If it works, it will stand the test of time – and there’s no truer example than the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). While we often look to modern innovations to solve ailments that come with having a body (think: headaches, sore muscles, low energy), it’s often because we’re seeking a quick fix. When it comes to TCM and, more specifically, acupuncture, however, the remedy isn’t a bandaid and it certainly isn’t one and done. The treatment doesn’t just focus on the pain point, but rather its root and how to treat it long-term.
Now, the majority of us are no strangers to the overwhelming cycle of work, family, and life responsibilities. They can take a toll on not just the psyche but our physical wellbeing, too. It’s a hamster wheel of stress that we often wear on our face with dark circles, a dull complexion, or tired eyes and in our bodies with area tension and pain.
To find another way of treating these symptoms and combating these stressors at their root, I had the chance to try acupuncture at one of New York’s most sought after wellness destinations, WTHN, with its co-founder and chief healing officer, Shari Auth, DACM. With some two decades of experience, Dr. Auth was able to explain exactly what the ancient treatment can offer, its lesser-known benefits, and why it’s never going out of style.
What Is Acupuncture?
“Acupuncture is 3,000 years old and is one of the oldest forms of medicine in the world as a part of TCM,” Dr. Auth says of the treatment. The practice of placing hair-thin needles across specific pain points is known to stimulate the nervous, immune, cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive, and digestive systems (if the millennia of practice aren’t enough, perhaps the over 4,000 scientific studies espousing the efficacy of acupuncture for concerns ranging from tennis elbow to PTSD to skin health will make you a believer).
And while acupuncture seems to do it all, this painless healing treatment is capable of so much more. For Dr. Auth, acupuncture is part of a holistic approach to wellbeing. The mission for WTHN is “to make it more accessible and do the education necessary because it has proven benefits. We don’t want it to be intimidating – it’s a treatment that is incredibly healing,” she says.
The image of acupuncture is very mainstream – tiny needles placed all over the body in a manner that seems simultaneously haphazard and methodical. There is a method to the placement of said needles to truly make an impact. “The needles are placed in acupuncture points, the meeting place of blood, nerve, and lymph,” Dr. Auth shares. Part of the training to become an acupuncturist requires an understanding of where those points are on the body and how they interact.
Prior to my appointment, I filled out an online form to dive into my specific concerns (chief among them: lower back pain, insomnia, and muscle fatigue) to give Dr. Auth a better understanding of what was troubling me. This information is especially crucial when making an appointment to safeguard your experience.
Now, as somebody who is used to injections (be it Botox® or a vaccine), I was fully prepared to feel the needles. In my mind, it’s a surefire sign that something is happening. However, to say that the insertion was painless would be an understatement. Furthermore, the sensation once they were placed was nonexistent to the point where I was concerned if it would work or not. “Those who are afraid of needles will notice that, after that first needle goes in, it’s not noticeable and not a big deal,” Dr. Auth notes.
My session was paired with a guided meditation via headphones, so I was able to truly immerse myself in the ambient surroundings. The WTHN space is clean, inviting, relaxing – the antithesis of the busy New York streets. To say that I walked out a new (and more relaxed) woman would be an apt description.
Benefits of Acupuncture
From migraines to physical strains and even anxiety, the treatment is beneficial for virtually anyone, and while we are all familiar with these pain points, here are a few more benefits of acupuncture to note.Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuJ_6Z2JHqI&feature=youtu.be
Acupuncture is not just a mind-body treatment, it may offer aesthetic benefits, too. The tiny needles can be placed over the back of the body or the face, and, while it’s not going to sculpt your cheekbones or give you six-pack abs, it may be a part of your complexion-perfecting regimen. “It’s good for a host of skin ailments from psoriasis to eczema and helps reduce wrinkles, as well as boosting collagen and elastin,” Dr. Auth says. Known as cosmetic acupuncture, inserting needles into key areas of the face has been shown to stimulate collagen production (à la microneedling) and the flow of energy.
Furthermore, Dr. Auth notes that it can address digestive issues (IBS, anyone?) and those that relate to gas or bloating, which can not only feel uncomfortable but impact the skin and over all self-image.
2. Better Beauty Sleep
We know the importance of a good night's sleep for our physical and mental wellbeing, and acupuncture can help induce sweet slumber. As Dr. Auth explains, it provides a boost of “natural melatonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid, which helps to relax the mind.”
So, was a better night’s sleep in the cards for me? As someone who has a love-hate relationship with bedtime, post-acupuncture, I was treated to a level of rest I hadn’t experienced in months. To further relieve my sleep concerns, Dr. Auth recommended the WTHN’s Dream On herbal supplements, which are formulated with organic ashwagandha, jujube, and valerian to promote deep sleep. They have helped combat my insomnia and done wonders for my circadian rhythm.
3. Mood Elevation
Acupuncture can be an antidote to what Dr. Auth calls “the gambit of negative mental health complaints (i.e. stress, anxiety, depression) because “it decreases your stress hormone and increases serotonin and dopamine levels.” A natural mood-booster, this therapeutic treatment also provides a much-needed break from overflowing schedules. Though your mood might not instantly change after one session, with continuous visits, it will become a fringe benefit of the treatment.
Personally, it absolutely shifted the day that I was having. By taking away certain physical pain (more on that below), it allowed me to recenter my focus and be less irritable to the small inconveniences the day may bring.
4. Improved Recovery
“Acupuncture is great for inflammation-based pain, as it increases circulation and is good for tight muscles,” says Dr. Auth. Post-procedure and during recovery, your nervous system is prioritizing healing, which can be a painful experience. While acupuncture is not necessarily recommended immediately after a procedure (hello, healing stitches and limited mobility), it may be beneficial in the months to come to promote healing and minimize pain. The treatment can be a part of a holistic approach to post-op care, as it offers immune-boosting benefits and muscle relief (among many other things).
I haven’t had any aesthetic treatments lately, but I entered the appointment with sore muscles and lower back pain. The relief was almost immediate. One appointment certainly couldn’t solve my problems (nor did I expect it to), but there’s no doubt in my mind that my session with Dr. Auth provided much welcomed relief and made me seriously consider incorporating acupuncture into my overall health and wellness routine.
5. Women’s Health
Dealing with an irregular menstrual cycle, painful periods, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), PMS, or some combination of the above? Acupuncture can likely help. “This treatment is great for a host of women’s health complaints,” Dr. Auth says. “It’s a woman’s best friend all of her life.”
Additionally, acupuncture can have a positive impact on family planning and pregnancy. “Both naturally as well as alongside IVF, it can be beneficial for fertility while also helping in prenatal care to combat morning sickness, acid reflux, and fatigue,” Dr. Auth notes. It may also prove effective for treating postpartum depression, aiding lactation, and improving energy.
As tried-and-true as it comes, there is a reason acupuncture has been used to treat an array of health, wellness, and beauty concerns for centuries. As with any specialized treatment, expertise is key. In order to enjoy the benefits of acupuncture, it is important to find a highly skilled practitioner who can be realistic about what is achievable and develop a treatment protocol that will suit your needs.
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