By Laila Hussain
A show of hands, who has ever thought of trying acupuncture? If you have your hand in the air, then perhaps you feel a little sheepish. You don’t really need to raise your hand, but maybe you do need to act on your curiosity and try some alternative therapy. There are many benefits to acupuncture, some recognized by traditional health organizations, and some not. Contrary to common belief, it is actually pretty painless and can even be deeply relaxing. The needles used in this process are not at all like syringes or sewing needles; they are very thin and flexible, gently gliding between the body’s tissues instead of tearing through them. The feeling is most often compared to that of a pinch, or a mosquito bite.
You may wonder how having a number of tiny, flexible needles stuck in you helps to treat anything. Chinese medicine is based upon the relationship of the individual, both physical tissue and spirit, function in relation to each other. In terms of the human body, mind, and spirit, the connective force that runs through it is called“qi,” or chi, as we Westerners spell it. This chi is an energy force that flows through the body along specific pathways, called meridians. When this all important chi flow is blocked by injury, stress, or disease, pain and dysfunction emerge.
Acupuncture, though still relatively new to western culture, is already being applied to various forms of sports-related injuries and is fast becoming a big part of performance medicine. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s much like sports medicine, except that it is used to treat conditions specific to performing artists instead of athletes. As a part of this performance medicine trend, acupuncture is helping performers of all kinds live healthier, happier, and more productive lives.
So what does this mean for you dancers out there? It means that if you’re suffering from chronic pain or injury – in any area of the body – acupuncture can quite possibly soothe your pain completely, help your body heal itself naturally, and shorten overall recovery time, without the use of drugs. Dancers can overcome relief from injuries such as sprains, strains, sciatica, and arthritis. It has also been known to treat many different kinds of digestive, psychological, and skin disorders. However, it is important to note that Chinese medicine heavily emphasizes the prevention of injury and illness, as opposed to solely treating an already injured and suffering body. The many artists and athletes who have experienced the benefits of acupuncture see it not only as a life-saver and secret weapon against sudden injury, illness, or pain, but as part of a complete health maintenance program. Many of the testimonials of acupuncture patients claim that it has even cured their insomnia and depression. The National Institute of Health recognizes it as effective in treating headaches, menstrual cramps, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, addiction, nausea, and various other physical, emotional, and mental problems.
If you or someone you know is a performer who fears that their career will be delayed or cut short due to chronic pain, illness, or serious injury, acupuncture is a viable and recognized form of treatment. Whenever you are choosing a physician of any kind, whether traditional or alternative, it is important to research their training, credentials, and past track record with their patients.