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What is Acupuncture, Anyway?

It’s not unusual for me to see patients struggling with a difficult chronic illness that come to me as their last resort, after trying everything that Western medicine has to offer. Many have been told about the miracles of acupuncture from friends and family and are eager to give it a try, but are unsure how it works or what a treatment entails. And they might be a little hesitant at the mention of needles, too!

Acupuncture is a Chinese healing technique perfected over thousands of years. Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe in qi (pronounced “chee”), an energy that flows through the body in pathways called meridians. When qi becomes stuck or blocked, this causes an imbalance in the body, and disease manifests. By inserting fine, thin needles at key points along the meridian of the body, qi is brought back into balance.

Do the needles hurt? Not at all, and if they do, you should find another acupuncturist! The needles I use are about as thick as two human hairs. You may feel a light tap when they are inserted, but no pain.

Each acupuncture treatment is unique and tailored with your specific needs in mind. No two acupuncture treatments are ever quite the same. Acupuncture might be combined with cupping, gu’asha, gentle massage, or herbs to achieve the desired healing effect.

I begin each appointment by spending ten to fifteen minutes discussing your current state of health. I may take your pulse, blood pressure, or ask you to stick out your tongue! Observing the tongue is one way of determining what’s going on inside the body, and what treatment would be best to fix the imbalance.

Then, I’ll ask you to lie down on a massage table. I insert needles while you listen to relaxing music. Before leaving the room, I will always leave you with a call button in your hand in case you need to call me and I am with another patient. And then, let the needles work! Some people choose to stay awake. Most drift off to sleep peacefully and wake feeling rested and rejuvenated.

After the treatment, you might feel energized enough to hit the gym or hungry enough to eat a horse. While these are both wonderful signs that your body reacted positively to the treatment and is doing some major inner work to restore balance, I suggest that you take it easy after your treatment. By all means, enjoy a nourishing meal or go for a brisk walk, but be sure not to push your body to its limits.

While a noticeable difference in your condition can often be seen after just one treatment, several acupuncture treatments over the course of weeks, or possibly months, will be needed to maintain that positive change. Everyone is unique and every body responds differently to acupuncture

Magnesium

Magnesium is one of my favorite topics! Magnesium is an essential mineral of the body, used for everything from protein synthesis to controlling blood sugar and supporting muscle and nerve function. Every single cell in the human body needs magnesium to carry out its job.

Unfortunately, many people are deficient in this powerhouse of a mineral – and they don’t even know it! Medications and environmental stressors can deplete magnesium, but the most common magnesium thief is chronic stress.

When the body is stressed it goes into fight or flight mode. Your heart rate increases, your pupils dilate, and adrenaline and blood pressure rise. The lightning speed production of all these stress hormones require high amounts of magnesium. For a healthy person with abundant stores of magnesium, this is no problem. Once the stressor is gone, life returns to normal. But someone who’s always stressed out will begin to feel the effects of low magnesium; trouble sleeping, fatigue, anxiety, brain fog, difficulty relaxing, grinding your teeth, and food cravings are all sure signs that your magnesium supply needs to be restored.

Thankfully, magnesium can be found in a variety of foods, including spinach, millet, tuna, beef, avocado, cashews, black beans, and dark chocolate. Often, however, magnesium supplementation is needed before you can really begin to see results. I recommend talking to a clinician well versed in nutritional supplementation before you run out to the nearest drugstore for a bottle of magnesium. There are side effects, like diarrhea and stomach cramps, to watch out for when supplementing with magnesium. In my practice, I only use high quality supplements and work with each patient to determine the exact dosage needed for their condition.

Of course, not much will change if you don’t take a good look at what’s stressing you out in the first place. What are you doing too much of? What do you wish you could do more? A daily awareness practice like meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or even journaling can go a long way towards keeping your body relaxed and giving it adequate time to restore your magnesium level.