“A needle for health and well-being representing each million of you,” actress Salma Hayek wrote in a 2019 Instagram post to commemorate her 53-year old birthday and for reaching 12 million Instagram followers. Along with the caption, the actress also featured a sexy picture of herself undergoing an acupuncture procedure. She had 12 needles puncturing her upper to lower back. Each needle represented her 12 million Instagram followers milestone.

Salma Hayek is not alone in celebrities who use acupuncture to stay healthy and maintain their health. Actress Jennifer Aniston has reportedly used acupuncture to combat stress, weight loss, and cosmetic purposes. Matt Damon uses it for those neck and back pains attributed to the stunts he does in his action films. Kim Kardashian prefers acupuncture to relieve stress, for cosmetics purposes and aid with her previous pregnancies. Valerie Harper used the procedure to help with her battle with lung cancer. Oprah Winfrey even tried it on Dr. Oz’s show. From Madonna to Cher, Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr., the list of the celebrities who use acupuncture go on.

Acupuncture has become a pop culture phenomenon but when we look at its history, we see that the practice goes back to 2,000 years where Chinese healers would use tiny needles to help initiate the process the body goes through to heal itself. Though acupuncturists have varying ways of performing procedures, they all have a commonality in how they structure their sessions.

First and foremost, a consultation usually precedes a session. A consultation provides a patient with the opportunity to learn more about acupuncture and also gives the patient the chance to see how he or she can best benefit from the procedure. A consultation also allows a patient the chance to find out if they have any health risks that might exclude them from having the procedure done. Certain types of medical and skin conditions can exclude a patient from acupuncture and people who use pacemakers may also fall under this category.

A session usually begins with the insertion of small needles to targeted areas, which can be pushed to various depths. Patients remain still and take deep breathes of air. The needles stay inserted for an average of ten to 20 minutes and some acupuncturists may choose to gently maneuver the needle about, in cases where the targeted areas are difficult to reach.

When a needle reaches a targeted area, it stimulates the body to naturally release biochemicals. One of those biochemicals is Nitric oxide, which helps relax the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen and increase blood circulation. This increase in blood circulation also occurs in the brain and the spinal cord. A body that has high blood circulation has the best chances to fight diseases and operate at optimal conditions.

The biggest misconception about acupuncture is that it is for people who live within the parameters of a certain type of lifestyle and don’t have any scientific data to back up their claims. But quite honestly, those allegations are furthest from the truth.  Research from John Hopkins University and John Hopkins Hospital have shown acupuncture to be effective in combating “nausea caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer chemotherapy, dental pain after surgery, addiction, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma.”

Outside of the medical field and health professionals, few are aware that the central nervous system controls the functions in the brain and spinal cord. When something is wrong, the brain uses the spinal cord, which acts as a “highway” to communicate with the parts of the body where there might be an issue.

When an acupuncturist uses a needle to puncture an area of the body where a patient is feeling pain, that area of the body then sends signals to the brain that there is an issue it must deal with. The brain then signals the release of the biochemicals that stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities. This also helps maintain the balance of emotional health.

Back pain is a common reason why some initially choose acupuncture and once they fully experience the overall benefits, they pretty much get hooked. Western medicine consists of medical doctors and other healthcare professionals who use drugs, radiation, and surgery to treat symptoms and diseases. Acupuncture combats the source of health problems by aiding the body’s natural defense mechanisms.