In Canada, acupuncture remains a poorly understood treatment modality. As such, many people aren’t sure what they should be doing before and after their appointments to get the best results.
Acupuncture, just like massage, is an important element within traditional Chinese medicine, and has applications as a preventative measure. Using acupuncture, practitioners can encourage the flow of energy (Qi) in order to regulate the body’s functions in a harmonious way, which is helpful for stress relief and improved wellbeing. But it is also an effective treatment for both chronic and acute injuries.
In a similar fashion, massage treatments are widely practiced and offer many health benefits. A massage treatment is a great method for reducing muscle tension, relieving stress, and promoting relaxation, as well as for treating various kinds of injuries.
Many people wonder, can these different approaches be used in combination? Or, are they fundamentally at odds with one another? Is it a good idea to get a massage before acupuncture?
Massage and Acupuncture Complement Each Other
Massage and acupuncture share many of the same goals and results, but they engage the body on fundamentally different levels. For common complaints, such as back pain, neck pain and sore muscles, both approaches are often recommended.
A part of the long history of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture treatment uses varying numbers of fine needles, inserted in different acupuncture points (sometimes called acupoints) to rebalance the flow of life energy (Qi) throughout the body’s meridians and allow the body’s natural healing mechanisms to work their best.
Massage therapy, in contrast, stays outside of the body. Massage therapists help patients achieve relaxation and recovery through the physical manipulation of the body’s soft tissues. Where we find a commonality is the way that both techniques encourage blood flow to certain areas, part of the body’s natural healing mechanism.
Although they go about it through different means, acupuncture and massage have many of the same goals: to help patients heal, relax and improve their quality of life. But, because they are so different, people are often hesitant to combine the two, especially on the same day. This trepidation is understandable but misplaced.
Acupuncture and massage are mutually beneficial. Following a deep tissue massage, the body is thoroughly relaxed, which makes problem areas much more receptive to the effects of acupuncture. This dynamic actually increases the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy and leads to a variety of long-term benefits.
Acupuncture helps rebalance the flow of energy throughout the body to relieve inflammation and improve bodily function, while massage therapy increases circulation by relieving tension. When combined, these techniques can lead to a virtuous cycle of healing because massage increases the effectiveness of acupuncture.
Acupuncture and massage each have a role to play at different times in the healing process. Acupuncture is often used in response to the onset of acute conditions, such as back spasms, while massage is generally used to address chronic stiffness and pain. In many cases, acute conditions can lead to long-term problems, but combining these therapies can help resolve these kinds of problems before they begin.
Just as massage eases physical stress and pain, acupuncture can do the same on an emotional and energetic level. With the right combination of the two approaches, patients can reclaim their health, improve their mood and experience a greater sense of overall well being.
Massage – Better Before or After Acupuncture?
Ultimately, this decision comes down to a matter of lifestyle and personal preferences.
For people who have experience with both massage and acupuncture, reflect on the feedback your body has given you in the past to make the best decision. If, for example, you often feel sore after massages, consider doing acupuncture before. On the other side of the coin, if you normally feel relaxed after massages then your body might be more receptive to the therapy.
Your lifestyle also affects this calculation. If you often start your day with a draining, demanding workout then it would probably be best to get a massage prior to acupuncture to help the body relax. Alternatively, if you start your days feeling rested and energized then that’s probably a sign that your body would be receptive to acupuncture early in the day, with massage serving as a complement in the evenings.
Speak with your massage therapist and acupuncture practitioner to get their feedback. If you have an established relationship with them, their understanding of your body will help you arrive at the best decision.
Helpful Tips to Get the Most From Your Acupuncture Treatments
- Have a light snack prior to your appointment. Avoid arriving with an empty stomach or after a heavy meal, especially if you are hypoglycemic or often experience major wings in blood sugar levels
- Avoid the use of caffeine, alcohol or tobacco before and after your acupuncture session
- Arrive wearing loose-fitting clothing
- Remember to use the bathroom before your appointment
- Stay calm and remain as still as possible throughout the treatment
- Turn off any electronic devices (or put them on silent mode) to remove potential distractions
- Avoid bathing or swimming for at least one hour following your treatment
- Do not use ice or cold compresses following acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture works to reduce swelling by improving circulation, if you apply a cold compress it will impede the process. If you feel the need to ice a sore area, wait until several hours after your treatment.
An acupuncture treatment should be a relaxing experience to help with stress reduction, so let your acupuncturist know how you are feeling prior to your appointment. Depending on your mood and energy levels, an experienced acupuncturist will be able to adjust their techniques to provide the relief you need at that moment.
Following an acupuncture treatment, you can safely resume all your normal activities, but remember that your body will be experiencing changes in energy flow for some time afterwards. To help them have their greatest effect, don’t do anything too strenuous or intense. And, if you get the opportunity to rest, take it.
Southcentre Chinese Acupuncture – Calgary’s Acupuncture Clinic
If you have any questions about the acupuncture technique, or how an acupuncture treatment might help you handle a recent diagnosis, contact Dr. Yan at Southcentre Chinese Acupuncture. Her vast experience and expertise are widely known, both in China and Canada, and she can help you find relief.