Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of '“energy” called Qi run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These channels, also called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others. The standing water becomes turbid and is more prone to disease.
The meridians are influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, activates healthy neurotransmitters, and energy production. In cases where pain is involved, moving qi will move blood and jing ye(other fluids within the body, such as lymph) reducing inflammation and promoting the body’s natural ability to repair itself.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Acupuncture is a very old medical art, and there are many approaches to learning and practicing it. A Licensed Acupuncturist is the term used to describe acupuncture performed by a practitioner trained and licensed in use of needles, herbalism, nutrition and Traditional Chinese Medical diagnostic systems.
Acupuncture is a system which can influence three areas of health care:
• promotion of health and well-being,
• prevention of illness,
• treatment of various medical conditions.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:
• Digestive disorders: gastritis and hyper-acidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea.
• Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections.
• Neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendonitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis.
• Urinary, menstrual, hormone balance and reproductive problems.
Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions.
The number of treatments needed differs depending on the condition. For complex or longstanding diseases, one or two treatments per week for several months may be recommended. Acupuncture treatments can also be be used on a purely preventative basis to enhance overall well being.
For acute problems, usually more frequent visits close to the start of the ailment is very effective for expediting the healing process. For health maintenance, even as few four sessions a year can be beneficial.
Very rarely will a patient experience a side effect of acupuncture. Virtually never in comparison to medications and other more invasive forms of therapies. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Occasionally, the original symptoms worsen for a few days if a strong treatment has stimulated the body’s repair process. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work.
It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. Lots of water, gentle stretching and a nice walk before getting behind the wheel is a must! Proper hydration will also eliminate many cases of feeling sore after healing work.
Depending on pain tolerance and location of the points, no sensation or a brief discomfort can be felt during insertion of the needle. In most cases points no blood will draw because the skin has spaces that allow the needles to insert comfortably. Sensations of dull ache, tingling, warmth are signs of movement of qi. Once the needle has passed the dermal layer into the adipose tissue no pain is felt. Therefore points located in areas with more adipose are more mild. Contrary to points that are in heavily innervated areas like the hands and feet. Those locations are extremely powerful and will influence the nervous system out of stress into a healing phase. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt.
Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle.
Because your doctor carefully sterilizes the needles using the same techniques as for surgical instruments, or uses disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
Yes. In the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today, acupuncture is practiced all around the world. It is now being used more and more in America by patients and physicians. Stanford, Mayo Clinic, UCLA Health, and Kaiser just to name a few hospitals with Licensed Acupuncturists on staff.
Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time as other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments, and homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions. It is important that your Acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so he or she can help you get the most benefits from all your treatments.
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses, and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude ("I don't know if I can really believe in this.") will not block treatment results. Your body will still respond with a release of neurotransmitters and hormones no matter what you are thinking. In Tradition Chinese Medicine a famous proverb claims “Qi follows thought” and part of a healthy lifestyle is adapting healthy thought patterns.
Yes. To enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:
• Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after your treatment.
• Do not over-exercise, consume alcoholic beverages within six hours before or after treatment.
• Plan your activities so that after the treatments you can get some rest, or at least not have to be working at top performance. This is especially important for the first few visits. Although, some athletes do receive acupuncture before playing sports.
• Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor.
• Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment.
This is important for your Acupuncturist to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem.
Some insurance companies currently cover acupuncture costs, other companies do not yet recognize the value of acupuncture. Each health policy must be reviewed to determine acupuncture benefits.
The AAMA is working to inform insurance companies and the public in order to standardize payment practices and accessibility to this type of treatment. You can help by insisting that your insurance company offer you reimbursement for medically indicated acupuncture treatments before you accept their policy.