In this day and age, nearly everyone has heard of acupuncture. Because of celebrities like Kim Kardashian posting pictures with needles in her face during her facial rejuvenation sessions and athlete Kobe Bryant using it for ankle injury, acupuncture has made its way from the dark dungeons of Chinatown into the most prominent offices of Manhattan. Pain is the most common condition treated by acupuncture. However, many people do not know that this medicine has healing abilities that stretch far beyond just pain management.
Mila Mintsis, L.Ac. is a leading certified acupuncturist who practices here at Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City. Below, she discusses 5 things that you may not know about acupuncture:
1. Acupuncture decreases anxiety
In our fast-paced society, with increasing demands of work and family life and the challenges of finding balance between them, it is no wonder that such a high number of people suffer from anxiety. The statistics show an increase in usage of anxiety medications and in my practice, close to 90% of clients report feeling anxious on a near-daily basis. The bad news is that acupuncture will not solve your work or family problems. But the good news is that it will make you more equipped to deal with life’s challenges. Studies show that acupuncture increases production of endorphins, reduces prefrontal cortex activity and blocks production of stress hormones, which results in a relaxation response. Patients report feeling euphoric and experience a deep state of relaxation following treatments. Want to try acupuncture for anxiety but anxious about needles? Don’t be. People are often surprised by how gentle and comfortable of a procedure it is, and many fall asleep during treatments.
2. Acupuncture clears up allergies
Allergies are an ever-present epidemic. You, as well as people you know, may be suffering from allergies. There are many theories as to why generations before us did not suffer from allergies as much as we do, but there are few solutions being offered. Recent studies have warned that allergy medications can impair brain function and increase the risk of dementia. Luckily, acupuncture can provide a relief from allergy symptoms without any side effects. There are two main mechanisms behind this effect: First, it modulates cytokines, which are secreted by the cells of the immune system and help to reduce inflammation. Secondly, it reduces IgE levels, which are the immunoglobulins that react to allergens and produce the “allergic response.” After treatments, people report reduction in nasal congestion, sneezing and itching and say they can breathe again. For the best results, treatments must be done a few weeks before the allergy season begins. In addition, dietary modifications such as elimination of dairy and sugar are recommended for longer-lasting relief.
3. Acupuncture can help you get pregnant
Yes, you heard me right. After pain management, fertility is probably the most sought-after treatment by acupuncture. Often performed in conjunction with Western medicine treatments, acupuncture has shown to increase the success of pregnancy rates. Acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterus; decreases anxiety and stress (which often come as a result of being unable to conceive), and regulates hormone levels. Some studies show that receiving acupuncture before and after the embryo transfer in assisted reproduction therapies greatly increases the odds of implantation, leading to live births. There are occasions where the man’s health impedes a successful pregnancy. Acupuncture has been found to improve sperm quality in cases of male infertility. In any case, it seems that both parties can benefit from treatments to increase their odds of conception.
4. Acupuncture helps digestion
Digestive complaints are another issue that has been plaguing our society. Often, when I ask my patients about their digestion, they will say that it is “good” or “normal.” Unfortunately, frequent bloating and infrequent bowel movements is the new definition of normal. Many are unaware that for good health, bowel movements have to occur daily, and frequent bloating is a sign that your body is not properly digesting the food and assimilating nutrients. Proper digestion starts with proper nutrition and Chinese medicine offers specific dietary plans according to your individual digestive issues. In addition to dietary changes, acupuncture can improve digestion by promoting the parasympathetic state, which is also known as “rest and digest”. Most of us are constantly on the go and chronically stressed, which results in sympathetic dominance or “fight-or-flight mode”. It is our body’s way of responding to and dealing with stressful situations. This sympathetic dominance physically impedes proper digestion. Creating a favorable parasympathetic state, as acupuncture does, helps to heal digestive complaints.
5. Acupuncture can get rid of your headaches
Whether you suffer from tension headaches or migraines, acupuncture can help. A study conducted at Duke University, showed that acupuncture was better at treating headaches than aspirin. Other studies have proven acupuncture to be a valuable tool as well. Tension headaches differ from migraines and other headaches in their etiology and therefore acupuncture approaches each with a different strategy. One of the reasons we get headaches is due to constriction of blood vessels, which reduces circulation, and can induce headache pain. Needle stimulation at specific areas on the body increases circulation and induces blood vessel dilation, which can alleviate pain. Tension or spasming in the upper back and neck muscles due to emotional stress or excessive computer use can produce a referred pain into the head, causing tension headaches. Placing needles into involved muscle groups induces relaxation in the muscle tissue and eliminates headaches. During treatments, patients often describe a pleasant warming sensation in the back, and they feel immediately better. And most importantly, acupuncture is safe and has no side effects, unlike some medications.
I hope this information was helpful and insightful. And remember, life can be painful but suffering is always optional. If you have any conditions discussed above, acupuncture may be right for you. Call Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy in New York City at 212-317-8303 to schedule an appointment today, or click here for more information on acupuncture.