With four rambunctious children in the house, my parents always found creative ways to burn off our endless energy/wear us down in the evening. One of my favorite memories was going to the old fashioned drive-in movie theatre in town possibly because it was the only time we were allowed to dress in our pajamas in public! We cuddled under blankets and watched The Jungle Book. Big old Baloo was my favorite character, a lumbering bear who didn’t have a care in the world and yet was full of wisdom for a wide-eyed jungle boy named Mowgli. One thing for sure about Baloo was his ability to enjoy the “simple bare necessities of life” from back scratches on the bark of a tree to picking “a pawpaw or a prickly pear.” Maybe Baloo was onto something – the right prick can be painless and may just heal what ails you…”You better believe it baby.”
Does the thought of being stuck with needles to improve your health seem counterintuitive not to mention potentially painful? Hopefully, by the end of this article you’ll become a believer in this equally ancient and modern modality of this complementary care.
Acupuncture’s roots date back to ancient Chinese medicine for pain treatment designed to balance the flow of energy through the body. If that’s too out there for you, think of your nervous system as a super highway. When traffic is flowing smoothly, everything is fine and you quickly and safely get to your destination. The minute people start tapping their brakes, traffic snarls and even stops. When those traffic jams are pinpointed and subsequently relieved, you’re back on the road. Acupuncture practitioners understand those points of congestion in your body and use tiny needles to stimulate nerves, relax muscles and improve the circulation to connective tissues. The end result is typically increased blood flow and pain reduction in many cases. Because the needles are placed just below the surface of the skin and at strategic points (commonly called meridians), their insertion is painless and blood free.
Although western medicine has its skeptics with regard to the overall benefits of acupuncture, science has pinpointed specific pain relief centers of the brain that are stimulated during treatment including the limbic system which encompasses the emotional, behavioral, memory and olfactory centers of the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is used to relieve many symptoms including:
Headaches & Migraines
Low Back Pain
Chemotherapy side effects
Those who suffer from bleeding or bruising disorders, have a pacemaker (if mild electrical pulses are attached to the needles), or are pregnant should consult their health care professional before receiving acupuncture treatments.
I always make sure I have first-hand experience before referring others to health products and treatment options. I can honestly say that my acupuncture sessions have been very relaxing, reinvigorating, and not scary at all!
Safe and Certified
Be sure to confirm the credentials of the acupuncturist before receiving a treatment. They should be licensed and credentialed — most states require certification from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Additionally, disposable acupuncture needles are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be sterile, nontoxic, labeled for single use and used only by qualified practitioners. Some insurance providers do cover acupuncture as a complementary procedure so be sure to check with your provider.
Pricked to Perform
Acupuncture may also serve as a great tuneup for your body. Recent studies also suggest acupuncture may be a great natural sports performance enhancer. The studies noted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found increases in muscle strength and power for those athletes, weekend warriors, soldiers and workers involved in resistance and endurance sports/training. If I haven’t convinced you to embrace the needle, consider acupressure as an alternative. Acupressure practitioners use the same “acupoints” but use deep pressure using fingers and thumbs rather than needles. No matter which modality you choose, reducing pain, relaxing muscles and increasing circulation are all good things. And, like Baloo, you may find yourself singing a happy tune once you’re all tuned up.
“When you find you can live without it~and go along not thinking about it~I’ll tell you something true~the bare necessities of life will come to you.” Baloo, The Jungle Book