"Psst… What’s the deal with acupuncture? Can it really help you get to sleep at night? Without using prescription drugs? And you even fall asleep on the treatment table with the needles in?"
"I’m scared of needles. Do they hurt?"
"You barely feel them? No! How can that be?"
Acupuncturists have entertained these types of questions for thousands of years, likely because centuries ago the first acupuncturists used stones, fish bones and bamboo! Ouch!
Modern-day acupuncture needles feature single-use, sterilized, stainless steel iterations, about as thin as cat’s hair. Unlike Western-style hypodermic needles, which flare out at the tip and cut the skin as they enter, acupuncture needles gently separate the skin. While they may pinch, no, they generally don’t hurt.
Acupuncture has been acknowledged as a safe, sterile, 21st-Century approach to healing and yes, treatment can help you get to sleep at night!
It would also be wise to consider acupuncture treatment before surgery for that carpal tunnel pain you’ve been dealing with (or any other surgical procedure) for that matter, as brain scans have shown treatment increases the number of recepters for pain-reducing neurotransmitters in your nervous system, providing more relief.
Additionally, if you’re planning to have surgery, consider having acupuncture before and after the surgery and then continue treatment throughout rehabilitation. Study after study has shown you’ll recover more quickly and require fewer pain medications if you do. (Unless you’d prefer to deal with their common side effects, like nausea and inability to move your bowels or eat food after surgery.)
Now firmly implanted in hospitals across the country and sports arenas around the world and with private Chinese Medicine clinics cropping up in nearly every major city—it seems clear that acupuncture is here to stay.
Further, the ability to function without the need for electronics and machinery has allowed mobile acupuncture clinics to answer the need for trauma relief and recovery in much-needed areas like war zones, disaster sites and underserved populations around the world.
What are the needles doing, you ask?
The quick answer is that they’re helping to move your “stuck” Qi. Their job is to recreate balance where blockages and deficiencies have presented themselves in the meridians (or channels) that run up and down your body. These channels are the rivers woven into the earth that is your body, nourishing and hydrating your cells, providing the impetus for your life force.
A University of Vermont ultrasound study revealed that when acupuncture needles were inserted and rotated at acupuncture points, the connective tissue wrapped around them, stretching cells in the area and sending signals throughout the body that stimulate improved blood flow and tissue regeneration.
Thermal imaging has also shown the elimination of inflammation, and Doppler ultrasound testing revealed that treatment calms the limbic center (which governs emotion) in the brain and activates other areas involved in rest and recuperation.
Could this be why patients fall asleep during treatment?
Western “tools” like Doppler and neuroimaging provide explanation on a linear level, but the true essence of how Eastern medicine “thinks” has much more depth and breadth than that.
For a moment, consider your physical body as a "container," and the energy (Qi) it holds as a live, pulsating and vibrating condensation of Heaven and Earth, much like a plant or a collection of microorganisms.
You wouldn’t put half your plant in the window and cover the other side would you? To be sure it grew well, you’d adjust the position of the plant to make sure all parts get enough sun, water … and a few kind words every day.
So, while it may seem strange that your acupuncturist asks you questions about your sleep and eating habits when you’ve come in to treat a knee injury, understand that from a Chinese Medicine perspective, your knee injury is considered an interruption in your Qi flow. Much like a plant only half in the sun, this has an effect on the whole structure.
Following that thinking, if you don’t eat to support healing, sleep to support healing, you wind up creating a larger challenge for the knee to heal, because the energy that should be directed towards healing your knee is being diverted elsewhere.
If you haven’t tried acupuncture yet, consider looking at healing in a new way, and give yourself this gift. Surrender to something that guides you towards an awareness of what’s going on inside of you. Something that makes the contents of your whole “container” feel better.
As my wife and partner is fond of saying to her fertility patients: "Be the garden."