If you find yourself reading this article, you may be an acupuncture advocate, intrigued by the practice, or are facing a problem that has plagued your body and mind for quite some time.
Unfortunately, I fell into the third category: my love affair with acupuncture blossomed only after a three-year-long battle with chronic low back/radiating sciatic pain. I had exhausted all of my options including physical therapy, epidural injections, surgery, and rounds of harsh medications.
Feeling as if my body and Western medicine had failed me, I decided to turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Fascinated with the idea that a practitioner would look beyond my X-Rays and MRI’s and into my lifestyle, emotions and other symptoms, I booked my first appointment with the closest acupuncture facility I could find. My experience over the last two years has been overwhelmingly positive—not only have I seen a reduction in my pain symptoms and anxiety levels, but also a heightened sense of self-awareness. This has allowed me to become more in sync with my pain, emotions, and my surroundings.
I attribute these feelings of relief to the one to two hours per week I spend in the tranquil, dimly lit room of my TCM practitioner’s office. Enveloped by the sweet scents of tea tree and eucalyptus oils and the sounds of wind chimes and waves, I am completely undistracted, unplugged and still (a rare occurrence for most twenty-year-olds). I receive treatment religiously two times per week and when I have to miss one week or more, I do experience increased pain. For successful treatment, consistency is key.
Although I will admit that receiving acupuncture regularly is a commitment, it is well worth it. Keep in mind the number of times per week and the length of time you need to go depends on your own body and the issues you are seeking help for.
How It Works
Sterile, hair-thin needles are placed in specific acupuncture channels throughout the body, also known as meridians. These channels act as the energy pathways of the body and within them flows something called “Chi” or “Qi” (pronounced “chee”). Chi is the backbone of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)—it represents the meaning and purpose behind every feeling and action. Think of it as the vibes of the body. Acupuncture is said to restore Chi by promoting blood flow through the body while balancing energy and bringing harmony and stability back to the system.
“The points in which the needles are placed influence and connect to different muscle groups, nerve pathways, and organ systems. Scientific research has shown that acupuncture effectively improves circulation, reduces inflammation, relaxes the nervous system, restores homeostasis, and boosts the immune system. This translates into less pain, more energy, better sleep, and increased efficiency and mental focus,” explains Acupuncture Physician of Gainesville Acupuncture & Holistic Medicine, Alvaro Toledo.
Conditions It Treats
Emotional conditions (Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia)
Neurological conditions (Headaches, Migraines, Stroke)
Musculoskeletal conditions (Back/Neck/Shoulder Pain, Muscle Pain/ Weakness, Sciatica, Arthritis, Neuropathy)
Gynecological conditions(Infertility, Menopausal symptoms, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
Digestive conditions(Constipation, Indigestion, Diarrhea)
Respiratory conditions (Asthma, Allergies, Sinusitis)
Ear-Nose-Throat conditions (Tinnitus, Toothache)
* Keep in mind this is only some of the many conditions that are treated with acupuncture.
What to Expect at Your First Appointment
“Having an open mind before your first treatment is certainly helpful, but I never ask my patients to believe in acupuncture without learning about it, and most importantly, trying it out a few times. For example, veterinary acupuncture is a thriving field where animals often get great results from their acupuncture treatments. This dispels the notion that acupuncture only works if you believe in it. Horses and dogs certainly don't pray for their acupuncture treatment to yield excellent results,” says Toledo.
Just like any other TCM practice, be prepared to have your acupuncturist ask you a series of questions concerning, but certainly not limited to, your bowel movements, sleep habits, stress levels, menstrual cycle, and more. You will quickly find yourself sharing problems you did not originally intend to. Keep in mind that an acupuncturist’s goal is to restore balance back to your entire body, including mind and spirit. In order to do this, they may even recommend additional practices such as cupping or biopuncture.
Remember, the needles do not hurt. It feels nothing like receiving a shot and most of the time you do not even feel them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout your appointment. Licensed Acupuncturists go through extensive schooling, training, and testing to perform this art. One of their top priorities is to make you as comfortable as possible because the larger you expand your comfort zone, the greater the bounty of benefits you will reap. I encourage you to embrace the experience and put some faith into an art form that has more than 2,000 years of evidence behind it.
Acupuncture References / Further Reading