“What can acupuncture treat?”, I often hear from curious patients and medical practitioners.
Because it’s a healing modality that addresses the whole body, mind, and spirit, it really can run the gamut!
It is not a one size fits all experience, either, where you simply use a single acupuncture point to address a specific symptom.
The beauty, art, and medicine of acupuncture is that it is a symphony of carefully chosen points to create a desired physical and emotional (and oftentimes, spiritual) healing effect, based on a person’s constitution.
And, learning how all of the instruments, aka acupuncture points, play a role in creating the harmony can take a while to learn. That’s why I always recommend receiving acupuncture from a Licensed Acupuncturist, rather than a Certified Acupuncturist, since the former often has the depth of knowledge, and years of comprehensive training of Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, oriental medicine theory, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and Western Diseases, resulting in a Master’s Degree from a nationally-accredited school or college of acupuncture.
I will admit to having absolutely no clue as to how intense the schooling would be! I went in there thinking it would be all love, light, and daffodils. Ok, maybe not daffodils, but I thought it would be way easier than it actually was.
I threw away those rose-colored glasses pretty quickly, and rolled my sleeves up for the long hours of rote memorization, Chinese Medicine terminology, remembering where each meridian pathway entered and exited, and the properties, contraindications, and uses of each point, to name a few things. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that there are as many as 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body, which are connected by 20 pathways (12 main, 8 secondary) called meridians. I don’t think I had to memorize 2,000 acupuncture points; but, it sure came close!
As the daughter of a Western medical doctor (a radiologist, to be specific), I was exposed to my father’s textbooks growing up, and became familiar with Western terminology and pathology at a young age. So, although I do have some Chinese heritage running through my veins, it was almost entirely lost on me when I first started to learn Chinese Medicine!
I’m grateful I stuck with it, because it ended up opening a new world to me, where I could do what I love – helping people heal themselves – and make a living out of doing it!
In my years as a practitioner, I have come to notice what people usually come into my office for, when they come in for an acupuncture treatment.
The following are the Top 10 Reasons People Come In For Acupuncture:
1. Stress – Stress is pretty much the Number One Reason why people come in for acupuncture treatments. New York City is notorious for being a city on the go, as well as for putting the pressure on its residents to perform, create, and be seen. Although we put the pressure on ourselves, the kinetic energy of the city can be both building and depleting. Much of my loved work is in helping people create more manageable lifestyles, while still performing at their peak. Part of that is implementing lots of self-care, and teaching patients how to create healthy energetic boundaries. Because, many of my patients don’t realize what energetic sponges they are, until they feel they’ve soaked up too much gritty city juju!
2. Back Pain – Back pain, neck pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, joint pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. They all come into a close second on this list. But, if one were to take the cake when it comes to being the biggest physical pain issue, it would have to be the back. Our backs carry so much. From keyboards and heavy luggage being schlepped through the city subway systems, to sitting in cubicles without periods of stretching, to demanding physical workouts, our spine does its best to leverage the balance in our bodies. The muscles in our backs try to compensate for the stress we put on our bodies. Add some tension and stress of the daily grind, and voila! Back pain. In addition to acupuncture, I often recommend various lifestyle shifts that can be made to help keep the body stretched during the day, or to help put less pressure on the back so it can heal faster. I often use electro-stimulation, or e-stim for short, during the treatment, particularly when there’s chronic pain. When I use an e-stim machine, I hook up the tiny machine’s leads to the acupuncture needles, once they’re inserted. What results is deep penetration of the pain into the muscle layers, creating constant subtle stimulation, which may feel similar to a pulsing of a gentle heartbeat. At the end of the treatment, we remove the lead connections and needles, and give some good bodywork to loosen up the muscles further. I often use some oils when doing this. On some days I may use a blend of muscle-penetrating essential oils; on other days, I may use Chinese Medicated liniment oils that have menthol and Chinese herbs.
3. Neck Pain – The neck holds so much of our tension. As I’d mentioned in my previous article, “Skin Conditions And The Process of Ascension“, Liver qi stagnation often results when there’s blockage in the Liver channel, which often results in physical and/or emotional pain. I see a lot of Liver qi stagnation in my practice, and it often shows up when we have stress. I often see stress and Liver qi stagnation build up in the neck and shoulders of women, since that upper back/shoulder/neck area is a classic place where we hold our stress. Almost as if we are holding are breath and forgetting to exhale! Louise Hays, author of the book, “You Can Heal Your Life”, explores the ways our bodies express our thought patterns through physical ailments. She attributes neck problems to refusing to see other sides of a question. Of being inflexible. Louise then offers a new thought pattern of, “It is with flexibility and ease that I see all sides of an issue. There are endless ways to do things and see things. I am safe.” In addition to seeing the possible emotional component of a pain issue, we also look at what is possibly structurally going on. E-stim for neck pain works wonders, as well!
4. Hip Pain – Often an extension of back pain, particularly the lower back, hip pain can cause patients great distress. This is because the hip is used in so many physical actions, including just walking down the street, or going up a flight of stairs. It can also hinder a person’s workout, which is very disconcerting if the person’s an athlete. Sometimes there can be some sciatica involved. Whatever the reason or cause, acupuncture is helpful in getting into the hip area, particularly the glutes. Did you know that acupuncturists have different needles to help us access different areas of the body? One of my patients who enjoys the work we do on her hip always says she feels “longer” after a treatment. Why? Because when we’re in pain, our body contracts, including the muscles. Acupuncture helps to loosen all of that goodness up!
5. Anxiety and Depression – Many of the patients who see me for anxiety often come to me in search of a healing modality that helps them address their anxiety and/or depression without medication. Sometimes they are already on psychiatric medications, but they want to wean off of them. Acupuncture has some incredible points to address the Spirit and the Heart. The Heart, in Chinese Medicine, holds theShen, or Spirit. When our Spirit feels disturbed, the Heart becomes restless. My job is to help the Heart heal, and to help patients reconnect with their Heart. Sometimes they don’t even realize they’re disconnected from it. Oftentimes, depression can be all consuming, and can lead to addictions and self-sabotaging behaviors. Anxiety can make us feel like we don’t have control of our bodies, and depression can make us feel like there’s no way out. Our bodies often just need a strong reminder that homeostasis is accessible, and acupuncture’s ability to reboot the sympathetic nervous system is helpful in that regard.
6. Fertility – Numerous studies have shown that IVF acupuncture can increase the efficacy of in-vitro fertilization. Acupuncture not only reduces stress, but can increase the number of follicles produced, help to thicken the endometrial lining, and decrease the side effects of IVF medications. I have had the blessing of successfully treating women with acupuncture, towards building their families. Whether that means regulating their periods first, helping them to conceive naturally, or treating them in conjunction with IVF or IUI treatments, acupuncture helps prepare the uterus (or the “Child’s Palace” as it’s called in Chinese Medicine) and the female reproductive system. There are also lots of things to nourish yourself with when preparing to conceive, and I love sharing those resources with my patients!
7. Food Cravings – Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just recreational drugs or alcohol. Sometimes it’s addiction to work, cigarettes, sugar, or food. It’s also telling, on a Chinese Medicine level, what type of food craving you have. Do you crave sugar or sweet things? Or is it salty foods? If you get weak at the knees for sugary and sweet things, your Spleen may be involved. If you crave salty foods, your Kidneys may be calling for some rebalance. By feeling your pulses, and checking out your tongue, I can see which organs are out of balance, and see which points would best suit you for that day’s treatment. Did you know there’s actually a Craving point on the ear that can be needled to address food cravings? When used in conjunction with other points on the body, and the ear, it can make for an effective treatment that not only reduces food cravings, but can also improve the overall health, as well as energy, in the body.
8. Smoking Cessation – As when addressing food cravings, working on smoking cessation is similar. There’s a full body treatment, with a focus on ear acupuncture. In fact, the NADA technique is particularly helpful for both smoking cessation and food cravings. NADA stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, and refers to the five point ear acupuncture protocol for recovery from addictions, particularly: drugs, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and even hunger cravings. I offer smoking cessation sessions in a series, because receiving acupuncture for smoking cessation is best served up on a weekly basis, for at least 8-10 weeks. In addition, there are some great herbal formulas out there to help clear up the Lungs.
9. Digestive Issues – There are various reasons why the gut may be in dysbiosis. In Chinese Medicine, we love talking about poop! How often we have a bowel movement, how our poop is formed, it’s color, and yes, sometimes even the smell. In ancient China, the Emperor’s staff used to survey their boss’ poop to assess the health of their ruler. Yes, it’s that important! Whether it be diarrhea, constipation, a fluctuation between the two, gas, or leaky gut, the body has many ways to let us know that things are not digesting properly. Through tongue and pulse, we can also find out which organ may be at the root of the issue! A lot of times the Spleen is involved in this mechanism. But, sometimes the Liver, or another organ, can be culprit.
10. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Part of being so incredibly productive, and possibly workaholic, comes with certain aches and pains. For those who often use their wrists and hands for their profession (ie. almost everybody!), repetitive motions with the hand, wrist, and arm can bring about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which is most notably felt in the midline of the inside of the wrist. This is due to the compression of the median nerve, which causes pain, numbness, or limited mobility of the fingers, hand, wrist, and/or arm. Acupuncture helps to open the area, and bring qi flow into what may have previously been a stagnant part of the body.
What have you received acupuncture for, in the past?
And, what did you think?
Leave me a comment, below, and let us know!
By Margarita Alcantara, M.S.Ac., L.Ac., Reiki Master/Teacher | www.alcantaraacupuncture.com