What is it?
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve function. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
How does it work?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These channels, 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 in others.
The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
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 chemical will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other 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 promoting physical and emotional well-being.
What is medical acupuncture? Is it different from ordinary acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a very old medical art, and there are many approaches to learning and practicing it. Medical acupuncture is the term used to describe acupuncture performed by a doctor trained and licensed in Western medicine, who also has had thorough training in acupuncture as a specialty practice. Such a doctor can use one or the other approach, or a combination of both as need arises, to treat an illness.
What is the scope of medical acupuncture?
Medical 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 wider 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 problems, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendinitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis;
- Urinary, menstrual and reproductive problems.
Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension, stress and emotional conditions.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long-standing conditions, one or two treatments a week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually fewer visits are required.
Are there any side effects to the treatment?
Usually not. 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, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel and 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. 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. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.
What are the needles like? Do they hurt?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all.
Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made of stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertions through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling. the risk of bruising or skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle. Because the doctor uses disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
Does acupuncture really work?
Yes. In the past 2000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia, the Soviet Union, and in Europe. It is now being used more and more in America by patients and physicians. Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments, and homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions. It is important that your physician-acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so he can help you get the most benefit from all your treatments.
Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
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 the acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude ("I don't know if i really believe in this") will not block the treatment results.
Are there any "Dos and Don'ts" for me on the day of a treatment?
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, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hours before or after the
- Plan your activities so that after the treatment 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;
- Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol)
specially in the week prior to treatment, will seriously interfere with its effectiveness.
- Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment. This is important for your doctor to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designated to best help you and your problem.