Frequently Asked Questions
How does acupuncture work?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy 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 are regulated 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, 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 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 system that can influence three areas of health care:
- Promotion of health and well-being
- Prevention of illness
- Treatment of various chronic and acute 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 treatment modalities. The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:
- Menstrual and reproductive problems: infertility, menopause, irregular periods, painful menstruation, hormone balancing, rebalancing after birth control,
- Stress and tension
- Emotional conditions
- Trauma: injuries from car accidents or sports, emotional trauma, trauma from prolonged stress
- Digestive disorders: reflux, GERD, gastritis and hyperacidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel (IBS), Chrone’s, Colitis, Ulcerative Colitis, food sensitivities, weight problems.
- Respiratory disorders: allergies, 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 and sexual problems: low libido, night urination, incontinence.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long-standing conditions, weekly treatments for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually fewer visits are required, and for health. Usually, the best and fastest results are seen with two sessions a week for the first two to three weeks, which is often all that is needed to elicit a cure.
Are there any side effects to the treatment?
There are no side effects from acupuncture. The most common experience is a sensation of deep relaxation, a state of being clam and relaxed while being clear and energized. These result from the body’s systems functioning in an optimal way.
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 day or two, or there may be slight, general changes in appetite, sleep, or emotional state that may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work.
What are the needles like? Do they hurt?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients don’t even feel the needles are placed on the skin, some people experience a couple points as more sensitive, but not actually painful, and the sensation is just for a split second on insertion.
Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt, and only a deep sensation of relaxation.
I practice a painless style of acupuncture, developed in Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore. The acupuncture style of Mainland China is not a painless technique. Every time someone says ‘acupuncture hurts’, one of two things is normally the case: a Chinese style practitioner or a practitioner with only entry-level training (Chiropractors and Medical Doctors who have done a certification course of only a few hundred hours).
Acupuncture needles are very very thin (like your hair), 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 painful like injections or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is much less than when using a hollow needle.
Because we use disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
Does acupuncture really work?
Yes. In the past 3,000 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 acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so he or she 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 acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude (“I don’t know if I really believe in this.”) will not block the treatment results.