It only takes a third of a second for Google to return over 11.2 million(!) results that espouse the benefits of acupuncture, but if you like your cyber chondria served with a personal anecdote on the side, step right this way.
The ancient Chinese therapy, known (among many other things) for its ability to “strengthen the mind-body connection”, might conjure this picture of Kim Kardashian West “relaxing” or THAT episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, when Larry David – of all people – asks an acupuncturist to cure his crook neck.
While these might seem like trite examples of how the ancient treatment has been (mis)appropriated by Western culture, they certainly speak a #deeptruth on why people turn to this cure-all in the first place; they’re at the end of their proverbial line (Kim’s difficult second pregnancy, Larry’s painful ailment) and ‘mainstream’ treatments just aren’t stimulating their chakras the way they should be.
I mean, it certainly takes a special brand of desperation to pay a stranger to stick needles into your mostly-naked body in a dark room while you lie there stuck with nothing but your thoughts (and Spotify’s Yoga Sounds playlist in the background).
Such was the case for me at the start of this year, when I was dealing with a sick parent and feeling deeply unfulfilled in my career. Like Larry and Kim I was desperate, but unlike them, there was nothing physically “wrong” with me. I just wasn’t happy.
It was a host of factors including – full disclosure – the convenience of having a practice across the road from my house that forced me to put my crystals and self-help books aside and commit to giving acupuncture a go.
So, is it for you? Well, I don’t know you, but if you’re considering complementing your wellness routine with a weekly dose of qi aligning, then yes, of course I recommend it. It changed my life.
Here’s what happened when I crossed the metaphorical (and, well, literal) road into the world of Chinese medicine.
1. It validated my personal struggles
Before you start your first session, you fill out a form which asks you questions about a host of topics in your life. These cover recent traumas, illnesses, life-changing events and your general state. Each answer is then assigned a certain number of points, and the higher your points are, the worse your wellbeing on a holistic level might be. Of course, this does not mean you are beyond help.
In fact, filling out the questionnaire will be one of the most powerful and affirming exercises you undertake throughout the whole process. It poses questions no-one else in your life might have thought to ask (however good their intentions might be!), and actually seeing how much strain you’ve been under – even if it’s just on a disposable manila card – will help you understand why you’ve been feeling flat, why you really do need to be kinder to yourself, and the steps you need to take (whatever they are) to get where you’d like to be.
2. It helped me calm down
The first time the acupuncturist stuck a cluster of needles into my upper back, the overpowering taste of happy gas (yes, like at the dentist) filled my mouth. The acupuncturist told me that the balancing treatment he was doing allows people “access euphoria”… and I guess that’s what euphoria is for me. (Make of that what you will.)
Aside from unprecedented levels of bliss, having an hour a week to lie down, reflect and sort through the minefield of complex scenarios all of us are presented with on a weekly (daily) basis – needles on our pressure points, or otherwise – is a deeply restorative process, and will make you unpack what might be bothering you, so you are better equipped to take action and, ultimately, deal with it.
3. I had more energy
Now, this one isn’t as easy to explain as the other two, but in general, my one hour a week of acupuncture gave me more energy, and I started to crave it in the same way you crave the gym.
The pay-off after one session basically lasted until the next a week later, and in terms of the “whole picture”, I started exercising more frequently, ate more regularly and healthily and felt more confident to shut out relationships and scenarios that didn’t serve me on a spiritual level.
In the sessions, I also learned about Chinese food therapy (these are principles centred around how what we eat affects different organs in our bodies), how to see the body as a holistic entity (a needle positioned on your leg might be accessing the meridian to your kidney, which is the organ associated with fear, for example), some basic Taichi (this alleviated stiffness and relieved tension, particularly in my shoulders) and was recommended a daily dose of Magnesium supplements, which facilitated a better night’s rest and recovery after training.
I also walked around with a Gold Plated Ear Patch (it’s a small sticker that you fix onto your inner ear, and press it when you’re anxious) so, you know, it could’ve been that.
The advice presented here is anecdotal. If you are interested in acupuncture or worried about your health, first consult your GP for advice and a correct diagnosis.