Curious? So was health editor Ally Head, which is why she put it to the test.
If you've curious about the benefits of acupuncture, as I was, then let me get one thing straight: you do need to be okay with needles to fully appreciate the practice.
That's what I conclude, at least, as I find myself lying on a massage bed in West London with needles coming out of my hands, toes, and feet. I didn't think I'd be particularly squeamish - I'm not overly fussed about needles - but it's unlike anything I've felt before.
I've been invited down to try out Pricc, a chic, modern acupuncture studio with calming, neutral tones throughout and a very millennial feel (the name is a reference to the prick of a needle, naturally). Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Natalie Portman are all thought to swear by acupuncture, but it's largely an ancient Chinese practice. So, how did a pastel pink, Insta-perfect version of the practice end up opening near Notting Hill?
Good question - and one I asked Pricc founder Victorine Pot, who pivoted from a career as a financial journalist after acupuncture helped her overcome burnout and chronic exhaustion. Keep scrolling as I pick her brains about what acupuncture is, how it works, and share my (surprising) first experience, too.
So, what is acupuncture?
Good question - as you'll all likely have heard of the practice but might not be 100% clear on what, exactly, it is.
"Acupuncture is an ancient modality of healthcare which treats someone as a whole, not just a symptom," explains Pot. So, how does it work? "On the knowledge that illnesses may be identical but the persons suffering from them are different - which means that although two people may have identical western diagnoses, in Chinese medicine, they most likely require entirely different treatments."
This is where the beauty of Chinese medicine really shines, she continues. "It's able to delve into the subtle nuances of an individuals condition and works by asking questions about all the different functions of a persons body, and then pieces these individual bits of information together like a jigsaw puzzle, to create a plan perfectly tailored to the individuals needs."
My specific requirements were temple migraines, stress, and occasional painful bouts of bloating (read our guide to what causes bloating, here) but you can have acupuncture for weight loss, anxiety, sciatica, back pain and more. Some even try acupuncture to induce labour, boost IVF chances, or quit smoking.
It's been practised and refined in Eastern countries for at least 2,500 years and has more recently migrated to the West where it has continued to grow and develop, she goes on. "As new research develops, we are gaining a larger scientific understanding of acupuncture’s effects on our body’s biochemistry."
How does acupuncture actually work?
From a Chinese medicine perspective, acupuncture works by using fine needles to stimulate points, channels, or meridians that affect certain organs and substances in your body, the founder continues. "Acupuncture can increase a persons energy if it is deficient, or it can clear pathogens that may be affecting the body’s free flow of energy," explains Pot. "Once the energy is flowing at an optimum level, the body’s ability to heal itself is reactivated."
Approaching it from a modern scientific standpoint, it's now been identified that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system (or CNS). "By doing so it can facilitate the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, or decrease the production of negative hormones such as cortisol," she shares.
Acupuncture benefits: 13 to know about
There are many - the first five on the list below researched by the NHS - but a few standout benefits of acupuncture include treating:
- Chronic pain
- Joint pain
- Post-operative pain
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Menstrual cycle problems.
And many more, Pot shares. "At the very least, following an acup
uncture session you will usually feel very relaxed and have a great nights sleep," she assures.
What I thought trying acupuncture for the first time
Back to my acupuncture session at Pricc. I was a little nervous but also quite excited, having read up on the many wonders the practice promises.
My practitioner, Maudie, immediately puts me at ease and talks me through the process, explaining why she's releasing certain points and tailoring my treatment to - as above, tension headaches, a slightly stressful few weeks, and bloating, too.
Were the acupuncture needles bad?
There's an uncomfortable, sharp prick (or Pricc - see what I did there) as the needles enter my skin. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel it, as I did, but it's not particularly unpleasant, just slightly uncomfortable, and you get used to it pretty quickly, as with giving blood.
Is acupuncture painful?
Short answer: it depends on your pain threshold. There's an almost pulling sensation which continues throughout the session, which Maudie explains is my energy being released. I thought I might get a little bored lying still for that long with needles coming out of me, but I hadn't anticipated this weightlessness or how stimulating certain pressure points would make me feel.
While I'm booked in for a 60 minute session, the needles are only in my hands and feet for 25 minutes or so as we do a very thorough consultation so the practitioner can gauge my experience and needs. This reassures me and it's clear that Maudie knows a lot - she chats me through the various training you have to do pre-qualifying.
The session was over in no time and most noticeably, I can notice the acupuncture benefits. I felt extremely relaxed, sleepy and zen. I carried myself with a sense of weightlessness all day and, hitting the hay that night, I slept like a baby.
However, I'm not sure whether the acupuncture helped my headaches and bloating - I don't get them super frequently and I'd need to do more sessions.
Would I try acupuncture again?
For sure - although I can understand that, for many, the price point would be a barrier as it's not cheap and you reap the most benefits when you go regularly.
Pots' goal is to make acupuncture as accessible as a workout and combine ancient healing practices with modern convenience - and that, they are almost certainly doing. I've been wanting to try it for years, but only when a less intimidating space to try the practice for someone who's never experienced it before popped up did I finally bite the bullet and go for it.
"Through creating a beautiful space and armed with the best practitioners, my hope is that more people will experience the effectiveness of acupuncture and see the benefits of a more holistic approach to their health," shares Pot. "Plus, I'm bringing a positive connotation to the word "pricc"!"
So, will you give it a go?
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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