Acupuncture – Definition: A system of complementary medicine in which fine needles are inserted in the skin at specific points along what are considered to be lines of energy (meridians), used in the treatment of various physical and mental conditions.

Needles aren’t items that conjure the image of deep relaxation and healing the soul. They provoke more of a hospital-and-antiseptic vibe for me, which is probably why I’ve always opted to remedy back pain and practiced self-care with massage. That, however, may well change. I was given the opportunity to try my first ever acupuncture session in aid of Acupuncture Week 2016, and as my lovely acupuncturist Emma Perris told me, acupuncture is really rather addictive.

Why acupuncture?

Us Brits are a bit prone to “just getting on with it” when we’re in pain. Nearly half the nation, in fact, won’t go and get painful twinges looked at.

acupuncture awareness week

We’re even bad at looking after ourselves when we’ve knowingly caused ourselves a muscle injury. Thanks to fabulous campaigns like This Girl Can, 29% of us exercise more than we did ten years ago. However more than half of us have suffered a sports-related injury, and despite acupuncture’s proven benefits, only 11% of us have tried to heal it with acupuncture. And that would be fine, except that a whopping 30% of injured people in the UK NEVER RECOVER FROM THE INJURY. That’s crazy!

First time therapy: what to expect from acupuncture

My session started off with Emma taking a full assessment of my past and current health and my lifestyle. Emotional health was an important factor in this – whereas I don’t have any sports injuries that I’m aware of (unless Walking Dead marathons count as exercise now, in which case I really should get a full bod MOT), I do have really bloody major issues in my neck and shoulders from stress. I’ve got more tension there than a night out with Kanye West and actual Jesus.

Once I’d unpacked my parent’s ailments, my last wellness complaints and the ins and outs of my work-life balance, Emma showed me the super flexible needles she was going to use and gave me a heads up on the kind of sensations to expect. Next up: Needle time.

acupuncture awareness week

Emma inserted needles into key pressure points that reflected the areas of health we’d spoken about. These pressure points make up my meridian lines, and puncturing each one will have a different effect on a body part or emotion. Once I’d been punctured in all the applicable places, Emma left the needles to do their thing for 20 minutes before I switched to lay on my front, and the procedure started again. Key areas that Emma targeted with the needles included the back of my neck, shoulder blades, knees, ankles, top of my feet and my wrists, to name a few.

Yes but did it HURT?!

It actually really didn’t. 

rebecca adlington acupuncture awareness week
Acupuncture: All good by Rebecca Adlington

It was slightly uncomfortable – I think that’s a given when you’re undergoing a therapy where the prime apparatus is needles. If I’m honest I’d say the first one or two were, understandably, a bit of a shock, not helped at all by the fact that first time nerves were making me tense and therefore not exactly welcoming the insertion of needles into my pores. But the shock didn’t come from the insertion. It was actually the sensation of the needle having hit the right pressure point that took some getting used to. Because when it’s in the right place, it kind of feels like a little electric shock rippling through your limb. At that point I would tell Emma I’d felt that sensation and she’d move onto the next needle. Quite weird, and for me most of the needle points became incredibly itchy for a couple of minutes afterwards. That ebbed though – you just need to ride that out initially. I promise the effects ARE worth two minutes of discomfort.

The results

I rose from the acupuncture table slightly dizzy and a little skeptic. I did not feel any happy rushes or instantly relieved of muscle tension. I had some water and a last chat with Emma, then left her practice in Angel to walk home.

On the walk, things suddenly changed a little. I was…calmer. My internal noise had quietened down, and I found myself with more headspace to take in little things that I’d usually just ignore. Pretty details on the posh residences of Islington’s hotspot, lights, people’s expressions, that sort of thing. And when I awoke the next day – and for the subsequent four or five days after that – the rest of my body followed suit. The tension I’d previously felt and been worked out of my system. I felt rational and rested and peaceful. It was a glorious contrast from the day-to-day pressures that had taken over previously. I did, of course, manage to re-introduce those same old stresses days later, but then few things can be healed after one session of anything, and in that respect acupuncture works the same way as medicines and equivalent natural remedies. A course of sessions is recommend to treat something specific. If you’re a Londoner and interested in seeing what acupuncture can do for you, I’d recommend Emma Perris in a heartbeat. She was great at easing me into my first ever acupuncture session.

Would you try acupuncture? Find out more about traditional acupuncture at, and leave us a comment below.

**I was offered a free acupuncture session with no obligation to write a blog post. I was not paid to review this service.**

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