Trying Acupuncture for the First Time: What to Expect

When you think about acupuncture, what images spring to mind? Hapless bodies laid out on needle beds? Horrid images of pin speckled people, their faces contorted in pain? Think again. Acupuncture is actually an ancient form of medical treatment, which originated in China about 2500 years ago. You know what they say: if it’s old, it’s good. 

The basic concept behind acupuncture and acupuncture treatments is that each area or point on the body has a corresponding link to the energy flow (qi) within it. Now, this might sound a bit hoodoo-ish, but it definitely has some basis in scientific fact. We are, in essence, made of energy and mass. In order to exist, you have to have some form of energy balance and expenditure. When this balance is out, you fall ill or suffer from disease or injury – at least, that’s what acupuncturists say. 
Now, according to many medical scientists and other naysayers, acupuncture has no basis in fact and the acupuncture points do not exist. That’s a bit of a harsh statement, considering that scientifically controlled tests indicate that the art of acupuncture actually does have some benefits.  
So, What Are The Benefits?  
Here’s the juicy bit: acupuncture can actually help you. Sure, it’s not going to heal all your problems overnight – that’s not how it works – but the pressure or meridian points that the needles touch, do serve a therapeutic function. In a lot of cases, people have reported less nausea after undergoing procedures like chemotherapy. 
Individuals with arthritis can also benefit from acupuncture because it helps to relieve chronic pain. In some cases, it’s been used to treat conditions like addiction, stroke, headaches, carpal tunnel and even asthma. The trouble is, acupuncture gets a bad rep because of the whole ‘energy – qi’ thing. 
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be based on those principles. Scientific data shows that the needles used in acupuncture might stimulate the release of serotonin. This is a neurotransmitter responsible for the pleasure reaction (much like dopamine) in the brain. A release of this leads to higher levels of pleasure, a raised mood and even a decrease in pain. 
But What Will Happen When You Go For Acupuncture? 

You’re not going to lie on a bed of needles, and chances are you won’t be in loads of face-twisting pain either unless you visit an acupuncturist who doesn’t know what he’s doing. The thing you really have to consider when checking out possible acupuncture practitioners is how well-known and safe they are.   
The same standards which apply for other needles – as found in hospitals, GPs offices, etc – apply for acupuncture needles too. They must be sterile and used once only. If you witness anything that doesn’t adhere to that rule, it’s time to get out. As in any field that deals with needles – tattoo artists, doctors, nurses – there are certain health dangers. It’s possible to get a bacterial infection or even viral Hepatitis from a dirty needle. 
But, if you manage to find a good, clean acupuncture practitioner, you can expect some relief for your pain. When the needles are initially inserted, you might feel a little bit uncomfortable or even a low aching sensation, but after that you will likely feel nothing. 
The acupuncturist will insert between 5 and 25 needles, after which you’ll have to lie very still for 10 minutes or so. Then they will be removed and thrown away. It might take more than one session to make a difference for pain management, but most people do feel relaxed or even full of energy after one of these sessions. 
What would you get acupuncture for? Chronic pain, nausea or arthritis, all of these conditions are treatable with acupuncture. Remember, it’s based in fact because the contact of needles with the skin stimulates serotonin release – the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness! 

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