Acupuncture is an essential part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is based on ideas and theories formulated over thousands of years. Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific sites on the body chosen according to the guiding principles of Traditional Oriental Medicine. Needles may also be used with an application of moxibustion, an herbal heat source. Or sometimes, an electrical pulse is combined with the needles for increased stimulation.
How and where the needles are inserted encourages the body to promote natural healing by enhancing recuperative power, immunity, physical and emotional health and improves overall function and well-being. Acupuncture balances and maintains our health in a natural way.
As a system of medicine, acupuncture is over 2500 years old, and may have been practiced in China in a rudimentary form 5,000, even 7,000 years ago. The oldest continuously used medical textbook is the “Huang Di Nei Jing” (“Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic”). Still relevant today, this textbook remains a valuable reference on the theory, and on acupuncture techniques that practitioners still use today. The practice of acupuncture has evolved and changed in the last 2500 years - many new techniques have been developed, and continue to be developed today.
Yes. Only sterile disposable needles are used. Because of the training an Acupuncturist receives, acupuncture is very safe. If a comprehensively trained acupuncturist performs the treatment, your safety is assured.
“Although tens of millions of acupuncture needles are used annually in the United States, only about 50 cases of complications resulting from acupuncture have been reported in the medical literature over the past 20 years.” - Birch, et. al., “Clinical Research on Acupuncture”, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2004
Acupuncture needles are very thin. Most people do not find the insertion of such hair fine needles to be painful. Acupuncture needles are hair fine, unlike injection needles, which are thicker, hollow and have cutting edges. This is why acupuncture feels nothing like getting a shot or having blood drawn.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine explanation of how acupuncture works is that channels, or meridians, of energy run in regular patterns throughout the body and over its surface. These energy channels flow through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues and organs. An obstruction in the movement of the energy is like a dam that can cause obstruction in the flow of blood, bodily fluids and metabolic waste, thereby creating imbalances in the body.
Needling the acupuncture points can influence the meridian by unblocking the obstructions and re-establishing a healthy flow through the meridians. Since the meridians link with the organs, a treatment can therefore, also help to improve the function of the internal organs. The improved energy flow and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities and in promoting physical and emotional well being.
Western science has also suggested several theories for how Acupuncture works, including (1) conduction of electromagnetic signals, (2) activation of opioid systems, and (3) changes in brain chemistry, sensation, and involuntary bodily functions. (NCCAM Research Study, 2002.)
Scientists have no comprehensive answer as to how acupuncture works. Here is a list of a few currently proposed theories:
You may feel a slight sensation resembling a pinch or a mosquito bite when the needle is inserted. Once the needles are placed there may be a slight tingling, numbness or heaviness in the area while the practitioner is stimulating the point. These are positive signs that the needles are affecting the acupuncture point. Usually you will be lying on a comfortable padded table or in an easy chair. Often, people become very relaxed and fall into a light sleep during the session.
The Acupuncturist will ask you a series of questions and do a full health history in order to find out the underlying cause of your health issue or disorder. The Acupuncturist will ask about your symptoms, health and life-style. Afterward the Acupuncturist will examine your tongue, feel your pulses and palpate various parts of your body. This helps the Acupuncturist find patterns that tell which organs and meridians are out of balance. With this information the Acupuncturist will identify a pattern of disharmony according to Oriental Medical theory and will make a treatment plan to address it. After your initial interview, you may receive an Acupuncture treatment.
How should I prepare? 1. Come with any questions you have, we’re here to help you. 2. Wear loose, comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points. 3. Don’t eat large meals just before or after your visit. 4. Refrain from overexertion, drugs, or alcohol for up to 6 hours after the visit. 5. Avoid stressful situation. Make time to relax and be sure to get plenty of rest. 6. Between visits, take notes of any changes that you may have experienced.
An office visit will last from 30 minutes to 1 hour. The needles, once inserted, will usually be left in place from 15 to 45 minutes. Ultimately, the session length depends on the technique and desired results.
Although some people will respond well to only one treatment, more are often necessary. The frequency of treatment and number of treatments needed is related to the patient’s condition. Generally, the longer the patient has had the condition the longer the course of treatment will be before showing substantial and lasting results. Acupuncture can be scheduled as often as five times a week or as little as once a month. Typically, in China, patients are treated two to five times a week. Although some patients respond favorably after only one or two treatments, others may not respond even until the ninth visit. As symptoms improve fewer visits are required. A client should discuss his or her treatment program with the Acupuncturist, as each individual case is unique.
Acupuncture points reside on meridians, or channels, which are energetic pathways that run throughout the entire body. These meridians are linked to each other as well as to different organs. Using his knowledge of the interrelationship between the meridians and organs, an Acupuncturist will choose points to effect changes in them that will influence the symptoms you report. According to the Acupuncturist’s assessment and treatment plan, he chooses individual points or combinations of points to stimulate this change. An Acupuncturist uses Traditional Oriental Medical theory of how the body functions, the Acupuncturist’s clinical experience, and modern research to develop the best treatment for you.
Physiological changes occurring after acupuncture are not the result of the placebo effect. Many of the effects occur without the conscious knowledge of the patient, but these changes can, and have, been measured by scientific investigation such as functional MRIs.