Why should you avoid any physical effort or exercise after acupuncture?
The short and simple answer (so rare in Chinese medicine, short and simple answers!) is that for the next few hours after treatment, we want to be certain your Qi keeps doing what the needles ‘told’ it to do, rather than what your activity tells it to do!
Needles placed in meridian points during acupuncture actually, on a definite (some would argue not properly physical) level, manipulate the Qi of the body in an entirely corrective and healing way. That is the purpose of the needles:to actually re-direct the Qi. The eventual goal is to re-habituate it to flow more harmoniously on its own, but immediately after a treatment is the critical time when it should be flowing optimally, having just been ‘re-set’.
However, needles are far from the only thing that can influence Qi; in fact the reasons it has been out of balance in the first place are often related to environment, activity, emotions. Experiencing any of those things strongly within the few hours after treatment can disrupt the corrected flow hopefully achieved by the needles, possibly resetting it back to less harmonious patterns.
I always advise my patients to avoid doing anything that really ‘hypes up’ the Qi for the next few hours after a treatment; meaning, no heavy exercise, no big meals, no sex, no alcohol, no temperature extremes, try to avoid interactions that are likely to produce strong emotions.
This way, ideally, only the healing action of the needles remains the primary influence on the Qi for as long as possible.