When most people think about acupuncture, some archaic visual of a body lying face down with a thousand needles sticking out of it pops to mind. Because of this, I often get the question, “Does it hurt?!” to which I reply one of two ways (depending on the sense of humor I think the person has and/or my ability to pay rent that month). The sarcastic answer, clearly the frontrunner, is: “Have you ever had your toenails slowly pulled off? It’s similar but feels hot and kinda burn-y.” The second less exciting, but honest answer is: “Not at all, it’s a slight sensation of pressure as the needle connects with the Qi in the point.”
Then I wait for the inevitable launch into a 37-minute conversation about a weird pain/fungus/fart/hernia that nobody has been able to cure that is really bothersome and “Can I take a look at it?” It’s true, the glamorous life of an acupuncturist is peppered with strange questions and unusual show-and-tell moments since the majority of people are either frustrated or too embarrassed to ask their doctors about their weird pain/fungus/fart/hernia.
Without getting too far into the theory of a nearly 5,000-year-old medicine, here are five things I’ve found people are most surprised about acupuncture:
1. It doesn’t hurt.
Because it doesn’t. While some people are a little more needle sensitive than others, the main sensation that is experienced while you receive acupuncture is that of a light pressure where the needle is placed. The play-by-play is that the needle goes in, you may feel a tiny pinch as that happens, but usually not, then as the needle connects with the Qi in the point there is a little tug or push in that area. Nothing traumatic, nothing eventful, just a little push. Most people fall asleep during treatment or relax into a peaceful meditative state after they get used to it.
2. Acupuncture can make you look younger.
Turn back time? Acupuncture may not be able to erase the one-night-stands or John Mayer obsession from ten years ago, but it can make you look years younger. The specialty known as “Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture” has been around for thousands of years but is recently trending due to its ability to build collagen, lift drooping eyelids, reduce eye bags, tighten double chins, and add muscle tone plus much more. Usually you see a difference right away but it’s kind of like taking your face to the gym, so a series of 12 treatments is recommended.
3. The Monthly Cycle Monster is no longer.
Do you (or your girlfriend) turn into the “before” version of yourself from the Snickers commercial for one week of the month? Does “I need to eat everything in sight, everyone is an asshole and why don’t my jeans fit” sound familiar?
Good news: Acupuncture is incredibly effective in tackling hormonal issues. As your body and hormones regulate with acupuncture treatments, I like to use Chinese Herbal Medicine to nourish, balance, and strengthen your internal organs between treatments so you can say goodbye to PMS and hello to feeling strong, beautiful, and in control of life once again. Don’t be offended if your boyfriend calls to book your appointment; Take it and thank him later when you leave the office feeling like Snuggle the Downy Bear.
4. Dry Needling isn’t really a “thing.”
A popular topic these days is “Dry Needling” because all of the sudden chiropractors, massage therapists, and even the guy who makes your smoothies can do it. Is this different than acupuncture? NO. So is it safe for my smoothie guy to Dry Needle me while I’m waiting for my wheatgrass? NO. “Dry Needling” was first described over 2,000 years ago in China’s most comprehensive medical treatise, the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic. Basically, “Dry Needling” involves inserting an acupuncture needle into a tender point and then manipulating it for therapeutic purposes and relief… this is no different than regular acupuncture except for the loophole where you don’t need to be licensed to “Dry Needle.” Just please make sure people who are inserting sharp things into your flesh have a sizeable amount of education on the subject and are also licensed to do it.
5. It can get you high (legally).
People who’ve had acupuncture can attest to this: You can feel high as a kite and the crazy guy on the subway doesn’t even phase you post acupuncture. When you come in for a treatment most of the time you are stressed, angry, depressed, or feeling stagnant in some way. Acupuncture works on a meridian matrix that affects the central nervous system, so while you are receiving treatment endorphins are released that put you into a state of calm. Once treatment is over most patients feel relaxed, happier, and much more able to tackle the lemons and obstacles handed to them by this concrete jungle we call home.
Photo Courtesy: Paige Bourassa