There’s no hard evidence. But the correlation has local acupuncturists and body piercers intrigued — and baffled.
Granted, it’s only been three months. But if you’re a victim of chronic anxiety — paralyzing panic attacks several times a week, usually for no reason — three months feels like a new life. Like coming up for breath after 29 years under water.
It was September, and I had an especially rough attack. In a daze, I ended up at K&K Piercing on University Hill in Boulder. I walked in and impulsively asked the workers to pierce my chest with a vertical bar in between my breasts along the middle of my body. This was out of character; I’m not a big fan of piercings, and I didn’t know anyone with one. Maybe I thought it would be a good distraction.
It did not hurt. In fact, it felt tingly. Odd.
Several weeks later, I was at my acupuncturist. I told him about my piecing. I asked him if the rod through my chest could affect the flow of my energy, or “chi” in Eastern medicine. If sticking tiny acupuncture needles into your body can transform you, what about a more permanent puncture?
He looked at where I was pierced and smiled.
“You pieced two exact acupuncture points,” he said. “The anxiety points.”
Acupuncturists place needles there to reduce panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety. The increased blood flow and changed direction of the energy there often eliminates panic attacks, he said. I had never talked to him about my struggles with anxiety.
Which is when I realized I have not had an attack since I got the piercing.
I didn’t even know what I was doing when I got the piercing. Could I have subconsciously “fixed” myself? I consulted the experts for an answer.
More than a pretty jewel
Jeanette Barrie says maybe.
Barrie, of Boulder, is an integrative wellness counselor with a background in Ayurveda, an alternative medicine with roots in India.
Piecing the ears and nose is an extension of traditional Indian acupuncture, Barrie says — “not just for beauty, but to trigger the vital energy points in the system.”
Ayurveda tells women to piece their left nostrils with a gold post. That is supposed to ease childbirth and menstrual pain by giving a warming, energetic balance to the cooling right (“lunar”) side of the brain, which rules the left side of the body.
Michelle Backus agrees; piercings affect your body beyond simple aesthetics.
Backus is the owner of the Ayurveda-based Alaya Yoga Spa in Louisville, and she does marma point massage. Marma points are similar to acupressure points, although they don’t directly overlap in location or size.
Initially, Backus says, “You get a euphoric rush when you get a tattoo or piercing at the physical level, and the mind and emotions are usually in a particular state before you get the work done, then afterward your mind and emotions have shifted.”
A tattoo on a marma point, such as the palm of the hand, or a piercing at a marma point, such as the “Nabhi Marma” (navel) serves a similar function as marma massage or acupuncture, Backus says.
But, she adds, the energy change is not long-term — positively or negatively. The energy of marmas will eventually redistribute around the piercing.
Unlike the deeper needling in Chinese acupuncture, Japanese acupuncture uses more superficial stimuli. And throughout history, people have tattooed their bodies on specific points to “re-regulate nerves,” according to Japanese acupuncturist Dann.
Europe’s oldest natural human mummy, found frozen in the Alps, sported 57 tattoo marks on his body on the acupuncture points for osteo-arthritis. An X-ray found he had arthritis, suggesting he had been tattooed for medical reasons.
“There’s enough history that shows certain types of piercings and tattoos have been used to enhance energy flows,” Dann says.
And in Africa, scarification — a sort of mix between tattoos and piercing — was believed to open up spiritual and physiological energies, Dann says. For example, scarification on the chest would open up the home of the spirit. Read more