Acupuncture 101: What You Need to Know
You may have seen acupuncture listed on a spa menu and thought, “Oh, that’s the needle thing.” But what is it exactly? And does it hurt? We got the scoop.
What it is: A treatment that involves the insertion of ultrafine, single-use, sterilized needles into specific points on the body.
How it works: “There is a life force that permeates all of the cells that make up the human body,” says Mark Meade, acupuncturist at The Peninsula Beverly Hills. “This life force, or energy field, is called Qi in traditional Asian medicine and is the basis of our well-being and health. If the body’s Qi is not flowing efficiently, or the Qi is deficient, it will lead to disharmony, pain and disease. The insertion of the needles below the surface of the skin activates the circulation of this energy, and thus facilitates the body’s return to its natural state of well-being.”
What it involves: Amber Loose, spa director at The Peninsula Beverly Hills, says that the treatment is usually performed while you are lying comfortably on a massage table. “It’s similar to a typical spa treatment where the lights are dimmed and soft music is played to facilitate a relaxing atmosphere,” she adds. “In most cases, on insertion of the needles, a slight tingling or numbing sensation can be felt, but it's not uncommon for people to feel nothing at all.” After the needles are placed, your practitioner may slightly manipulate them to elicit a stronger sensation and enhance the effectiveness of the treatment. Afterward, you will be encouraged to allow your body and mind to enter a meditative state, where the healing benefits are optimized.
The benefits: “Acupuncture is most famous for alleviating all types of pain, but it has also been proven to both enhance the immune system and down-regulate the sympathetic nervous system,” says Meade. “This means that it can be an effective treatment for any condition that is either caused or exacerbated by stress. The list is a long one, and includes many of the most common medical conditions.”
The effects: Loose says that improvements in well-being will continue for hours and even days after your session is over, and this effect can be compounded with subsequent sessions. “So, for this reason, it's recommended to follow up with five or more sessions before deciding if acupuncture is right for you,” she adds.
The cost factor: A 60-minute treatment at The Peninsula Beverly Hills Spa costs $250, but the price will vary from spa to spa.