Trying Out Acupuncture at WTHN, New York, for Shoulder and Neck Pain

My near-constant neck and shoulder soreness has several causes: picking up children who are far too big to need to be picked up, schlepping a heavy bag containing a laptop, water bottle, lunch and more around on the subway, and a bad habit of tensing my neck muscles when I exercise. I’m too cheap to spend out on a Theragun or to take time out to see a physio, so when WTHN, a “modern healing oasis” specializing in acupuncture and medicinal herbs, reached out to ask if we’d like to try their services, I was running out of the door to take them up on it! I lived in Asia for 11 years, and in that time used acupuncture for a lot of maladies, including jaw clenching and to try to encourage my two babies to exit the womb when they went overdue. Since moving to New York, I’ve been looking for a replacement: something that feels like it’s good for me physically, while also being deeply relaxing so I can justify the expense. Pretty much the definition of self-care!

Arriving at WTHN (located near the Flatiron Building), I was a bit flustered as I was running a few minutes. The soothing environment soon helped me relax though, and the friendly and warm receptionist asked me to complete a questionnaire on an iPad listing out some brief medical history and asking what issues I wanted my therapist to address. This was actually the trickiest part of my whole WTHN experience, as their whole treatment menu was so enticing. Sure, I had the neck and shoulder pain, but I was also on my period and had a PMS headache and bloating. I was also intrigued by the idea of WTHN’s “Glow” treatment which promises fewer wrinkles and a collagen boost. It turns out though that you don’t really need to narrow down if you’re overwhelmed by the choice (or struggling with a lot of different issues!) as during the 15 minute consultation with your therapist that every new client receives, you can discuss all your needs and your therapist will create a custom treatment plan.

WTHN’s interior is similar to a traditional acupuncture practitioner’s in some ways, with little treatment cubicles divided by curtains, each containing a massage bed. The design is fresh and modern though, with clean white walls, cool artwork, and soothing ambient sounds. The massage beds are also deliciously comfortable, though it’s worth bearing in mind that you will possibly spend the best part of 45 minutes with your face smushed into the pillow, so you might want to bring your makeup bag to freshen up a little afterwards! My therapist was dressed in stylish scrubs and listened to my various complaints before letting me know she would focus mostly on my back and neck. As well as the needles that were inserted into the base of my skull, neck, shoulders, back, arms and legs, she also offered my complimentary “cupping”, which is best known for being the therapy that gives Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop acolytes those cool circular dark marks on their skin. I love cupping and find it super-relaxing and good for tight muscles. I was slightly bummed that the cupping at WTHN isn’t done with heated cups, but it was still a lovely added-extra.

Once all my needles had been placed, I was left to relax and let them do their magic. Before leaving the room the therapist had offered that I could listen to some music and a guided meditation through some wireless headphones, which I initially thought I didn’t want to do, but was glad when my therapist gave me a nudge to do it. The experience of being guided through some breath work and then listening to some soothing music really helped me to relax, and also feel the needles working. I fell into a light sleep, and woke up to my therapist returning to extract the needles. When it was time to raise my head, my shoulders were so deeply relaxed they didn’t even feel like part of my body, and I had to take a few minutes to come back to the present moment, surprised at the intensity of the treatment’s results.

The whole idea of WTHN’s approach is that they make acupuncture easy to incorporate into your routine, and though my first visit was a full 60 minutes including the 15 minute consultation and 45 minutes of treatment, future visits are just 45 minutes, and because your patient notes are entered into WTHN’s centralized system, in theory you can see any of their therapists during your visit. In practice, some therapists do have specialties or particular areas of interest, which is why if you’re looking for help on something specific, like infertility, it might be good to call ahead to make sure you can consult with someone who specializes in that area.

As I stepped back out onto the street, I could feel some of the stress of the city start to creep back into my shoulders and neck, but a couple of weeks later I still have more ease of movement, and taking the time to focus on the problem made me more mindful to consciously try to soften that area of my body. As mamas we sometimes only give ourselves the grace to practice real self-care (and I don’t mean just a face mask!) when we reach breaking point, but visiting WTHN was a great way to help with a niggling issue that I’d been putting off dealing with, and to get a great dose of relaxation at the same time.

The Start WTHN intro special is $65 including the 15 minute consultation, while regular 45 minute sessions are either $75 with a membership or $85 without. Our treatment was gifted, but all thoughts and opinions are our own. 

20 W. 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010