture/Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture- In facial acupuncture, tiny needles are inserted all over the face and along fine lines. The needles stimulate blood flow to the face, increasing the fullness of the face and cheeks, leading to a more youthful look.
These needles can also help relax some of the muscles that may cause facial wrinkles, such as the furrow in-between the eyebrows.
Although this is a fantastic natural age-fighting alternative, it is important to expect reasonable results and not a complete disappearance of deep wrinkles and sagging.
Hormone Regulations and Fertility- Acupuncture has been shown to regulate hormones and therefore also help achieve fertility. It has been shown useful in regulating long, irregular or absent menstrual cycles as well as help with painful periods from endometriosis. Also, with the help of specific supplements, acupuncture can shrink or completely eliminate fibroids.
In addition, Hartland fertility clinic in Winnipeg sends all of their IVF (in vitro fertilization) patients for acupuncture. Many have also used one or a few treatments to safely induce labor!
Is it Safe?
Acupuncture has been used for an incredible amount of time with positive results. It is a relatively safe procedure with low to minor adverse effects. The most commonly reported adverse effect is bruising.
However, when getting acupuncture, it is important to ensure that the practitioner is thoroughly trained. This will ensure that they have a large understanding of anatomy as well as how and where to insert the needles safely. Naturopathic doctors that are trained in Canada have training in acupuncture.
Whether you struggle with pain, anxiety or are looking for natural facial rejuvenation, take the time to invest in yourself and consider an acupuncture session!
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.