Most people cringe at the idea of acupuncture. Rarely does anyone volunteer to become a human pin cushion for the sake of relieving stress and pain. But the ancient Chinese may have been on to something thousands of years ago when they began practicing the art, yes art, of holistic medicine with the use of acupuncture.

What in the World is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture involves sticking thin needles in the skin at specific points in the body (i.e.: acupressure points) to relieve stress and pain. The needles are either manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation (picture a warm, tingling sensation all over your body). A heat lamp may even be placed over a section of the needles to warm the skin and relax the muscles while the needles are stimulated.

You Want to Stick What, Where? 

Acupuncture needles, while rather long, are actually insanely thin. Like, thinner than safety pins. The type of acupuncture treatment or the severity of your health issue will determine the number of needles the acupuncturist uses. Needles can be placed all over the body from the top of your head, face, arms/legs, to the bottoms of your feet.   

The FDA regulates the use of acupuncture needles the same way they regulate hypodermic syringes and surgical scalpels. All acupuncture needles come in unopened, sterile packaging and are for single-use only. So, it's all good—they're clean. 

Colliding Opinions

Historically, Western medicine has not been very receptive to holistic, alternative treatments like acupuncture and there is much debate as to what, if anything, the needles actually heal.

Eastern medicine practitioners believe that the human body feels pain or malady when the body's energy, or qi, is disrupted. Because the body is divided into meridians that fall on the acupressure points, inserting needles into these points opens the body's energy channels so the qi can flow freely. When the qi flows uninhibited, the body is pain and disease-free. 

Western medicine, however, has yet to find scientific proof of qi or energy meridians. Doctors of traditional medicine believe that acupuncture works on neurohormonal pathways—fancy words for the needles stimulating the nerves, ultimately sending signals to the brain to release happy-feeling endorphins that in turn, make you feel pain-free—which really isn't a whole lot different than smoking weed, when you think about it.

Gotta Try It

For the sake of this article, I've tried acupuncture so you don't have to. The pros: it's relaxing, it's fairly painless, treatments are only about 45 minutes, and my acupuncturist gave me a massage after every treatment.

The cons: it's uncomfortable. There's no sugar coating the fact that needles are still being stuck into your skin, in what inevitably feels like the most sensitive spots on your body, making you feel like a voodoo doll. It doesn't hurt, per se, but it's by far NOT a spa day. There's a good chance you'll bruise and have some soreness at the needle sites afterwards. Oh, and it can be expensive. My initial consultation was $125 and each subsequent acupuncture treatment was $75. That sh*t adds up!

If you're in the market for an adventure, give acupuncture a try. Otherwise, hold out until marijuana is legal in your state (unless you're one of the lucky few where it already is) and then self-medicate in the comfort of your own home with a bag of Cheetos nearby.