Is acupuncture the latest old-but-new-again wellness practice to go mainstream?


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Acupuncture is not new to the wellness scene; the benefits of the ancient Eastern-medicine practice are far-reaching and -ranging. Research has shown it’s adept at doing everything from lowering stress and anxiety to reducing pain and increasing energy.

While certain buzzy practices, like yoga and meditation, feel old yet new again (the mobile meditation studio that ambles around New York City certainly isn’t ancient, after all), in many circles acupuncture still packs a vibe for many people that is, well…out there.

Sure, a number of accessible acupuncture centers exist in most sizable cities, but new company WTHN is lending the ritual something new that holds to power to change the popular woo-woo regard: a distinctive cool factor. The Manhattan-set location offers a range of services ($85 for a 45-minute treatment) in an airy, welcoming setting, and it’s all very evocative of Drybar. Just like you can order different blowouts at the hairstyling enterprise, at WTHN, you can order from a customizable menu using the following three pillars as a guide: “The Prevent: Stay Well” (for stress, anxiety, fatigue, and immunity), the “Heal: Be Strong” (for sleep, women’s health, digestion, and pain), or “The Glow: Shine On” (for anti-aging, collagen, and inflammation). And we have a feeling this accessible studio, which co-founder and CEO Michelle Larivee tells me has national expansion plans similar to SoulCycle and Drybar, is a harbinger to an acupuncture craze.

So, is acupuncture the wellness trend of the moment?

Photo: Getty Images/Science Photo Library/Adam Gault

Acupuncture is hot on the wellness scene—and it only makes sense

While, acupuncture is about as new as…oh, bread (which is not new, PS), freshly adopted habits have ushered in a need for the practice. Take fitness for instance: HIIT workouts are at the forefront, which means a demand for new recovery methods isn’t far behind. Shari Auth, DACM, certified doctor of Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and WTHN co-founder, says acupuncture is a great antidote to injuries sustained from high-intensity exercise.

“Because of these workouts, our bodies are starting to break down sooner with all the increased physical activity. Acupuncture offers a recovery solution that will keep people in the game addressing injuries, pain, and sore muscles.” —Shari Auth, DACM

“Because of these workouts, our bodies are starting to break down sooner with all the increased physical activity. Acupuncture offers a recovery solution that will keep people in the game addressing injuries, pain and sore muscles,” she says. “Moreover, we’re in the midst of an opioid crisis in the US, and doctors and patients alike are turning to natural options for pain management before prescribing potentially addictive painkillers.”

And perhaps this is part of why there’s a renewed interest in alternative, Rx-prescription-free forms of treatment. “Our parents’ era was about seeing the doctor when they got sick,” Dr. Auth says. “Our generation is about eating better and being active. But the next generation is really focusing on preventative health care and actively seeking tools that empower them to take ownership of their health and stay well and lead their best lives.”

Oh, and then there’s the whole heightened stress and anxiety thing: Research shows that millennials are the most anxious generation, and there’s no doubt that acupuncture helps with that.

How to know if you can trust your practitioner

Okay, so all signs point to acupuncture centers becoming more accessible: Soon, we’ll probably see other outposts of and versions of WTHN popping up all over New York City and beyond (though Dr. Auth was mum about disclosing possible expansion plans). But unlike other wellness trends, this one involves needles—and that can feel a little scary. So, how can you know if you can trust your acupuncturist to get the job done, and get it done well?

Acupuncturist Katherine Altneu, LAc, says it’s important to inquire about what kind of license your practitioner holds. “Make sure that your acupuncturist is actually a licensed acupuncturist, and not a chiropractor or physical therapist who took a weekend course in acupuncture,” advises Altneu. “Acupuncturists have around 3,000 hours of training. A weekend course is paltry compared to that.”

“Make sure your acupuncturist is actually a licensed acupuncturist, not a chiropractor or physical therapist who took a weekend course in acupuncture. Acupuncturists have around 3,000 hours of training.” —Katherine Altneu, LAc

She adds that licensed acupuncturists do at least three years of graduate school training, pass three to four board exams (four points to them being a licensed herbalist), and are certified in Clean Needle Technique. “Look for the credentials ‘LAc’ behind their name, and don’t settle for less,” she says. And if you head to WTHN, consider yourself in the clear. “All acupuncturists at WTHN have a minimum three years training and a master’s degree in Chinese medicine, plus they receive additional training directly from me,” Dr. Auth says.

Altneu also warns against regarding the practice as something that’s old merely trendy again. “It’s medical, and I’d caution against relegating it to ‘self-care’ next to the sheet masks and green juice. I love sheet masks, and I’m all for self-care, but acupuncture is more than that.”

Got all that? Good. See you at the acupuncture studio.

Get excited: Acupuncture can also boost your sex drive. And if you have tweaky hormones, here’s what you should know before trying the practice.

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