MEJ Masthead

Wellness Roadtest: Acupuncture

Amanda Whitley

Last year, I was almost broken.

My body was so tight and bunched up from spending hours each day at my computer that my entire left side from just below my ear to the tips of my fingers was in pain.  Some days, I found it hard to move my head more than 45 degrees to the left; I wasn’t sleeping well; the area around my shoulder blade was beyond sore; and I was experiencing numbness in my thumb.

I tried physio. I tried chiro. I tried kinesiology. I tried massage. Nothing had worked. A friend had raved about acupuncture, and at this point I was willing to do anything, so I booked in to Ki Acupuncture in the city to give it a whirl.

I’ve always been curious about acupuncture—I’ve had friends swear by it for everything for boosting fertility to hayfever—so I went into the session keen to learn more (and hopefully get my shoulder sorted!)

The practice is a chilled out space, the waiting room lined with books of all genres, shapes and sizes. The treatment rooms themselves are comfortable and welcoming, but still clearly clinical – a good mix of ‘east’ and ‘west’.

I immediately liked Ki Acupuncture’s director, Kal Ientile, and his impressive dreads. Turns out health is in the family for Kal – his dad was a chiropractor, and the idea that the body could heal itself (but sometimes needs a bit of help) was entirely normal for him.

Kal has a very calm and measured way of speaking, which is a bonus if you’re slightly nervous at the prospect of having needles stuck in your body, and we began just by talking about why I was there. This wasn’t a cursory two-minute ‘what brings you here today?’ chat; we talked for probably half an hour before I went anywhere near the treatment table and there were a few movement tests and palpation of the area in question. Once he’d established the points to be treated, it was time for the needles.

I really appreciated that Kal showed me both the needles and the clear plastic ‘guide tube’ used to help make the insertion painless before starting the process. He talked me through how he would position the plastic, insert the needle by giving it a small tap, and then tinker with it to stimulate the acupuncture points.

Before you ask, no, the needles didn’t hurt going in. It was slightly uncomfortable when Kal manipulated them to stimulate the muscle it was treating. As a rule of thumb, Kal says the sensations are a bit stronger when working on tight, dysfunctional muscles.

While I was lying there, and Kal was inserting, then manipulating needles, I asked a lot of questions. I like to know how things work… This is how it went.

So, where did acupuncture come from?

Acupuncture is a medical science which originated in China, but has spread throughout Asia (and now the world) during the past 2,000 years. The oldest instructional text on acupuncture is the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) which is dated approximately 100BC. The heart of acupuncture theory is that everything is interconnected / interdependent and balance results in health.

So how does it actually work?

Acupuncture works by sending signals to your brain, which in turn then effects a change within your body. The points can be thought of like an alphabet, by combining them in the right way we can compose a message to your brain which has the ability to influence all the body’s systems.

What conditions can it be used to treat?

Acupuncture is well known for treating pain, injury and speeding the rehabilitation process. Anxiety and depression respond very well to acupuncture, as do digestive complaints and sleep disturbances.

Hay fever can be managed effectively (which is fortunate for the 21% of Canberrans who suffer with it), and there is also a lot acupuncture can help with in the areas of fertility, pregnancy support and women’s health. Acupuncture can also help chronically fatigued people get their energy back.

How long does it usually take for patients to feel relief? This may have been a selfishly motivated question…I was kinda sick of being in pain.

As acupuncture works with the body’s own repair processes, different treatments work at different speeds. With some stress or pain conditions, the effects can be felt straight away. With hay fever or complex/chronic issues it can take a few weeks to achieve the changes.

Is acupuncture something that you recommend is used to complement ‘conventional’ medicine?

Absolutely. All types of medicine have their strengths and weaknesses. If I were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, I’d have my chemo and surgery… I’d also have acupuncture for the nausea, pain, loss of energy and appetite. There’s no need for ‘conventional’ vs ‘alternative’ medicine, we’re all aiming for the same goal: the best possible health outcomes for our patients. In most cases the best results are achieved by cooperation.

Is this a typical treatment I’m having today?

Every treatment—like every person—is different. Whilst lying down, the acupuncturist might use a variety of techniques—needles, moxa (a heat therapy), laser, heat lamps, cupping or pressure—to stimulate the acupuncture points.

Acupuncturists often discuss extras like herbs, diet, supplements, stretches and exercises to help achieve the treatment goals faster.

My session took about an hour and afterwards I had some tenderness around the shoulder area, but the difference the acupuncture made was quite marked straight away. Over the next couple of days, the area was far ‘freer’ and less painful. Combined with the timing of the treatment (right before Christmas holidays and a few weeks with little time at the computer), and increased exercise which ensures that I’m, you know, actually moving rather than sitting in one position all day every day, and I’ve been mostly pain free for a couple of months.

I’ve been so impressed with the results that I’m currently receiving treatment to help with a recently diagnosed food intolerance. I’m hitting this thing at all angles: nutritional plan, ‘conventional’ medical tests and acupuncture (and herbs once I get past the ‘elimination diet’ phase.) Because I really, really like food and want to sort this thing out sooner rather than later.

So, back to the roadtest. Would I recommend acupuncture to others? Absolutely, yes. As with any new treatment, I think it’s important to find someone you trust as a practitioner, and Kal is always willing to answer questions about what he’s doing and why. Plus, I like his down to earth approach to working cooperatively with conventional medicine…it just makes sense to me.

the essentials

What: Acupuncture
Where: Ki Acupuncture, 6/16 Moore Street, Canberra City
When: 7am till 7pm weekdays and 12pm till 4pm  Saturdays.
Book: Call 02 61 810 710 or book online

Image of woman receiving acupuncture treatment from


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

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