The porcupine look is in. Despite being classed as an 'alternative' therapy, acupuncture is one of the most widely recognised and respected Chinese medical practices. It's a real all-rounder, too, used to treat anything from specific muscular pain to stress relief and pick-me-up therapy.
Your therapist will tap very fine needles into specific meridian points in your body. The aim is to encourage a healthy flow of your Qi (or life force - pronounced 'chee') around your body, releasing any trapped energies and flushing away any blockages. Once your Qi is flowing full-steam ahead, you should be on track to a pain-free, stress-free healthier you.
You might have been told the eyes are the window to the soul, but according to Chinese medicine, it's your tongue that will tell you the most about your health, so don't be surprised if your Acupuncturist asks you to stick it out during your consultation. The treatment itself can be done sitting, or lying down, depending on the part of your body being treated. Once you are comfortable, anything from six to twenty needles will be inserted and sometimes twisted and then left for around 5 to 20 minutes to work their magic.
If you're nervous about becoming a human pincushion, you might be relieved to know that acupuncture needles are not inserted deeply into the muscle like an injection, so you won't experience the same pain. Some of the needles you might not feel at all; most of the time, you'll feel a prick often followed by a tingling or slight aching feeling. If you're lucky, you'll find the little rush of adrenaline can give you a natural high too.
Acupuncture can be used by anyone - either as part of their treatment for a specific medical condition, or as a preventative measure to ensure continuing good health. There’s evidence that acupuncture can be used to treat back pain, dental pain, headaches, osteoarthritis of the knee and nausea and vomiting after an operation. It’s even suitable for children and adolescents – so feel free to drag your whole family along with you.
Acupuncture is also used by some as a natural fertility treatment. It’s said to be most effective when the cause of infertility is functional (such as a hormonal imbalance) rather than structural (a blocked fallopian tube), but the medical community is divided on how beneficial the practise truly is. However, acupuncture has been proven to help with anxiety, stress and insomnia, all of which may make conception more difficult.
Go for an acupuncturist accredited by the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) to ensure a safe and professional treatment.