When it comes to managing your health, bolstering your wellness routine with acupuncture is a total gamechanger. And yet, what’s so crazy is how few people take advantage of the healing capacity of this ancient medicine on a regular basis. Truly, this could very well be one of alternative medicine’s best kept secrets.

Many of my long-term patients (we’ll call them acupuncture converts) describe their continued experience with acupuncture as a “life-saver” or their “secret weapon” to being their best selves. In the beginning, most patients walk into the treatment room a tad curious and hoping to experience this “little bit of magic” they’ve heard whispers about from their friends. Many are at the end of their rope in attempting to manage whatever ails them. They have tried everything else and have exhausted every other therapy.

In my personal experience, first as a patient and now as a practitioner, I believe that whatever brings a patient in to see me also comes along with a healthy dose of skepticism – and who can really be blamed for that? 

Acupuncture by its very nature carries with it a certain brand of mystique and intrigue. How exactly does this traditional medicine work? Could it be all placebo? Or if not… if this stuff really does work, there’s always the question of what these teeny-tiny needles are doing to stimulate our bodies to heal.

How does acupuncture work?

The answer to this question is multi faceted, as there are many different styles of acupuncture that are used for specific ailments.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we believe in treating the mind and body HOLISTICALLY. This means that although you might be coming in for a headache, as practitioners we look for all the possible disharmonies and imbalances within your body. Through this, we can then work together to encourage it to operate at its highest potential. In the model of TCM, everything is interconnected, so while the headache is the issue that brings you in, the headache is only the branch symptom. As acupuncturists, we go hunting underground for the root cause of the headache. Most patients are already looking to replace whatever “band-aid” therapy they are currently using, so the concept of healing the root cause is typically met with relief.

When treating issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, sleep, hormonal health, digestive issues, immunity, headaches, addictions, etc… acupuncture points works via stimulation of the nervous system. From a scientific perspective, nervous system activation is the whole mechanism of action for how acupuncture works.

When a tiny (and I mean TINY) needle is gently inserted below the skin’s surface, the needle stimulates the nerve below. This nerve then activates a chain reaction that sends a message to your spinal cord, which then affects the hypothalamus-pituitary axis deep in your brain. This then sends ANOTHER message back down your spine, directing it to a specifically chosen organ, hormonal system or body tissue in order to stimulate the desired effect. This could be a flood of serotonin or dopamine to reduce stress, a calming effect on the smooth muscles of the stomach or a way to reduce the pain from an irritated nerve.

Another method of treatment to reduce pain and inflammation is by needling the affected area to bring about a healing response. When treating a localized area such as a knee joint or the low back, we use needles or cupping to loosen the surrounding muscles and ligaments, reduce any possible joint inflammation and to bring in healthy, oxygenized blood flow, thereby stimulating the body’s natural healing capacity.

What makes acupuncture different?

What sets acupuncture apart from other therapies is its multi-dimensional approach to healing and its ability to treat multiple issues simultaneously. While we are busy working on repairing your torn rotator cuff, we can also be treating your insomnia, boosting your shaky immune system and lowering your heightened stress level caused by late nights and too much coffee.

When my patients find themselves struggling with feelings of emotional overwhelm, oftentimes coupled with anxiety and depression, we do more than simply chill out their overstimulated nervous systems and calm their busy minds. We also work to replenish their exhausted adrenal glands, and for many individuals work to rebalance digestive problems, hormonal issues or skin irritations that have been free to run amok.

In addition, because we are ever-searching for ways to heal your issues from their causative factors, we’ll always address points such as finding you the right blend of vitamins and minerals, getting you to flirt with the idea of less caffeine, prescribing herbal medicines or providing you with different stretches and exercises to get your body feeling stronger.

On an emotional level, we’ve got your back too. Being attentive listeners is a crucial part of our job, helping you identify areas where we can build you up and champion you to be your best self. Encouraging simple things like slowing down, creating healthy boundaries within your relationships, cultivating an earlier bedtime or establishing a 10 minute daily meditation practice can be the impetus for immeasurable healing.

 Why Should I add Acupuncture to my Wellness Routine?

TCM’s broad spectrum of treatment and the cascade of positive effects that come from a single acupuncture session make it an invaluable asset to your health.

Every one of us, no matter how healthy, has blind spots and areas that could use some extra attention and support. Being that there are few issues that acupuncture cannot effectively treat, this makes it the perfect way to round out your wellness routine.

By Heather Bracken – The Garden Acupuncture and Holistic Centre

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