Seeking alternative ways to help with pain and discomfort? Acupuncturist Hayley Enright answers our readers’ questions on how this well-respected ancient treatment using needles can improve your wellbeing.
1. While I’ve personally had success with acupuncture for back pain and for turning breech babies, I was wondering if acupuncture could be appropriate for a 10-year old child with weekly (officially diagnosed) debilitating migraine headaches?
Acupuncture is recognized for its good effects on both headaches and with pediatric care. It’s been treating families for thousands of years, so there are many techniques that can be used on children. Sometimes parents worry about how their child may react to needles, but with older children it’s easy to establish trust when you give them permission to engage in the treatment. With infants or toddlers, since my technique is gentle, they don’t experience discomfort being needled!
2. Can you treat thyroiditis?
Acupuncture is known for its effects on hormones, many of which influence the thyroid. It can decrease thyroid nodules and swing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
3. Can acupuncture help with digestive problems?
Digestive problems are frequently at the root of many other issues. It’s a key system to address during an acupuncture treatment because the way we process our food determines our overall health. Some common complaints include reflux, bloating, gas, pain, lack of appetite or excess appetite, but the effects of a poorly functioning digestive tract can affect many other parts of the body. For example headaches, joint pain, depression, back ache and low immunity commonly improve when the stomach does.
4. Is it true that those little acupuncture-to-go stickers work as effectively as the normal needles? If so, why do acupuncturists still use the normal needles? (I’m not afraid of needles at all, just curious.)
There are several kinds of stickers. Some don’t penetrate the skin, like seeds or magnets. Others do – intradermals are tiny needles you can wear. Both stickers and regular needles are effective, but there are different reasons for using each kind. It all depends on what the patient needs. Acupuncture points exist at different depths of tissue. Needles can reach deep points, and that often creates a profound sense of relaxation that enhances the healing response. Stickers provide a more superficial level of stimulation, but can be worn continuously over several days. In cases of emergency or trauma, it’s common to use stickers as they’re easy to put on and patients can move (or be moved) with them attached.
5. I don’t know much about acupuncture, but I’ve heard there are different needle sizes. Are they for different ailments, or would you use smaller needles for a beginner and larger needles for someone who has experienced acupuncture before?
Most of the time different sizes are for different areas on the body and different sizes of people. For example, a baby always gets the smallest ones, while an average-sized adult would probably have medium length needles. You might use longer ones on a large person. But where they go in the body is important too – small needles are for ears, but you can use big ones on the leg where there is plenty of muscle.
6. How best to be treated by acupuncture?
Most of the time people need a series of treatments, because the goal of acupuncture is to re-educate the body to learn (or remember) a pattern of better health. The body needs time to retain that information. Usually, recent issues resolve more quickly than issues that have been going on for months or years.
7. Can you fix TMJ issues with acupuncture?
Joint pain and jaw pain is a common problem treated by acupuncture. Most people experience relief of symptoms when they get regular treatment.
8. I was just diagnosed with arthritis in the C-5 and C-6 part of my neck, I have a seriously numb thumb and have lost mobility on my left side. I heard I may need surgery but my friends in the USA tell me to try acupuncture. Is this true? I am 44 and very active, I cannot imagine living with immobility when I eat well and am young. I need to know if acupuncture is an option? My MRI is not that bad but France loves medicine. I prefer to be natural.
I usually tell patients to try everything before going to surgery, since it’s an invasive procedure. It’s possible you would see improvement if you did acupuncture regularly, but I would need to know more about your medical history.
9. How can acupuncture change my everyday life?
Patients usually report they feel less pain and experience better moods afterwards. The body and the mind work together (you may have experienced that if you’ve ever noticed your thoughts racing after drinking coffee). By unwinding physical issues, the mind also has a chance to relax.
10. How long does one remain “pinned” during a session?
It depends on the practitioner’s style, but usually anywhere from 20-40 minutes for a typical treatment.
11. I quit smoking two months ago and have gained a few kilos. I’m so happy not to be smoking, but alas my beautiful clothing is getting tight, especially around the waist. I’m 58 years young and would like to know if acupuncture could help with metabolism and weight loss?
It can, but it needs to be used in conjunction with the main regulators of a weight loss-diet and exercise. But acupuncture helps to optimize the digestive system, so you process food better, and it also helps create mental space so it can be easier to stick to an exercise program.