With the many challenges people face today, stress is an unavoidable part of daily life. The outcome of constant stress on the body can be devastating, leading to mental health difficulties like anxiety and depression. The ravages of stress are also damaging to the physical body, raising the risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes. But, many people suffering from elevated stress levels have found relief using acupuncture, an ancient practice dating back thousands of years.
What is Acupuncture, and how Does it Work?
The practice of acupuncture dates back more than 5,000 years in the Far East. In the early days of the method, long before the invention of acupuncture needles, practitioners used sharpened stones for the treatment. The reasoning behind acupuncture lies in the belief that energy flows throughout the body and the clinician can use the flow of these energies in managing stress with acupuncture and manipulating and directing energy to create balance and improve health.
Previously, the primary use of acupuncture was for the management of pain and discomfort caused by a variety of diseases and conditions. In addition, the physician often recommends acupuncture treatment for the relief of nausea and vomiting associated with radiation and chemotherapy experienced by cancer patients. Though many patients have benefited from the effects of acupuncture, the treatment is not appropriate in every situation.
Although the risk of an adverse reaction to acupuncture treatment is low since the process involves the insertion of tiny needles throughout the body, it is not recommended for individuals with bleeding disorders. Expectant mothers and those with pacemakers should exercise extreme caution before an acupuncture session and ensure the practitioner is aware of their medical history.
Acupuncture and Acupressure
Acupressure uses deep touch to energize pressure points and mobilize the nervous system to release endorphins and other feel-good chemicals into the bloodstream. Acupuncture uses sterile needles to stimulate specific points in the body to reduce stress and pain, and acupressure uses this same principle. However, it uses deep pressure or massage to achieve the desired result.
While acupressure does not use needles and doesn’t break the skin, the procedure is still not recommended for some individuals. If the skin near the associated pressure point is red or blistered, rescheduling the session is recommended, as treatments could further irritate the skin. Patients with open wounds near the impacted area are also cautioned against using acupressure.
What to Expect at an Acupuncture Session
An average acupuncture session involves five to twenty needles inserted to varying depths. With multiple needles involved in the process, many people can feel anxious about their first acupuncture appointment, but acupuncture needles are thin and cause little to no discomfort. The acupuncture clinician responds to your concerns before checking your pulse and providing an overview of the planned session.
After inserting all of the needles, the practitioner may gently twirl or spin the needles to manipulate the energy flow. They may apply mild electrical charges or heat to the area to enhance the body’s natural healing process. Acupuncture needles typically remain in place for ten to 15 minutes, and you should not feel any discomfort during this time. A complete acupuncture session is usually around one hour and should leave you feeling relaxed and invigorated with symptom improvement in two to three weeks.