It's really easy to be afraid of things that are unfamiliar. It's also really easy to be afraid of needles. Acupuncture happens to be both of those things to many people. But guess what? NOT TO US, NOT ANYMORE.
Bonus: extra cute animals because we're discussing inserting needles into your skin.
When I hear some soft, earth mama voice talking about things like energy flow and qi ("chee"), it's really easy for me to go, "Pshhh, whadda you know?" But when I stop and think about it, the question really becomes: what do I know? I don't like all the fluff that surrounds the promotion of alternative medicine (which is only "alternative" according to Westerners), but is that going to be what stops me from staying open to learning something new?
Gather round, skeptics. Sippers of Haterade. Fearers of needles (aka trypanophobics). Today's lesson is primarily on acupuncture, and secondarily on not fearing/dissing/dismissing that which we have yet to understand.
SO WHAT IS IT?
Acupuncture is a therapeutic treatment that is primarily used to relieve pain. It can improve the body’s functions and catalyze the self-healing process by stimulating specific areas, called acupoints.
At an acupuncture treatment, someone who knows what they're doing will ask you about your health history, current conditions, and possibly perform a physical exam. Then, they'll stimulate the acupoints on your body using sterile, fine needles (so fine you won't bleed) *nervous laughter.* They insert the needles, which remain inserted for five to thirty minutes, and sometimes rotate them during treatment. Most people report no or minimal discomfort during the session. In fact, many people say they feel relaxed during and after *more nervous laughter... wait, really?*
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Acupuncture's philosophy sees life as being kept in balance by two opposing forces. They're called yin & yang. The constant flow of energy along specific pathways in the body (called meridians) keeps these forces balanced, which keeps the body healthy.
If the flow of energy gets blocked, the disruption can lead to illness and discomfort. Acupuncture therapy can release blocked energy (called qi) in the body to stimulate function. This evokes the body’s natural healing response by getting things balanced and moving again.
YOU SAID NO Hippie shit
Pitchforks down. If you read "yin & yang" or "qi" and went "take yer new age-y mumbo jumbo and shove it in a flax roll, ya dirty commie..." Don't freak out.
All living things have qi. It just means that that thing is alive. Ellen Degeneres has Qi. Your dog has Qi, not that I'm recommending you do acupuncture on your dog. Your grandpa has Qi, even if he doesn't believe it. Qi literally translates to "breath" and simply means "life force" or "energy flow." (source)
Furthermore, acupuncture isn't new age at all. It's at least a 3,000-year-old healing technique of traditional Chinese medicine. In fact, nine gold and silver acupuncture needles were discovered in a Chinese tomb from 113 B.C.
Besides, all the kids are doing it: Between c.987-1067, a life-sized bronze man, covered in wax and filled with water, was created to help acupuncturist students study for exams. It featured 657 acupuncture points, and when a student hit one correctly, water would drop out (from this source).
Just because acupuncture was discovered far away, by people who lived a long time ago, that doesn't mean it's obsolete. People come up with bad ideas all the time... those aren't the ones that withstand thousands of years of trial, error, and refinement.
It's not just touted by proponents of Eastern medicine, either. Western medicine (which we modestly refer to as "modern medicine") has also demonstrated acupuncture’s effects on the nervous, endocrine, immune, cardiovascular, and digestive system, showing that the treatment can help resolve pain, improve sleep, and increase digestive function.
In 1997, the U.S. National Institutes of Health documented and publicized acupuncture’s safety and efficacy for treating a wide range of conditions, and acupuncture is now covered by many insurance policies (from this source).
Should you try acupuncture? It's as simple as whether or not you want to. Don't avoid it out of fear, don't do it just because it seems cool, but do know that it could be helpful to you. Your pharmacist can't write a prescription for it, but that doesn't make it a hoax. Even if you're skeptical, you never know what a little energy release might do until you try.
....and this, because everyone loves when the yin & yang forces are represented using tigers.