04 Feb Regular Exercise + Regular Acupuncture
When you think about maintaining your general health and wellbeing, what springs to mind? For many of us, a nutritious, balanced diet, a regular gym routine, drinking plenty of water and getting sufficient sleep are all high on the list. But have you ever considered incorporating regular acupuncture into your self-care routine?
This month, peak professional organisation for qualified acupuncturists and TCM practitioners across Australia, AACMA, is encouraging people to consider including regular acupuncture sessions into their New Year health routines. AACMA is launching an awareness campaign across their Facebook and Instagram: Regular Exercise + Regular Acupuncture.
“Having regular acupuncture treatments is like taking your car for a service,” says president of the Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) Waveny Holland. “If you take your car for regular servicing, it runs well and is less likely to break down.”
The same goes for your body: it will run efficiently if you keep it maintained and serviced, and acupuncture is one of the best ways to get a whole-of-body treatment.
“More and more people including other health professionals are experiencing the benefits of regular sessions. These health professionals who practice in the western medical world are recognising how good Chinese medicine is at maintaining good health and wellbeing. Even after 26 years of study and practice, it still awes me. I believe Chinese medicine really is the best way to treat a body.”
Why should I make acupuncture part of my wellness routine?
Many people initially seek out treatment when something goes wrong in the way the body should be working – for example, gut issues after overindulging on food and wine during the holiday period, or sinus issues and arthritis flare-ups in winter. But regular acupuncture incorporated into your lifestyle can help you avoid specific conditions and stay healthy all year round.
“Acupuncture can treat a lot of conditions, but if you’re having regular treatments, you’re less likely to suffer from any of them in the first place,” Waveny explains.
And regardless of the reason behind that first visit, the positive effects can be felt throughout the whole body.
“Even if we’re specifically targeting certain conditions, it’s still going to impact the whole body, because we’re working with qi, which circulates around the entire body,” explains Waveny. “No matter where in the body you work on that qi, the whole body will feel the beneficial effects.”
As a result, acupuncture can improve the overall normal functioning of the body, boosting your immune system and gut health, managing stress and helping your body operate at a better level in general – meaning you’re less likely to get sick, Waveny shares.
What are the mental health benefits?
In our fast-paced world, the importance of taking time out to de-stress cannot be overstated. And according to Waveny, acupuncture can be an incredibly relaxing experience. “Certain points just immediately calm the mind,” she says. “There are points on the head and on the feet that do this, and you immediately relax when they’re stimulated.”
There’s also a degree of talking therapy involved, with plenty of time allocated to each appointment – usually a minimum half an hour, if not 45 minutes to an hour.
“Because we spend more time, people can actually talk through their fears and needs and desires,” explains Waveny. “Generally a GP appointment is around 10 minutes and up to 20 which doesn’t give much time for asking questions or discussion and as doctors offer a prescription or referrals for tests or investigations, you don’t necessarily feel any better than when you first walked in. Having the opportunity to just chat to someone, on the other hand, can help ease a busy mind – and that’s a very powerful part of what we do to maintain wellness. Simply talking can be therapeutic without even putting a needle in.”
How often do I need a treatment?
If you feel as though your wellness routine is already packed to the brim with daily exercise, meeting sleep requirements and preparing healthy food, fear not: you don’t need to completely clear your schedule in order to add acupuncture into the mix.
“Exercise can certainly calm the mind and help to de-stress but the effects do not last, while combining with regular acupuncture seems to have a longer lasting effect,” says Waveny.
“People exercise five times a week, but you don’t have to get acupuncture five times a week to experience the same benefits of wellbeing.”
So how often do should you get a treatment? Well, it really depends on the individual, says Waveny. For general maintenance, anything from monthly to six-weekly is a great place to start.
“I have patients who come every month, I have quite a few people who come fortnightly for a Chinese remedial massage, I have some who come three-weekly – all these people value the benefits that acupuncture treatments provide for general body maintenance and wellbeing.”
What do I need to know before my first treatment?
Going to your first treatment might seem daunting – but there’s really nothing to worry about. Communicating openly with your practitioner so they know if you’re feeling nervous will enable them to explain your diagnosis and proposed treatment to you so you understand what will happen and you can give informed consent to be treated.
“Ask whatever questions you need to make you feel comfortable with your choice to have acupuncture,” says Waveny, adding that an open dialogue is key. “If someone comes in and tells me they really don’t like needles, that tells me the patient is already fearful, so I’ll go in very gently and massage a point very thoroughly before I put a needle in. I also talk to them the whole time, so their mind isn’t physically engaged with the body. For me, it’s a partnership between client and practitioner. If you’ve booked an acupuncture treatment, you’re there because you’re ready to get some kind of beneficial outcome, but you need to ask any questions you’d like to have answered to feel safe and comfortable.”
How do I find a practitioner?
AACMA – which is considered Australia’s most trusted source for qualified practitioners – has a database of more than 2200 accredited practitioners around Australia. All of the practitioners in the database have completed a minimum four-year degree in Chinese medicine and are registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia – so you know you will find an acupuncturist you can trust.