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Alternative Medicine: A Focus on Acupuncture

Life as a student can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming.

Faced with a bombardment of expectations and events upon entering college, it’s easy to become run down in a fast-paced, turbulent environment.

Whether it is physical or mental wellbeing that’s being affected, it can take its toll on the individual and leave them completely sapped of their health and energy.

While most people find relief through mainstream medicine and practices, acupuncture is an invaluable resource for those seeking an alternative route or something to work alongside Western treatment.

Had I been asked my opinion on acupuncture last year, I would have swiftly dismissed it as a vague pseudoscience.

I came into contact with an acupuncturist (also qualified as a nurse) little under a year ago on the recommendation of a colleague. I had been suffering from sleeping problems, which caused a daily knock on effect to my life.

It impeded my performance in college and work, disrupted my social life, and I was frequently ill with colds or other ailments. After the basic concepts and ideologies behind acupuncture had been explained to me, I agreed to four sessions over the course of a month to help solve my problems.

Acupuncture is a key aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Thousands of years old, it is based on concepts rather than modern findings ascertained through scientific methods.

The main goal of TCM is to strengthen the entire body and mind, which helps its fundamental purpose of resisting disease. This works in opposition to Western Medicine, which focuses on diagnosing and treating a specific ailment (as in going to the doctor over one particular problem, such as a cold).

Basic TCM theory thinks of the human body as a large system, which has multiple, interconnected and interdependent channels underneath the skin, called meridians.

Meridians are spread across the anatomy, connecting to bodily organs and functions. The health of the body depends on the flow of motivating vital energy, called Qi, through the meridians. Qi (pronounced “chee”) circulates through these channels in a smooth and balanced way, maintaining a pattern of energy.

If this energy becomes disrupted, it can produce a knock on effect across different areas, which is how illness can result.

Acupuncture refocuses the energy that has been disrupted.

There are various reasons that can cause the blockage or disruption of the systems. The main reasons can be defined as either deficiency or excess. Deficiency can cover both physical and mental aspects, from stimulation to practical things that sustain our health such as warmth or nourishing food.

Excess can be spread across a broad range too; excessive emotions (too much worrying or grief), excessive diets, influences or physical activity. Correcting the system is achieved through insertion of fine needles into stimulating acupoints – the meridians.

By correcting the imbalanced Qi traveling through the meridians, it returns the internal systems into sync with one another. Bringing Qi into a state of balance affects the mental, physical, emotional and spirit of the person receiving treatment and transforms the body back into a state of harmony.

Personally, I found acupuncture had an unprecedented positive impact on my life. My sleeping pattern drastically improved.

I was less inclined to fall ill, and didn’t feel as exhausted from work. My improved energy meant I could cope with stress effectively and be far better at motivating myself for college. The benefits of acupuncture can differ from person to person, but there are some general positive results that most people can take with them.

Acupuncture requires conscious commitment to have a better understanding of yourself, and what you’re capable of doing. In a competitive world, inundated by constant social media updates, alongside pressure from every angle (college, work, socially, at home), people tend to be unnecessarily hard on themselves. It’s easy to beat yourself up because you may not complete goals that you feel “should” accomplish. Having an awareness of my abilities (and their limitations) reduced my worrying and provided me with better mental clarity. Acupuncture provides great patience. In an age where we can demand and receive straight away, acupuncture takes time. It can reduce the impatience and urgency that we feel quickly in a frantically paced life. It toughens up your body and provides strength by prompting the body to do what it is meant to, which is combat illness.

While acupuncture may not be suitable for everyone, mental health is becoming an ever increasing problem among young people. It’s important for students to know what resources are available for those feeling under the weather or simply interested in a different approach to standard pharmaceuticals and practices.  

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