Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine specialist Gordana Petrović answers your questions on acupuncture
I’ve heard about acupuncture before, but I’m worried it will hurt – what does it actually feel like?
Acupuncture definitely doesn’t hurt. Yes, it involves the insertion of tiny, hair-like needles into certain points on the body, but the insertion is very shallow and most of the time totally painless, even at the initial point of contact to the skin.
The sensation you will feel will be one of tingling, warmth, and/or a mild ache in and around the area. This is a good sign, confirming that we have achieved the goal of activating your healing process!
The best feeling is after the session when you will feel relaxed and energised. The more you relax, the more you are able to release the blocks that prevent good energy flow. Your body may have given you the impression that you had no energy when it was, in fact, always there – it just couldn’t flow through. Once we unblock it, it resumes its course.
I experience a lot of headaches and tension in my neck and shoulders, can acupuncture help?
Yes, it can. Headaches, tension in neck and shoulders, or any other symptom that you might experience for that matter, is considered a sign of the internal dis-balance in the body and mind.
In traditional Chinese Acupuncture, we look for the root cause of the manifestation of any symptom, according to the individual constitution of each client. This includes general health, lifestyle, diet, exercise regime, and in the case of headaches, any other tension/reaction to stressors.
Acupuncture prescription for headaches and tension in the neck in shoulders will almost always be different for each client, depending on the above-devised assessment. In other words, a man of 35 who is very active, with a good diet but interrupted and short sleep, will have a completely different prescription to, say, a woman of 52, postmenopausal, with good sleep but poor diet and no exercise.
Is there anything I should do to prepare for an acupuncture session?
No particular preparation for acupuncture sessions is necessary. If you have any specific requests, you should always discuss it with your practitioner ahead of time. Equally, if you have any questions or doubts about your forthcoming treatment, you should openly discuss this with your acupuncturist.
For acupuncture to work and to produce the best results, communication is key. Every practitioner is different in their approach, but an open, honest relationship between therapist and client is essential. I always advise a good, long chat before the first session either on the phone, via email, or via Skype. I offer this free of charge, but that might vary between practitioners. In any case, you should be well informed according to your personal circumstances.
In terms of general practicalities, you should wear loose, comfortable clothing, eating a couple of hours or so before the treatment. You must not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
No matter what the stress is due to, acupuncture reduces the production of cortisol and stimulates the production of endorphins
I’m feeling really stressed and burnt out, will acupuncture help me feel more relaxed?
Yes – Chinese acupuncture is particularly successful here, as it moderates the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. No matter what the stress is due to, acupuncture reduces the production of cortisol (the stress hormone) secreted by the sympathetic nervous system and stimulates the production of endorphins (the feel-good hormone) secreted by parasympathetic nervous system.
Acupuncture can also encourage adequate emotional responses to stress, as it is important to limit the length and intensity of this harming emotion. It requires fine-tuning by your practitioner, but it is possible.
I work with a lot of reduced fertility patients, who are often exposed to huge amounts of physical, emotional and “chemical” stress, especially if on an IVF route. For many, being as relaxed as possible has a paramount influence on the outcome of their treatment. But, whatever the situation, acupuncture very successfully aids relaxation.
My acupuncturist also offers Moxibustion. What is this and what can it help with?
Moxibustion is a therapy that is a part of Chinese Medicine. We use the warmth of Artemisia Vulgaris plant, compacted in a cigar-like stick and lit, over certain areas on the body, acupuncture points and body channels.
It can be an effective therapy for ailments that require warming, nourishing and/or moving. Moxibustion is thought to be effective in warming the uterus in fertility patients, promoting good circulation in the whole lower abdomen; dispelling the cold from muscles and restoring circulation, energetic de-compressing and softening tightness.
It’s also a fantastic method during cold and damp conditions, with the only drawback to some clients – and practitioners – of a very pungent smell when the moxa stick is lit. Some clinics also do not allow moxibustion due to a smell that can be too much for some. It is a firm favourite of mine and my clients though, and I also instruct them how to use this therapy at home to my prescription for prolonged benefits of treatments.
Top tips for someone trying acupuncture for the first time
1. Get as much information about your practitioner and what experience they have in the area you require the treatment for. You need to feel confident that your practitioner is a person to whom you will be comfortable to divulge personal health information and parts of your life.
2. Be prepared for a change to your health and your life, understanding that you are starting a journey to your best health. It might take time, but almost immediately, you will notice some change in yourself. You might come in with one problem and then realise after the session, that some other habits are starting to change, too.
3. Understand that acupuncture is a safe and well-researched method of complementary medicine, that works well on its own and as a therapeutic method alongside your medical treatment if any. Always feel free to ask questions about anything that interests you regarding your treatment and communicate any concerns to your practitioner straight away. Communication here, like in life in general, is always of utmost importance.
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