Acupuncture: Benefits and How to Get Started

Acupuncture: Benefits and How to Get Started

Acupuncture is an amazing alternative healing technique. Many people think of acupuncture as used in conjunction with physical therapy in healing from an injury, but it can also be used in many other ways.

Let’s explore getting started with acupuncture and how it could help your levels of stress and mental health.

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Traditional Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years. These TCM healing techniques are based on the principles of “chi,” or “qi”—life force energies that flow in and around our bodies. Pressure points are places on our bodies that focus these energies, and, when stimulated, can release pain, increase circulation, balance hormones and so many more wonderful things.

Acupuncturists use very thin needles (disposable, one-time-use) to prick these pressure points. (Don’t worry, the needles don’t hurt at all!) The needles remain in your skin and muscle for a number of minutes, which your acupuncturist will determine.

The acupuncturist will choose the points on your body based on your health needs that will work in balance to alleviate your symptoms and help you feel better.

WHAT AILMENTS CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?

Acupuncture can be used to treat so many different ailments!

PHYSICAL INJURIES

I have known many who have gone to acupuncture therapy for various injuries, either old ones with recurring pain, or new ones they wanted to heal. I have not heard one single person say that acupuncture did not help treat their pain. In fact, many of them said that they believed the acupuncture treated the root cause of the pain, not just the symptom. Pretty cool.

DESIRE TO STOP SMOKING

I have not known anyone who has used acupuncture to stop smoking, but I’ve heard good things about it. If you or someone you know is interested in stopping smoking, you might want to do some more research on this.

FERTILITY

After I miscarried my first pregnancy, I wanted to get my health in order, so I started seeing an acupuncturist for fertility. It helped to balance my hormones and prevent inflammation throughout my abdomen. I got pregnant 3 months after starting to try, and I continued sessions once a week for the first 12 weeks of my pregnancy with M.

STRESS RELIEF

This was the first type I did when I was getting started with acupuncture. I have had some bad experiences with this, actually (keep reading to find out more). I highly recommend that you do research on your acupuncturist first, before seeking out acupuncture as a way to manage your stress. Many acupuncturists are very experienced treating injuries and physical ailments but do not understand how the chi and energy points work together to aid in overall mental well-being. Caution!

Other uses for acupuncture include: headaches and migraines, depression, arthritis, erectile dysfunction, substance use/abuse, schizophrenia, cancer pain, and many more.

FINDING A PRACTITIONER:

I have to be honest. I have had wonderful acupuncturists and I’ve had abysmal ones. I’m going to share my stories to help guide you to the type of acupuncture and a practitioner that is right for you.

NOPE, NOPE, NOPE.

The worst experience I had with acupuncture was when I found one on Groupon. I thought to myself, it’s a lot less expensive than paying full price, I’m going to go for it!

Huge mistake.

The “doctor” spent most of her time spastically running around her room, which was in disarray. She had left out used needles piled, overflowing from their trash containers.

She babbled about her other patients (doctor/patient confidentiality?) and how she needed the money, so she wasn’t going to run the Groupon much longer. (A year later and it’s still running. I checked.) She was a mess. Not even a hot mess.

I’m super sensitive to energy stimulation, so when she used 30 needles on me, I was apprehensive… turns out my intuition was spot on.

I ended up having a MASSIVE panic attack on her table. My hands and feet went numb, I hyperventilated, and I felt AWFUL for a few days afterward.

JUST OKAY.

When I got started with acupuncture, my very first experience was a “group” acupuncture session. It was a room with 4 massage tables, divided with curtains. The DOM was a good one, but I felt very self-conscious with someone on the table next to me with just a curtain between us. I was fully clothed, of course, but when you are paying someone to take away your stress, having a stranger hanging out next to you does not allow you to relax fully to let the needles do their work.

WONDERFUL!

Third time is a charm. My current acupuncturist is AMAZING! She is a gentle woman who is board certified in massage and acupuncture. She has a lot of advice to offer for supplements and nutrition for best overall health. I pay a $40 copay and my insurance covers the rest.

My first appointment with her was a week after my miscarriage had started. She did a few needles for stress relief, a few for IBS, and a few for grief. I fell asleep on the table as light music played and my muscles started to untie their knots.

I feel that my sessions with her helped my overall health and fertility, and I have been going to her for several years now!

Acupuncture point in arm.

4 Tips for Getting Started with Acupuncture:

See a Board Certified DOM

Pay full price for a board certified doctor of oriental medicine (DOM) or see if your insurance will cover part of it. (Yes even for mental health.) Check google and other sites to read reviews before you take the plunge.

Go with the individual room

If you are offered a group rate, it’s simply not as relaxing. But if this is the only way that you can afford acupuncture and you don’t mind strangers next to you, then go ahead. It will probably be more beneficial than simply doing nothing.

Use Your Health Insurance.

If your health insurance covers acupuncture (or even if they don’t) your network might be the best place to start. You can find out where acupuncturists are located near you and if they are board certified. From there, you can look on their individual websites to find one that suits your needs and concerns.

Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself

Know yourself and advocate for yourself. If you are sensitive to lights, sounds, and people’s energy (particularly if they are toxic) you might be sensitive to acupuncture needles too. Let your practitioner know upfront that you’re sensitive and are apprehensive about too many needles or being over stimulated. I want to save EVERYONE from an experience like I had with the unprofessional acupuncturist I saw.

You deserve the best experience possible and not everyone is going to be your own advocate. You need to do that for yourself by voicing your concerns early. We’ve all had the feeling like we were being duped by a salesperson… getting medical treatment is not quite the same, but remember, the doctor does the same thing day in and day out. They may get into a rhythm and not be as upfront with their clients as they should be (or they once were). If you don’t feel comfortable or think that this acupuncturist might not be right for you, you have the right to say so.

Getting started with acupuncture should not be daunting or scary, and can have major benefits for your health!

How to Get Started with Acupuncture

Could Acupuncture Be Right For You?

14 thoughts on “Acupuncture: Benefits and How to Get Started”

  1. I used acupuncture during my first pregnancy, and it was such an interesting experience. Now I am wondering how many needles they used, though! Thanks for sharing this information, I will now be more informed next time!

  2. Thank you for sharing. I’ve previously had a bad experience with acupuncture, I didn’t feel like it works and I had pain in my legs. So I thought it just didn’t work for me, maybe I just need to find a better practitioner!!

  3. Hello! I have been a practicing Acupuncturist for 10 years now and always appreciate when someone shares their experience. I would like to share a bit more information about the amount of needles used and running for the hills. Everyone has a different health history and different internal conditions. Yes, some peoples nervous systems can be a bit overwhelmed by more needles then others. However, some people need more needles depending on what condition they have. The biggest difference in the way Chinese Medicine supports our health is that we recognize that we are dynamic and the world around us is dynamic. We all have a different health history and different combinations of symptoms. There is a saying in Chinese Medical school “Same diagnosis does not mean same treatment, different treatments may be needed for the same western diagnosis.” For instance if two people are diagnosed with cluster headaches, one may also experience insomnia and low back pain. The other person may have bloating and chronic tennis elbow(tendonitis). We would address the cluster headaches using different herbs and acupuncture points because the body works as a whole unit and the patients are different. One may have 8 needles used the other may have 50. It is through proper education and clinical experience that this is decided. I am sorry you didn’t have a great experience and encourage you to continue talking about your overall experience. I also encourage you to talk about it in a way that shares what happened to you might have been wrong for you but may not be wrong for others. This medicine has so much to offer to so many people and generalizations can really impact someone from finding a solution and support when nothing else is working. Wish you well and thank you again for being an advocate for acupuncture!

    1. Hi Bree! Thanks for your thoughtful and thorough comment! This is very interesting. I absolutely cringe at the thought of having 50 needles, but you’re definitely right that someone else may present with the same symptoms but need different treatment than me. I am super sensitive, not just with acupuncture, but in daily life… lights, sounds, emotional reactions. Other might not be so. I also think that the other experiences I had with this particular acupuncturist, her bedside manner, and the general state of clutter in her room added to my anxiety during the session (and to my very strong negative reaction afterwards). I am going to revise my post to include your advice and alter my statement about amount of needles. Thank you so much for educating me about this!

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