New evidence proves that this ancient Chinese technique is an effective way to combat pain
Acupuncture, the act of inserting needles into the body, is an ancient healing technique that originated in China more than 4,000 years ago. It has been picked up by the West in the past few hundred years, although scientific research about the technique’s efficiency is divided.
However, recent research has produced concrete evidence to show how acupuncture relieves pain. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York have discovered that the act of inserting the acupuncture needle is a small ‘injury’ that causes the body to release 24 times more adenosine (a hormone to deal with pain). Ever had a bad fall and not felt the pain until later? That’s adenosine in action.
Sceptics say that acupuncture-related pain relief is due to the ‘placebo effect’ – the body’s physiological reactions to psychological expectations. The Rochester scientists eliminated this by performing the experiments on mice and measuring their pain. After 30-minute acupuncture sessions on their tiny sore paws, the creatures were monitored and their pain was shown to have decreased by two-thirds.
During an acupuncture session, needles are inserted in particular points of the body in order to, among other things, improve the body’s ‘qi’ (pronounced chi) and balance the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’. What exactly these are is almost impossible for a Western mind to comprehend, as Chinese medicine comes from a frame of reference that is completely different to Western medicine. We decided to give it a try…
Does it work?
Becky Lucas tests the ancient theory on her chronically sore back. After a day spent marching about Berlin last year, I arrived at a party and, embarrassingly, couldn’t stand up. My back hurt too much. I instantly blamed the lack of walking I do in Dubai and, later, my office chair. But the ache continued.
A friend recommended acupuncture with Martine Nates. A British therapist who practised in Cape Town and London before moving here, she has earned a glowing reputation among Dubai’s holistic fans. Arriving at her airy office in Umm Suqeim’s Synergy Centre, she starts with a list of questions: these touch upon aches, pains, stress levels, diet and even bowel movements. Already the session isn’t what I expected.
I then stand and stretch my hands down my legs, allowing Martine to see how tight my hamstrings are (my back strain may have been triggered by a quad injury, causing my hammies – muscles attached to my back – to overcompensate). She describes some exercises I can do myself to loosen them. Next, I lie down while she feels my stomach for tension. She then pushes pressure points in my feet, using reflexology to locate tightness.
Finally it’s time for the needles. To my surprise, I can feel each one go in: it just feels like a pin prick, although some hurt more than others. The needles then ‘draw on my natural energy’ for 20 minutes. I try not to fall asleep. Once the needles are removed, I feel drowsy, although it’s hard to tell whether this is from lying down or the needles.
Three days later my back is still pain-free. I’m set to have a follow-up, as is the protocol, but already my scepticism has decreased. Martine Nates practises at Synergy Integrated Medical Centre, Umm Suqeim (04 348 5452). The first session is Dhs500; follow-up sessions are Dhs300.
What can it treat?
• Sports injuries • Morning sickness • Constipation • Period pain • Anxiety and panic attacks • Headaches and migraines • Acute ear infection pain in babies • Rheumatoid arthritis • Obesity (by suppressing the appetite and boosting metabolism) • Fertility problems • Acne • Insomnia • Nausea
Acupuncturists in Dubai There are several well-known practitioners in the city.