FAQ :

 

How does acupuncture work?

Eastern Explanation:

The Eastern Explanation for how Acupunctures works is that the life energy flowing through the body which is termed Qi (pronounced chee) can be influenced and balanced by stimulating specific points on the body. These points are located along channels of energy known as meridians that connect all of our major organs. According to Chinese medical theory, illness arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridians becomes unbalanced or is blocked.

Western Explanation:

Definition of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is the stimulation of specific points located near or on the surface of the skin which have the ability to alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to achieve the desired effect.

Explanation of How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture points are areas of designated electrical sensitivity. Inserting needles at these points stimulates various sensory receptors that, in turn, stimulate nerves that transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system at the base of the brain. The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins, the body's natural pain-killing hormones. It is estimated that endorphins are 200 times more potent than morphine. Endorphins also play a big role in the functioning of the hormonal system. This is why acupuncture works well for back pain and arthritis and also for P.M.S. and infertility. The substances released as a result of acupuncture not only relax the whole body, they regulate serotonin in the brain which plays a role in human and animal disposition. This is why depression is often treated with acupuncture. Some of the physiological effects observed throughout the body include increased circulation, decreased inflammation, relief from pain, relief of muscle spasms and increased T-cell count which stimulates the immune system.

 

How many treatments will I need?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question. The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary from person to person depending on the conditions being treated, your age and health, and how you respond to acupuncture. Acupuncture is a natural medicine that is assisting your body to make changes. This can be a gradual process. A consultation with an experienced practitioner about you and your condition will offer the best guide for the length of treatment. Generally, acute problems require less time and frequency of treatment. For example, an acute sprain may require only one or two treatments, whereas more chronic or severe ailments may require several (or several dozen) treatments.

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How long will it take for the treatments to work?

A positive response to acupuncture treatments is generally seen after the first to fourth treatment. If you are being treated for a menstrual problem or infertility, give the treatments three menstrual cycles for your body to respond. You will schedule your appointments further and further apart after you have achieved optimal response.

 

How often should I be treated?

Again, this depends on what you are being treated for and your practitioner. It is common for treatments to be scheduled one or two times a week in the beginning to obtain optimal response and then once every other week. If you are not able to schedule appointments that frequently, your acupuncturist may prescribe Chinese herbs, dietary changes, exercises or pressure points for you to use at home.
Acupuncture is also often used as a preventative medicine. Many people see their acupuncturist only 2-4 times a year for a "tune up" or "balancing" treatment. This can prevent disease and promote health, energy and vitality.

 

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are 25-50 times thinner than a hypodermic needle. They are so thin that several acupuncture needles can go into the middle of a hypodermic needle. There is little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles.
While some people feel nothing at all; others experience a brief moment of discomfort as the needle penetrates the skin that can be followed by a mild sensation of cramping, tingling, numbness, traveling warmth, or heaviness. The needles are left in place for twenty to forty minutes. Most people find the experience extremely relaxing and uplifting and even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.
That being said, some conditions will respond better to a thicker gauge acupuncture needle. It is common to experience soreness during and after an acupuncture treatment. It is important to let your acupuncturist know immediately so that they can make you more comfortable. If you are sensitive to acupuncture or ‘needle-phobic’ your acupuncturist can use thinner needles and be gentler. Be sure to speak up and let the practitioner know how you are feeling!

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How deep do acupuncture needles go?

Acupuncture points are located near or on the surface of the skin. Usually needles are inserted from 1/4 to 1 inch in depth. Depth of insertion will depend on nature of the condition being treated, the patients' size, age, and constitution, and upon the acupuncturists' style or school.

 

Are acupuncture needles ever inserted deeper that one inch?

Yes. For instance; there is a great acupuncture point for sciatica that is located on the buttocks. The needle is usually inserted three to four inches.

 

Are there risks or side effects to acupuncture?

Usually not. Acupuncture is a very safe method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and improve function.

Done properly, acupuncture rarely causes serious side effects. Many people feel a brief stinging sensation, like a pinprick, during insertion of the needles. Others experience a dull ache around the needle after it goes in.

Other problems documented by researchers resulted from mistakes made by the acupuncturists. For example, some have failed to refer their patients for other kinds of treatment that might be more effective for their illness. Others have spread serious infections by using needles that weren't sterile. A handful have injured patients by pushing a needle into a vital organ such as a lung. But overall, as the National Institutes of Health recently concluded, acupuncturists have an extremely good safety record.

A side effect that I have seen in my own practice is the original symptoms worsening for a few days after an acupuncture treatment. Sometimes other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work. My teacher explained it to me like this: Acupuncture is smoothing out blocked Qi (energy) that is stuck in areas of your body. When a garden hose gets a kink in it, the water stops flowing. When you straighten the hose, the built up pressure makes the water burst out in the beginning. This is what can happen when you first have acupuncture.

It is also common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These effects should wear off within 24-48 hours.

Please discuss what you have been experiencing with your acupuncturist. Your comfort is a priority. The more you communicate with the practitioner, the more he or she will be able to help you.

A few people have reported more serious reactions, such as dizziness, sweatiness, or nausea, according to a November 1999 issue of the Archives of Family Medicine. There have even been some cases reported where patients lost consciousness. However, these problems usually clear up on their own within a few minutes, without lasting harm to the patient.

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What Acupuncture Can Treat

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are extremely successful in the treatment of a multitude of conditions. Many people try Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as a "last resort" to serious and complex medical problems and find that it can help them when other treatments could not.

Acupuncture is also often used as a preventative medicine. Many people see their acupuncturist only 2-4 times a year for a "tune up" or "balancing" treatment. This can prevent disease and promote health, energy and vitality.

Your acupuncturist will have to look at the onset of your condition and see what your constitutional diagnosis is to determine if Oriental Medicine can help you. Each case is unique and it would be difficult to determine how effective acupuncture will be for you without a full assessment. Please contact several licensed acupuncturists in your area for a consultation to find the best suited practitioner for you.

What problems are commonly treated with Acupuncture?

The most common ailments presented to an acupuncturist tend to be pain related conditions. For example; arthritis, back, neck, knee and shoulder pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and sciatica.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system that is capable of diagnosing and successfully treating a wide range of conditions including:

(This is by no means a complete list of what Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat.)

Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat Disorders

* Sinusitis
* Sore Throat
* Hay Fever
* Earache
* Nerve Deafness
* Ringing in the Ears
* Dizziness
* Poor Eyesight

Circulatory Disorders

* High Blood Pressure
* Angina Pectoris
* Arteriosclerosis
* Anemia

Gastrointestinal Disorders

* Irritable Bowel Syndrome
* Spastic colon
* Colitis
* Constipation
* Diarrhea
* Food Allergies
* Ulcers
* Gastritis
* Abdominal Bloating
* Hemorrhoids

Gynecological / Genitourinary Disorders

* Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
* Irregular, Heavy or Painful Menstruation
* Endometriosis
* Menopause
* Fibroids
* Chronic Bladder Infection
* Complications in Pregnancy
* Morning Sickness
* Kidney Stones
* Impotence
* Infertility in Men and Women
* Sexual Dysfunction

Immune Disorders

* Candida
* Chronic Fatigue
* HIV and AIDS
* Epstein Barr Virus
* Allergies
* Lupus
* MS
* Hepatitis

Addiction

* Smoking Cessation
* Drugs
* Alcohol

Emotional and Psychological Disorders

* Anxiety
* Insomnia
* Depression
* Stress

Musculoskeletal and Neurological Disorders

* Arthritis
* Neuralgia
* Sciatica
* Back Pain
* Bursitis
* Tendonitis
* Stiff Neck
* Bell’s Palsy
* Trigeminal Neuralgia
* Headaches and Migraines
* Stroke
* Cerebral Palsy
* Polio
* Sprains
* Muscle Spasms
* Shingles

Respiratory Disorders

* Asthma
* Emphysema
* Bronchitis
* Colds and Flus

Acupuncture Also Treats

* Chemotherapy/Radiation Side Effects
* Diabetes
* Dermatological Disorders
* Weight Control

 

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credit : Diane Joswick, L.Ac., MSOM

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