Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that promises to be the solution to a number of complaints, from chronic pain to mood control. So what can you expect from an appointment? Happiful’s Kathryn Wheeler took to the treatment chair to find out
For me, acupuncture is the Big Foot of alternative therapies. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who’s tried it, and there are plenty of myths and unanswered questions that surround it. Does it hurt? How can having needles systematically tapped into your skin be relaxing? And, vitally, does it work?
Acupuncture is used as a complementary therapy to soothe complaints about everything from muscle and body pain, to stress, anxiety and depression. Using very fine needles that are tucked under the skin at specific points on the body, the practice is based on traditional Chinese medicine which believes that life energy flows through us. It’s thought that this energy can get stuck or blocked, causing pain or low mood, but that it can be relieved by the needles, restoring our balance.
While some modern practitioners embrace this traditional belief, many now work alongside Western medical practices, viewing it as a means of tapping into neurological systems, and a way to complement formal diagnoses and treatments.
Eager to find out more, I headed to therapist Toni Hennings, at Crowthorne Health, to try acupuncture for myself.
I’ll admit, before I arrived, I was feeling apprehensive. I don’t have a fear of needles, as such, though the thought of what was about to happen did make me a little nervous. But my fears were soon put to bed.
To begin the session, we sat down to chat about my medical history. Of the 90-minute appointment, this took up the bulk of the time as Toni meticulously worked through everything from childhood illnesses, to my general lifestyle – reassuring me that no stone would be left unturned, and that the treatment would be tailored to my specific needs.
I got undressed and lay face down on a massage table, as Toni began to gently press up and down my back, either side of my spine, feeling for where to insert the needles. She told me to take a deep breath in, and then on the out-breath, she tapped in the first needle.
To say I didn’t feel anything would be a lie... I did feel the needle go in, and as she worked down my back, some areas were more sensitive than others. It was a small prick, like you may expect, but there was no pain once they were in place – and as she left me with the needles in my back for a few minutes, I soon forgot they were there, and began to feel calm and relaxed.
After a short time, Toni removed the needles, and I slowly got up to sit back on the table. Moving on to target points specifically chosen to ease stress and anxiety, she put two needles in my knees and in my wrists. Now, honestly, these points tested my cringe-factor. It’s not every day that you spend a morning sitting with needles in your soft spots, but I closed my eyes and breathed through the taps, soon settling back into the calm place I was before.
With a relaxed mindset, and good communication with your therapist, acupuncture can be a great complementary therapy
Following the session, we reflected on how the treatment went, discussing how acupuncture could be used long-term to manage mood – and touching on how, often, people who come for a physical problem will find the wellness benefits are just as powerful.
For me, I left feeling energised and intrigued about the potential that acupuncture has to be an effective treatment across so many different areas. And that night I slept soundly straight through to my alarm, something Toni had predicted would happen.
If you have any hang-ups about whether the treatment will be painful, let me put your mind at ease – you may feel a small prick, but make sure to breathe through the insertion and you will be fine. For those uncomfortable with needles, you probably don’t need me to say that this may not be the treatment for you. But with a relaxed mindset, and good communication with your therapist, acupuncture can be a great complementary therapy that gets straight to the point of your concerns.
Visit crowthornehealth.co.uk to find out more.
For more information on acupuncture visit therapy-directory.org.uk