Alternative Therapy: Acupuncture
About 18 months ago, I injured both of my shoulders when my mat slipped in a yoga class. I fell from pincha, landing on one shoulder (and my face) and spent the next year struggling to recover, partly due to impatience and partly due to bad luck (although probably mostly impatience!). I finally got myself to the point where I was pain free until last week, I rolled over in bed, caught my arm funny and messed it all up again. Ever since the original injury, I have had a lot of tightness through my shoulders and with a simple roll over, I overstretched one of them pretty badly. Not only was I in a lot of pain, but I suddenly panicked about the recovery time based on experience, and the fact that in just a matter of weeks, I'm due to be starting my yoga teacher training where I will practise for a minimum of 4 hours a day. Rest and time didn't seem like a possibility!! With a few days to wait until the osteopath could see me, I decided to look elsewhere for help. I booked an appointment the following day for some acupuncture with Dr Michael Curtin and arrived a little sceptical but willing to try anything! After a brief consultation, it was needle time. It sounds terrifying, it wasn't even a little bit. I'm pretty squeamish but the concept was was worse than reality for sure. Dr Curtin examined my shoulder. There were ridges, knots and what felt like grizzle all through my shoulder. By carefully selecting pressure points in the area, with only a few needles, 5 minutes later these had disappeared and my shoulder felt more relaxed than I could ever remember. Most importantly though, the pain faded almost instantly with the relief of the muscles. I felt like I had just experienced a miracle. I was curious as to what and how this had happened and so asked Michael to share some of his knowledge with us.
According to Dr Curtin, acupuncture is more than a mind/body therapy - its a "body/mind/body therapy". Needles are placed in the body which stimulates the nervous system (mind). In turn, this helps the body's healing process.
Using my shoulder as an example, Dr Curtin told me "Your brain will have already been aware that there was a problem in your shoulder, and will have been flooding your system with endorphins (the body's own natural pain killing and anti-inflammatory agents). The acupuncture needles, carefully positioned, "remind" the brain that there is still an ongoing problem with the shoulder, and stimulate further endorphin release thus helping to speed up the healing."
Dr Curtin trained initially as a GP but decided to take a step towards a more holistic approach with acupuncture, focusing particularly on using the technique for creating and restoring balance - or homeostasis - within the body. This is his particular area of interest, as he believes that "acupuncture tends to act as a homeostatic treatment, restoring the balance in the body, and thus it can be useful for relaxation and wellbeing as well as treating pain/inflammation etc." We spent the second half of my session working on this concept and I left feeling as though nothing could phase me, totally relaxed and ready for some serious chilling that evening.
Our bodies are all so different and will respond very differently to different techniques. However, as a guideline, for rebalancing work, you don't need to work treatment into your monthly routine or budget - just a few sessions per year can be enough to give your body a helping hand. With pain and injury, you may want to look at regular treatment over the course of few weeks but if you look after yourself and lead a healthy lifestyle, your immune system is likely to be pretty efficient and this will contribute to how well and quickly you will respond to acupuncture.