What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been around for centuries and recently has been one of the most used alternative therapies in the western world. It originated in China as far back as 100 BC. The treatments are still widely accepted and remains one of the main components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The western world is now incorporating acupuncture into many treatment regimes. It is used alongside physiotherapy, fertility treatments, mental health therapy and many more.
How is acupuncture performed? Is it going to hurt?
Acupuncture is the insertion of thin needles all over the body. The needles are as fine as human hair and are very sharp. This decreases the sensation of the needles entering the skin. It 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. Other sensations the needles produce is tingling or warmth.
Acupuncture is extremely relaxing as it releases the body’s natural pain management chemicals. These are called opoid peptides, that cause an analgesic effect; a decrease in pain. The increase of blood flow to the area also assists in healing injuries and conditions. It increases blood flow around the body which is part of how the treatment works. After a session, patients usually feel extremely relaxed and peaceful. Similar to the sensation after a massage.
Conditions and Disorders Treated
Pain Management- Under this category, many conditions are treated! They range from headaches-migraines, fibromyalgia, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, sore muscles, chronic long-term injuries, to acute injuries. Needles are often inserted around the area of pain or injury in this case. The needles relax any muscles that are tense or in a constant state of hypertonicity. This tense muscle often causes a lot of the pain after an injury. Muscles flex or tense up in order to try and protect the body but this can cause pain or cause nerve impingement.
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. This is considered your happy hormone. When serotonin is released it naturally decreases stress and anxiety, or reactions to stressful situations. After an acupuncture session, most people have a very restful sleep, which continues on the more treatments that are received. This is partially due to balancing out cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone. Cortisol is released during stress, which can cause insomnia. It also tends to rapidly decrease during or after stress which causes fatigue. Taking time to care for yourself by receiving acupuncture can contribute to balancing out cortisol.
Cosmetic Acupuncture/Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture- In facial acupuncture tiny needles are inserted all over the face and along fine lines. The needles increase blood flow to the face and therefore cause a more youthful look. Blood flow increases the fullness of the face and cheeks.
The needles can also help relax some of the muscles that cause facial wrinkles, such as the furrow in-between the eyebrows. It’s important to only expect minimal youthful results and not to imagine a disappearance of deep wrinkles or sagging.
Hormone regulations and fertility- Acupuncture has been shown to regulate hormones and therefore also help with fertility. It is useful in regulating long cycles, irregular cycles or absent menstruation. Acupuncture with the help of supplements can shrink or make fibroids completely disappear. It can help with pain due to painful periods from endometriosis. Many fertility clinics will send their IVF patients for acupuncture. One or a few treatments can also be used to safely induce labour!
Acupuncture is a relatively safe procedure. It has low to minor adverse effects; the most common adverse effect is getting a small bruise from the needle location.
It is important to check that when getting acupuncture the practitioner is thoroughly trained in acupuncture. This will ensure that they have a large understanding of anatomy and how and where to insert the needles safely.
Dr Kelly Brown is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who has 5 years of training in acupuncture. She practices at Good n’ Natural Health Food Store. Call 204 326-9565 to book an appointment.