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Acupuncture: Benefits and How to Get Started

Acupuncture needle point in hand.

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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. When you are relying on someone to help your mental health, when they don’t have it together, YOU AREN’T GOING TO HEAL.

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. A big, sh*t-hitting-the-fan type of UGLY mess.

She used WAY too many needles on me (over 30) and 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.

Lessons learned

Lesson 1

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.

Lesson 2

If an acupuncturist uses more than 20 needles or so on your first appointment, run for the hills. That particular DOM used over 30 needles on me, and because those 30 energy points went from zero to 100 in 30 minutes, I ended up feeling worse, not better. I should have asked for my money back. But I gave her a brutally honest review on several sites, so I feel a little better about it.

Lesson 3

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.

3 More Tips to Getting Started with Acupuncture:

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 ask questions.

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!

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11 Comments

  1. I’ve always heard such great things about acupuncture and the benefits it has. These are such great tips!

  2. 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!

  3. I’ve really been wanting to try acupuncture thank you for the tips!

  4. Good grief, your Groupon experience is terrible! I would have left right in the middle… Man, if that had been my first time…. ugh!

  5. Mallie

    I’ve been intrigued by this since a friend tried it in L.A, its so good to read your experience.

  6. Insightful! I think i will try this.

  7. I had no idea acupuncture helped with fertility. That is so interesting!

  8. I’ve always heard good things about acupuncture. But the needles freak me out a bit. I had no idea they were good for fertility though!

  9. I feel like I need to make an appointment after reading your post. This is very informative! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  10. 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!!

  11. These are great tips on acupuncture. I have always wanted to give it a try!

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