Acupuncture – what’s it actually like?

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Think that having your body pricked with dozens of needles sounds more like a form of torture than therapy? See how DOSE contributor, Charlotte, got on with her first acupuncture experience…

It’s not that I was sceptical about acupuncture. Friends swear by it and the entire Eastern world uses it as a form of medicine, so I wasn’t sniffing at it. I knew acupuncture involved needles being inserted along energy lines; I just didn’t quite know what its aim was. To relax you? Or to heal you? Possibly to enhance you? Turns out, it’s all three.

To try it for myself, I go to Chi Yu. The discreet clinic is on George Street, just off Marylebone High Street. I drink peppermint tea in the peaceful, pink orchid-filled waiting room, and chat to owner and practitioner Mami Tsang. Staff are knowledgeable about blending Japanese and Western holistic healing techniques, she tells me, and I opt for the Signature Integrated Treatment.

An individual approach

It’s very bespoke. The hour-long treatment starts with a consultation about my health, my sleep, my digestion, my ailments, my goals, my concerns and just how I’m feeling on that particular day. Overall, great, I tell Mami, but I do have a bit of a cold, which has left me blocked and tired. Also, having recently decided to take a break from the pill, my hormones are probably all over the place. Having assessed my needs, Mami gets to work.

I lie on my back on the day bed in the dimly lit treatment room, and breathe in the aromatherapy oils Mami has selected for me: sage, geranium, bergamot, and rosemary, which is both hormone balancing and good for respiratory concerns. Mami uses them on my feet, shoulders and chest, applying a decent amount of pressure as she massages, so I soon feel totally content and floppy.

Acupuncture will be the focus of my treatment, Mami says. Through taking my pulse and the information gleaned from the initial consultation questions, Mami decides exactly where to place the needles for the maximum benefit. To aid the sinuses, she places them in between my fingers and on my wrists. These, she says, will run through the arms all the way up to the side of nose, and involve the large intestine. She gently places the needles in, and I don’t feel any pain whatsoever.

What the needles do

When I turn over, Mami puts needles on my back, aiming to enhance my energy levels. My pulse has shown that my spleen is operating at a sub-optimal level, Mami says. The spleen helps transform food into energy. It’s fascinating to me that where the needle is placed isn’t obviously or visibly linked to the place it’s trying to help. Acupuncture shows an unbelievable understanding of the inner workings and interconnectedness of the body.

In Eastern medicine, it’s about releasing pressure of energy, or qi, whereas the Western view of acupuncture is “based on an understanding that the insertion of needles has an effect on nerves which can release muscles, over-ride brain signals, and so on,” according to The British Acupuncture Council.

The final needle placed on my head is for hormone balancing. Whether it’s a placebo effect or not, I feel utterly at peace once it has gone in.

It’s a truly informative session, where I learn a lot about myself and what I need. Mami tells me there’s much more pressure in my neck and shoulders than she expected. She helpfully offers up exercises I can do seated, which, as a desk-bound journalist, I’m definitely going to be using.

I want to send my husband along, I tell Mami. Will he receive the same treatment? Yes and no, she says. “You received the Chi Yu Integrated Therapy, one of our signature treatments. It combines several therapies tailored to suit your needs and concerns. The selection of treatments is dependant on the client’s preferences.” If your body isn’t in the mood for acupuncture, Mami and her team can do reflexology, cranial massage and a host of other things.

I won’t hesitate to go back. For me, I feel acupuncture is just what my body needs.

By Charlotte

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