Mind/Body Therapy Blog Series:  Acupuncture

If you’re new to this blog series, we’re in the middle of exploring a wide variety of Mind/Body Therapies that will help to optimize your hormones, improve your fertility health, decrease the negative impact of stress, and strengthen your mind-body connection, Across a total of eight weeks, we’re exploring everything from Yoga to Hypnotherapy to Maya Abdominal Massage, and many others in between!

So far we’ve covered:

Both posts include A TON of great information about these two mind/body techniques – free meditation resources, descriptions of the different styles of yoga, how to get started, etc. I HIGHLY recommend checking them out ;).

How Fertile Am I? Start Quiz!

This week we’re covering a specific technique that I love to use personally on a regular basis… acupuncture! Back in they day when my cycles were super irregular and would disappear for months at a time, acupuncture was literally the ONLY thing that worked to get my cycles back on track. I went to weekly acupuncture RELIGIOUSLY for 7 months and my cycles evened out perfectly. It was pretty incredible to witness.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that is based on the notion that energy flows along specific meridians in the body.  In this practice, the acupuncturist stimulates particular points along these meridians to balance the energy flow in your body through the gentle insertion of very fine needles into specific points. This process stimulates movement of energy within the body, allowing natural healing to take place.

Of specific interest, several medical research studies have found that acupuncture can help increase fertility in women and men by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs, and by helping to balance the entire endocrine system. Traditional Chinese medicine has enhanced fertility for thousands of years. Because acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can strongly influence the reproductive and endocrine systems, it can help address a wide variety of women’s health concerns that may hinder fertility such as PMS, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and PCOS.

Ideally I recommend starting regular acupuncture treatments for both you and your partner 3-6 months prior to conceiving or prior to beginning the IVF process, although starting acupuncture at ANY stage is well worth it!

Chinese Medicine and fertility acupuncture can:

  • Regulate hormones
  • Improve ovarian functions and the quality and quantity of follicles
  • Increase blood flow to the uterus and thicken uterine lining for implantation
  • Reduce side-effects of western drugs and intervention
  • Increase sperm count, mobility and quality
  • Reduce chances of miscarriages
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Decrease stress and anxiety
  • Relax the uterus

While acupuncture is a form of alternative energy medicine, it can also be interpreted as a mind-body therapy technique because the practice induces deep relaxation and a strong emotional release. Most people will notice that, after their acupuncture treatment, they sleep better, have more energy, experience deeper mental clarity, better digestion, and, as mentioned previously, less stress.  Who doesn’t want those side effects, right?!

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture works to facilitate the flow of lymph- and oxygen-rich blood, remove obstructions in the muscles and nerves, trigger hormonal release, and relax the nervous system.

The Classical Chinese explanation is that energy (Qi) flows in channels (meridians) throughout the body and over its surfaces. These channels are rivers of energy which are referred to as meridians. The Chinese have identified 71 meridians in the human body, which is a basic energy map for all people. The meridians are often compared to a series of interconnected highways. Each of the major organs in the body is associated with its own meridian. Through the network of meridians the internal organs are connected to certain areas and parts of the body including the muscles, bones, joints, and also other organs.

Acupuncture points are the specific points on the meridians where the Qi is both concentrated and accessible. Acupuncture engages the Qi by inserting needles at these specific points, the goal being to restore the proper flow of Qi. As the body regains its natural balance, well-being returns.

What to expect in your acupuncture treatment

When I mention the idea of acupuncture to many of my clients, they picture the stereotypical needles sticking out all over the place while some relaxing tunes are playing softly in the background that we’ve seen across various forms of media.

So, is this actually what your acupuncture treatment will look like? No… and yes.

Each acupuncturist has their own style, usually mixing elements of eastern and western medicine together to create one, cohesive approach. Typically, they’ll cater their “treatment plan” based on your specific needs so that you receive the results you desire.

Here’s what you can typically expect:

Initial Intake

Your acupuncturist will ask a variety of questions and look at a variety of factors to determine the best treatment plan for you. Compared to western medicine, some of the elements may seem a bit unorthodox, so know that the below are completely normal for your acupuncturist to take into consideration :

  • The coloring of your face
  • The shape, coating, and color of your tongue
  • The strength, rhythm, and quality of your pulse
  • Any parts of your body where you are currently experiencing pain or tension
  • Questions about your sleeping patterns, your emotional well-being, your digestion, typical daily appetite, lifestyle habits, and more.

Ultimately, your practitioner is trying to get a fully detailed picture of your overall health and lifestyle.  So even if some questions may seem unrelated to the reason you came in for acupuncture, the information your practitioner is gathering helps them to make sense of the larger picture.

Once your acupuncturist completes the information gathering section, he or she will determine which meridians of your body need attention specifically, how often you should be receiving acupuncture treatments and if any herbs should be taken in addition.

During your treatment

There are typically a few different methods of treatment that your practitioner may employ within their practice.

Needling

Acupuncture points are situated in all areas of the body, and they may seem unrelated to those of us untrained in the practice.  Tell your practitioner that you’re new to acupuncture, and ask them to explain the entire process as they’re going through the various steps of your treatment so you can have a better understanding.

A typical acupuncture treatment uses anywhere from five to 20 needles (or more!), and the needles are incredibly thin and should cause no discomfort at all.  When each needle is inserted at the energy point, you might feel a slight aching sensation once it gets to the right depth.  Your practitioner may move or twirl the needles slightly, or perhaps apply a little bit of heat.  If heat is applied, the process is called moxibustion and it is designed to warm and relax your muscles and increase the flow of energy throughout your body.  While you’ll be able to notice that the needles are there, no part of the needling treatment should hurt or be uncomfortable.

In most cases, the needles will remain in place anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes while you lie still and relax.  (Full disclosure: I often fall sound asleep because I’m so relaxed during my appointments!)  You’ll hardly be able to notice the needles being removed once the time is up.  You may feel a little tired or sleepy, and I definitely recommend avoiding alcohol or diving into vigorous exercise immediately following your treatment.

Each acupuncturist has their own style of treating patients, in addition to needling. Some utilize essential oils, facial massage, and even electricity.

Electroacupuncture is quite similar to traditional acupuncture in that the same points are stimulated during treatment. As with traditional acupuncture, needles are inserted on specific points along the body. The needles are then attached to a device that generates continuous electric pulses using small clips. These devices are used to adjust the frequency and intensity of the impulse being delivered, depending on the condition being treated. One advantage of electroacupuncture is that a practitioner does not have to be as precise with the insertion of needles. This is because the current delivered through the needle stimulates a larger area than the needle itself.

Bottom line, no matter what your unique acupuncture treatment looks like, you’ll likely feel a heightened sense of relaxation and focused energy after you’re finished.

Alternative Treatments

Beyond needling, many acupuncturists will use additional forms of Chinese medicine such as :

  • Tuina – This is a type of Chinese therapeutic massage, rarely involving additional equipment.  By stimulating the relevant acupressure points, the practitioner relieves muscle tension and helps to open the energy meridian they’re trying to focus on throughout the practice.
  • Guasha – By vigorously rubbing the skin above the muscle, this practice increases blood flow and releases any stagnant energy remaining in that area of the body.  This practice may leave your skin slightly red wherever the practitioner is focusing their attention.
  • Cupping – The practitioner places glass “cups” attached to a vacuum seal on the skin to stimulate blood circulation and increase the flow of energy throughout the body.  This practice may leave some round markings on your body wherever the cups are places – picture Michael Phelps during the most recent Olympics ;). Cupping is wonderful for muscle tension, as well as immune support. I love it!

How to find the right acupuncturist for you

While I’m a BIG fan of acupuncture, the primary concern I’ve found with this technique is that the field is relatively unregulated nationally.  Most states have different licensing requirements and some states don’t require a national certification at all!  With that in mind, here a a few tips to finding a quality acupuncturist near you.:

  1. While some states don’t require it, I HIGHLY recommend finding a practitioner that is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM.)  NCCAOM is the only nationally-recognized certification granted to acupuncturists, which means that the practitioner has taken a variety of tests and classes at one of the 60 nationally-accredited programs in the U.S., as well as taking continuing education classes to further their education.
  2. The NCCAOM website maintains a list of licensed acupuncture professionals.  On the website you can look for a nearby, licensed professional, or you can look up specific names if you’ve been referred to a practitioner by a friend, doctor, or family member.

…And that’s it! I can’t recommend acupuncture enough. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant, working to balance your hormones, are struggling with anxiety, need some major stress relief, or need help sleeping – this mind/body therapy can definitely help.

Let’s Talk!

What’s your experience with acupuncture? Have you tried it?

If you’ve been doing acupuncture regularly, what kinds of benefits have you experienced?

Have you used acupuncture for fertility or hormone support? Was it successful?

Spread some Acupuncture lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).

Looking for more hormone help?

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Let’s Meet!

Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about utilizing acupuncture to optimize your hormonal health? Schedule a consultation with me!

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