Q: What is Acupuncture?
A: Acupuncture is a complete and holistic medical system with a history of more than 3000 years, and is one of the main branches of Oriental Medicine. It involves the insertion of fine, flexible, hair-like needles onto specific points of the body to promote natural healing, strengthen immunity, eliminate pain, and restore physical and emotional health. As one of the oldest continually practiced medical systems, acupuncture has stood the test of time with its vast knowledge of effectively treating many illnesses ranging from everyday to complex.
Q: How does it work?
In Eastern Medicine terms:
A: Acupuncture works by unblocking and promoting the energetic flow called Qi (pronounced “chee”) of the body through a network called “meridians,” similar to the systems of nerves and blood vessels. The entire body’s vitality and its functions depend on this energetic network. Pain or illnesses are formed from the blockage or lack of flow, like a dam blocking a stream watering the trees. Each meridian is connected to a specific organ, and the pathways are mapped onto the body in specific acupuncture points. These points are like relay stations that regulate the network. When being needled, they activate the communication and restore the Qi flow of the meridians.
In Western Medicine terms:
A: Western Medicine has yet to fully understand how acupuncture works, mainly due to the differences in medical structure and holistic philosophy. With research, popular theories have come up such as the Autonomic Nervous System Theory, Gate-Control Theory, and Blood Chemistry Theory. These systems are thought to be activated when certain points are being needled, resulting in pain relief, and improvement in immunity response. The specific points have also been shown to have lower electrical resistance than non-acupuncture points. The latest research has been able to identify the physical structure of the meridians as micro-tubular networks called a Bonghan Channels, rich in DNA fragments, stem cells, and hyaluronic acid. They are theorized to be able carry a high volume of information versus the limited one-way signals of the nervous system.
Q: What is Qi?
A: Qi is the fundamental energy that makes everything exist and function. When it comes to health, Qi is the equivalence of biological electricity that circulates, activates, and balances the overall functioning of our bodies. The abundance of Qi or lack thereof, as well as the quality of flow, determines our physical, and emotional well-being. Qi flows on pathways called “the meridians.” Through thousands of years of experiments, the meridians have been accurately mapped. There are more than 360 acupuncture points where Qi can be accessed and activated.
Q: What will my acupuncturist do?
A: Your acupuncturist will first ask you questions about your current condition(s), your health history, diet and lifestyle, and any related issues/symptoms. We will then look at your tongue, and take readings of your pulse to determine the diagnosis in Chinese medicine terms. Physical examinations may be necessary to further help the diagnosis. Once the treatment protocol is planned out for you, you will receive your first acupuncture treatment.
Q: Does it hurt?
A: This is a very common question! Acupuncture is very gentle, and most often painless. The needles are so thin that about 5 of them can fit in a hypodermic needle. Everyone is a little different in their sensitivity, however, and you may feel in the area being needled a slight sensation of heaviness, achiness, warmth, tingling, or even relaxation. This is absolutely normal.
Q: How many treatments do I need?
A: The number of treatments depends on the severity and the type of condition that you have. Recent conditions will typically need fewer treatments than chronic conditions. The average number of treatments to begin is 4-6. It can be done once, or twice a week, whichever yields the best result for you.
Acupuncture works in a series of treatments. You should not have treatments too close together, nor too far apart. For example, you may initially come in twice a week for the first 2 weeks. Then once your symptoms improve, we'll back off to once a week, steadily increasing the level of improvement. Once the symptoms are basically gone, it's ideal to come in once every 3 weeks or once a month for a tune-up on the results. It's important for every patient to keep this structure to prevent off-and-on symptoms from creeping back in-between, so that results will stay more permanent.
Q: How safe is acupuncture?
A: Acupuncture is very safe, and minimally invasive. Your acupuncturist has been trained extensively for safe handling of the needle. Make sure your acupuncturist is licensed, and has been trained in a nationally accredited school by NCCAOM, with at least 2800 hours, and has a diploma in Oriental Medicine.
Q: What can I expect after a treatment?
A: After a treatment, a patient will usually feel very relaxed and calm. If your treatment is for pain relief, you can expect a reduction in pain, or may feel a little tender to the area that has been worked on. This is normal and it is a healing response. For many pain cases, relief is instant. Depending on your severity, the length of relief after a treatment can vary, from hours, days, or a week or more, which then you may have to follow-up to maximize your results. Acupuncture's effect is cumulative, so the results of the current treatment are enhanced by the previous treatments, until you are fully well.
Q: Is acupuncture effective and safe for kids?
A: Yes, acupuncture can be very safe and effective for kids. The general age range for acupuncture is from 6 years old on. If younger than 6, then acupressure (noninvasive) can be used to obtain similar results. Young children's constitution is very responsive to treatment due to lack of complexity, and faster energy flow. This typically results in a quick response to treatment and them getting well quickly.
Q: How should I prepare for an acupuncture treatment?
A: Because acupuncture works with your own energy, it is recommended to eat a light meal or snack before the treatment, to prevent any fatigue. Make sure to not brush the tongue beforehand for a correct diagnosis. Loose clothing like sweat pants, buttoned shirts, and t-shirts are recommended. If needed, you may have to change into a medical gown or robe. Be sure to bring your list of medications so the acupuncturist can help determine the most appropriate treatment protocol.
Q: Where are the needles being placed?
A: For most cases, needles will be placed on the extremities of lower arms and legs, ears and/or head. Other cases may need local areas to be needled as appropriate to the diagnosis and treatment.
Q: What are other treatment therapies in Oriental Medicine besides acupuncture?
A: The other therapies include:
-Herbal therapy: Your acupuncturist may prescribe you herbal medicines either in the form of pills, tea granules, or loose herbs, to help maximize your results. Chronic conditions will often benefit from herbal therapy.
-Diet therapy: Diet is very important and often the core of your well-being. A popular saying in Chinese medicines states “Most diseases start from the mouth…” Your acupuncturist will provide nutritional guidelines to help you get the maximum and long-lasting results.
-Tui-Na: This is therapeutic bodywork that your acupuncturist may perform to help release tension, correct musculo-skeletal imbalances, improve circulation, and complement acupuncture session to provide maximum relief.
-Gua-Sha: This is a manual therapy of using a tool with a blunt edge and stroke along certain areas of the body to release tension, break up knots, and improve immune function. Gua-sha can be a treatment of its own or can be combined with acupuncture.
-Cupping: This is a manual therapy of adding heat or fire to a glass cup "fire cupping" which, when cool and placed on the affected area, creates a suction or vacuum effect. This suction "pulls" up layers of muscle and tissue, which helps to release tension, improve blood flow, loosen fibrous adhesions, and improve immune function.
-Moxibustion: This is the burning of an herb (mugwort) close to an affected area of the body, used generally to treat pain, especially if the pain gets worse with cold or damp, rainy weather. It is used in stick form and may be sent home for patients to use on their own.