What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been practiced for several thousand years in Asia; it is now an increasingly common treatment choice for patients on all continents. Acupuncture is the stimulation of points on the body with fine, flexible, sterile needles. Vital energy, or qi (“chee”), flows through intricate systems of energy pathways in each body. With injury or stress, energy pathways and regions can become obstructed, sluggish or over-active. Regulating flow restores optimal function and comfort. These areas are needled, heated or massaged to improve our comfort and health.
Acupuncturists examine and check that circulation of blood and energy are reaching each area and system in a patient’s body. Adjustments in flow and balance support efficient function and well-being.
A course or series of acupuncture treatment is customized to each person and her/his desired result. In each treatment, the choice of acupuncture points reflects a person’s basic constitution/body type (hot-tempered or cool and calm), their daily environment (it might be hot, damp, drafty) as well as the nature or pattern of the symptoms (such as shoulder discomfort or cloudy weather headaches) that had them seek treatment.
When should I make an appointment for acupuncture?
Acupuncture is recommended for a wide variety of conditions such as acid reflux, insomnia and fibromyalgia. Research in the US shows strong results in easing conditions such as osteoarthritis, assisting fertility, and chemotherapy-related nausea, among others. It is a common choice for patients recovering from accidents or injuries. Dozens of medical centers are adding acupuncture into programs to enhance surgical recovery, physical therapy and stroke rehabilitation outcomes.
In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the WHO (WHO) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:
• low back pain
• neck pain
• tennis elbow
• knee pain
• periarthritis of the shoulder
• facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
• dental pain
• tempromandibular (TMJ) dysfunction
• rheumatoid arthritis
• induction of labor
• correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation)
• morning sickness
• nausea and vomiting
• postoperative pain
• essential hypertension
• primary hypotension
• renal colic
• adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
• allergic rhinitis, including hay fever
• biliary colic
• depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
• acute bacillary dysentery
• primary dysmenorrhea
• acute epigastralgia
• peptic ulcer
• acute and chronic gastritis
• chronic pain
• hot flashes
• post-op recovery
Have a bleeding disorder.
Your chances of bleeding or bruising from the needles increase if you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re taking blood thinners.
Have a pacemaker.
Acupuncture that involves applying mild electrical pulses to the needles can interfere with a pacemaker’s operation.
Some types of acupuncture are thought to stimulate labor, which could result in a premature delivery.
What you can expect
During an acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist inserts very thin needles into specific spots on your body. Insertion of the needles usually causes little discomfort.
Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine:
• The parts of your body that are painful
• The shape, coating and color of your tongue
• The color of your face
• The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse in your wrist
During the procedure
Acupuncture points are situated in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your acupuncture practitioner will tell you the general site of the planned treatment and whether you need to remove any clothing. A gown, towel or sheet will be provided. You lie on a padded table for the treatment, which involves:
Acupuncture needles are inserted to various depths at strategic points on your body. The needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes little discomfort. People often don’t feel them inserted at all. Between five and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. You may feel a mild aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth.
Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after placement or apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles.
In most cases, the needles remain in place for 10 to 20 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no discomfort when the needles are removed.
After the procedure
Some people feel relaxed and others feel energized after an acupuncture treatment. But not everyone responds to acupuncture. If your symptoms don’t begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be right for you.
The benefits of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure, but many people find it helpful as a means to control a variety of painful conditions.
Several studies, however, indicate that some types of simulated acupuncture appear to work just as well as real acupuncture. There’s also evidence that acupuncture works best in people who expect it to work.
Acupuncture has few side effects, it may be worth a try if you’re having trouble controlling pain with more-conventional methods.