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Why people are turning to acupuncture to ease pain and stress

Stick a pin in it (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Normally when people get their butt out on Instagram, it’s to showcase their hot new underwear range. Not so for Dwayne Johnson: last month he bared all to praise the ‘quiet healing’ power of acupuncture.

His devotion is one shared by Lizzie McManus, founder of ethical business consultants Warrior.

Despite her scepticism, she decided to visit an acupuncturist in 2019 to see if they could ease the back pain that had prevented her sleeping or moving properly for two years.

‘I was living on medication for it but it wasn’t working and I was so miserable,’ says Lizzie. ‘It was a masseuse who suggested acupuncture. It really was a last resort for me and I didn’t actually expect it to work but it made a massive difference within just a few sessions.

‘The acupuncturist explained that your body can harbour emotions and I realised the pain started when I lost two grandparents in two months. I’m now living pain-free 99 per cent of the time and feel so much happier and more energetic.’

Originating in ancient China, acupuncture involves sterile needles being inserted into points of the body to affect the flow of energy, or qi (‘chi’).

The British Acupuncture Council has a membership of around 3,000 qualified practitioners, and other celebrity advocates include Jennifer Aniston and Lily Allen. Actress Sophie Winkleman, 40, is also a fan. Following a car crash two years ago, she ended up with pain in the soles of her feet.

‘Nobody could work out what to do with me so in the end I tried acupuncture and it was miraculous. After one session it was gone by the next morning and I’ve never had a recurrence,’ says Sophie, who was treated by Dr Toh Wong, a Devon-based GP who’s calling for a more holistic approach to healthcare in the College of Medicine’s forthcoming manifesto.

Acupuncture is being used to treat all sorts of issues (Picture: Getty Images)

Earlier this year, acupuncturist Dr Josh Hanson went viral by showing how rubbing a spot behind your ear can help you sleep.

‘When this flow of qi energy is working properly, it presents no symptoms,’ says Gerad Kite, who’s been practising acupuncture for over 30 years. ‘But if the underlying balance is off, we start to worry. This gives rise to a physical symptom.’

During a session, the practitioner will ask lots of questions and assess how you sound, look, emote, react and even smell to make a diagnosis. The needles are then used to change the flow of energy or strengthen it.

‘It’s like tuning a radio to restore balance and harmony,’ says Gerad. ‘When we’re mentally well our emotions are in constant flow. If you get an imbalance or a block and a particular emotion gets stuck for long enough, it can get buried. So when you start treating someone, you expect to see that everything that’s been pushed away or suppressed will start to come back up again.’

Gerad has seen an increase in millennial clients in recent years.

‘We’re seeing people coming in their twenties,’ he says. ‘They’re feeling insecure, tired and anxious but trying to carry on as normal. The level of anxiety is existential angst — who am I? What am I supposed to be doing?’

People, however, are often deterred because of the thought of needles.

‘It’s a common misconception that it hurts,’ says acupuncturist Emma Cannon. ‘Although there’s definitely a sensation associated with needling, most people don’t describe it as painful. It can also be practised in a Covid-safe way and take us from “fight or flight” survival mode to “feed and breed”, in which we feel safe and secure. It’s why acupuncture’s the perfect therapy for now.’

For more on acupuncture, see nhs.co.uk

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