Everything you need to know about acupuncture
If something has been around for 3,000 years, you’d imagine there’s something good going on, right? Well, when it comes to acupuncture it is one of the originals in the treatment sector, and we’re here to explain why.
If you’re interested in or you’ve been thinking about delving into the world of acupuncture, we’ve collected all the best bits and pieces. We’re just trying to make it a little bit easier for you to decide whether this one is a right fit.
What is acupuncture and how does it work?
Based on this treatment being around for, well forever, you may be at least familiar with the name. But let’s learn more about the details, shall we? 🤓
Essentially, acupuncture consists of extremely thin (we’re talking hair-like thin) needles being inserted into the body to encourage balance and wellbeing. Your practitioner decides where to place the needles based on outcomes you’ve expressed wanting to achieve.
Once the needles are in, you’ll be left in that position anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. There shouldn’t be any pain or discomfort, and that down-time is a good opportunity to lay back and relax.
What are the benefits of acupuncture?
Besides the personal indulgence, there’s loads of benefits to getting an acupuncture treatment. If you’re focussed on your wellness and not looking for a quick fix, acupuncture may be a great fit for you.
Here are some of the top issues that acupuncture may assist with:
Relieves headaches and migraines
If you’re frequently affected by headaches and migraines, acupuncture could be the go. Scientists reviewed a total of 22 published trials on acupuncture as part of The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Across 1,985 trial participants, the review concluded that the frequency of the headache “episodes” were reduced across the board after acupuncture treatments. (1)
Helps with anxiety and depression
With access to the outside world (we’re talking Insta here) there is no denying that mental health related issues are on the rise. Even though a mindless scroll can be the perfect weekend activity, maybe it’s increasing our Monday blues more than we realise? Whatever the case, acupuncture has been loosely found to help with depression and anxiety. (2) Any time that you give back to yourself may just be the thing that helps those chemicals balance out.
May reduce high blood pressure
Ok, so we’re not here to pull your chain and feed you garbage. That’s why we’re pointing out that acupuncture may reduce high blood pressure. A study we found tested the effectiveness of acupuncture in conjunction with the regular consumption of antihypertensives (a class of Western medicine to help with high blood pressure) (3). Patients with high blood pressure in this study who included acupuncture in conjunction with their other treatments did see a reduction of high blood pressure symptoms.
Acupuncture for lower back pain
This one can be slightly tricky. Only because the studies we can find have been inconclusive and slightly contradictory. So, smack us in the face and call us confused. There have been some reports and studies which suggest acupuncture is effective for short-term relief of lower back pain (3) Of course, we’d give acupuncture a whack for a better aligned back (so many words rhyme with back, it’s not our fault).
Acupuncture for neck pain
If your neck is a little crooked, you’re in the right place. Keep in mind that the claims around acupuncture giving you long-lasting results for neck pain aren’t conclusive. Although there have been several positive outcomes when acupuncture is included as part of a treatment program for those experiencing neck pain (4).
Acupuncture sinus and allergy problems
If you’re one of the unlucky 1.4 billion people that suffer from ongoing sinus and allergy problems, it might be time to invest in some alternative medicine. We’re chuffed to say that this one is a goodie, and acupuncture could help you skip through the spring. So perhaps it’s time to put down the meds and test out the treatment of tiny needles next allergy season (5).
Acupuncture for weight loss
So, sign us up and just take our money already. According to some professionals acupuncture can have some positive effects correlated to weight loss.
Pain relief for fibromyalgia
For those lucky enough not to have encountered this medical condition, it is a widespread musculoskeletal pain (6). It’s a nasty thing that can really affect day-to-day living. The relationship between acupuncture and fibromyalgia isn’t clearly defined. Mostly, there is no certain claim to say “yes, acupuncture totally works” based on the small pool of studies conducted. Although the studies that were conducted suggest that acupuncture can potentially be a relief for this ailment.
Acupuncture for arthritis
It can happen to any one of us, and if you’re a keyboard warrior (like us) you may fear that arthritis is waiting for you patiently in the years to come. However, we’re here to deliver some good news. Acupuncture may very well be able to help with arthritis pain. Winner! (8)
So, super quick, what are the benefits of acupuncture?
- Relieves headaches and migraines
- Helps with anxiety and depression
- May reduce high blood pressure
- Can help with back pain
- May assist with lower back pain
- Could help with neck pain
- Can offer relief for sinus and allergy problems
- May help with weight loss
- May relieve pain from fibromyalgia
- Can reduce arthritis pain
Acupuncture for pregnancy
Just because you’re a superhuman (a mum, or mum to-be) doesn’t mean you don’t have some sore moments. We highly recommend that before you embark down any treatment path you consult your medical professional or practitioner for their recommendation.
For the meantime though, we’ve combed the articles, brushed through the stats, and are listing all the things to expect with acupuncture when you’re expecting 👶.
Is acupuncture safe in the first trimester?
It’s important with anything you wish to try, especially when you’re pregnant, you check in with your health professional beforehand. This one is a little grey. There haven’t been many studies to say whether acupuncture in your first trimester is or isn’t dangerous or effective.
Can acupuncture help with fertility?
Even though our high school sex education seminar would have us believe that falling pregnant is as easy as holding hands, the reality is, it’s not. If you’re struggling to conceive, just worth a mention, you’re not alone. It’s more common than not for people to have complications. The good news? Acupuncture can potentially help.
For whatever reason, the whole makeup of the fertility circle (or lack thereof) cannot be completely explained or understood. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen for no obvious reason. The thing that acupuncture can help with is stress-relief (treat yo-self) and blood circulation, the main elements that help with the baby-making process. There are no studies that absolutely back this, just keep that in mind, but there is no guarantee that IVF will take, so whatever works for you, right?
When should I get acupuncture for fertility?
We’re following the cycle. We’re talking about your menstrual cycle here and the days really do matter. You’re wanting to check in for an acupuncture appointment at the tail end of your period. So, day five, six, seven or (if you’re unlucky) eight. This is called the follicular phase (the mature state of the follicles in your ovaries) and it’s the best period (pun intended) to get your baby making bits ready for action.
Should you get acupuncture and IVF?
Despite the increase in medical guidance around women’s health over the years, acupuncture is still one that lurks in the unknown.
There are some studies that show there have been improvements or higher success rates when acupuncture is involved the day before an IVF transfer. However, there are some studies that suggest six to eight weeks before the implant is a better alternative.
Our ultimate advice, it can’t hurt to try. Best to check in with your doctor first though..
What are the side effects of acupuncture?
You may feel a little wiped after your acupuncture treatment. This is totally normal and something that won’t last for a long period of time. What’s on the other side of the temporary tiredness? Generally more energy and a better mood! Keep an eye out for any serious fatigue, and allow yourself to take it a little easier.
You may experience a little bit of soreness after acupuncture, which is normal. The reality is that you’re having (hair-like) needles inserted into the skin. The needles trigger your muscles, so that area may be a little tight or uncomfortable directly after treatment.
If you’re delicate like the petals of a lily, you may come across some slight bruising. The bruising will generally be at the points where the needles are inserted. Besides the aesthetic element, these are nothing to be concerned about, and they will fade within a matter of days.
Lightheadedness after treatment is rare and may not be due to your acupuncture treatment, but more a result of dehydration or vertigo. If you do get up from the table quickly or get acupuncture on an empty stomach, you may suffer from mild dizziness and lightheadedness. Lesson to take away: drink lots of water and eat your lunch.
If you do experience these side effects, know that it’s nothing to worry too much about
- Potential fatigue. If so, have a rest, take a break and have a Kit-Kat.
- Although very unlikely, a little bit of soreness from the points in which the needles are inserted.
- Potentially bruising if you're susceptible to this side effect.
- A little bit of dizziness or lightheadedness if you’re getting up from the table too quickly or have a lack of food in your belly.
What should you avoid after acupuncture?
Alcohol is dehydrating. It’s wise to stay away from the drop, even though we can empathise that after a long day that wine might be exactly what you want. Take it from us, it’s worth holding off a day or two.
Another liquid we’d rather not give up. However, for a couple days after your acupuncture treatment you may want to opt for the herbal teas. So, maybe don’t get your treatment right before Monday.
Super intense exercise
For all those exercise bunnies, you’ll be happy to hear that exercise isn’t off the cards. You may want to give yourself a light session at the gym, but the movement of the muscles actually goes hand-in-hand with speedy recovery.
You want to keep the blood moving. If you’re exposed to really cold temps your blood tends to slow down. You want the opposite of this. If you’re wondering between heat or ice, heat hits the mark every time.
Processed foods and sugar
Avoid processed foods. Allow your body to receive the full benefits of acupuncture by giving your body whole foods that are nutrient-dense.
Real quick, what should you avoid to gain the most benefit from your acupuncture treatment?
- Give alcohol and caffeine the flick. Well, for at least a couple of days. You need as much hydration as possible.
- Light exercise is recommended, but maybe go a little easier than your usual workout.
- Keep yourself warm and avoid the cold. Keep that blood moving.
- Abstain from processed foods. Give your body the rainbow with loads of nutrients.
How many acupuncture sessions do I need?
Even though we’d love to prescribe a one size fits all, it depends on what you’re getting treated. As well as what it is that you’re trying to achieve. The best way about this particular situation is to go in with an open mind and give it a go. If you feel like your first treatment went well and you gained some better health from it, we’d say listen to your practitioner and follow their recommendation.
- Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Vertosick EA, Vickers A, White AR. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD001218. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001218.pub3.
- Sun H, Zhao H, Ma C, et al. Effects of electroacupuncture on depression and the production of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor compared with fluoxetine: a randomized controlled pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2013;19(9):733–739. doi:10.1089/acm.2011.0637