You probably know that acupuncture is a big part of traditional Chinese medicine. You probably also know that it’s supposed to relieve a whole host of issues. And you definitely know that it involves tons of tiny needles. But aside from that…? Most people know little about the ancient practice, which dates back to around 100 BC. That’s why we’re diving deep into acupuncture—what it is, what it’s used for and how it can help you.
What is acupuncture?
Remember those tiny needles we mentioned? They truly are tiny—hair-thin, to be exact. They’re inserted into different points throughout the body called acupuncture points. This stimulates the nervous system to release natural painkillers and boost immune system cells, healing your body in the process. Acupuncture is a type of complementary medicine. Its goal is to balance the whole person—physically, mentally and emotionally—while conventional medicine does its work.
Who performs acupuncture?
Acupuncture is performed by certified acupuncturists who have completed between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of training and have passed board exams given by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. That being said, just because someone is a certified acupuncturist, doesn’t mean they’re a medical doctor. As always, it’s best to consult with your general practitioner before starting any sort of treatment.
Want to give it a go?
Here’s what to expect! Acupuncturists use very thin, solid, stainless steel, sterile needles. Based on your medical history, any symptoms and any medications you’re taking, the practitioner will decide how many and where to insert the needles. Most people feel slight or no pain as the needles are inserted into the top layer of the skin. The needles are left in place for at least 30 minutes, then are removed and discarded.
The effects of acupuncture are different for each person. You may feel relaxed or you may feel energized. Right after the first treatment, some people feel spacy or slightly disoriented, but this usually doesn’t last long. After treatment, it’s best to avoid doing things that require you to be especially alert.
Pro tip: Some insurance programs cover acupuncture. It never hurts to ask!