Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points shown as effective in the treatment of specific health problems. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of two thousand years. Recently, electromagnetic research has confirmed their locations.
Q: What problems can be treated by acupuncture?
The World Health Organization has said that acupuncture is suitable for treating the following:
- Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders : Toothaches, pain after tooth extraction, earaches, sinus inflammation, nasal inflammation or dryness.
- Respiratory Disorders : Uncomplicated bronchial asthma in children or adults.
- Gastrointestinal Disorders : Digestive tract problems, hiccups, inflammation of the stomach, chronic duodenal ulcers, inflammation of the colon, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery caused by certain bacteria.
- Eye Disorders : Inflammation of the conjunctiva, inflammation of the central retina, nearsightedness (in children), and uncomplicated cataracts.
- Nervous System and Muscular Disorders : Headaches, migraines, certain facial paralysis or nerve pain, partial weakness after a stroke, inflammation of nerve endings, bed wetting, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, sciatica low back pain, and osteopathic.
Acupuncture has been used for centuries in China to treat many other problems, such as knee pain, sprains and strains, and most gynecological complaints.
Q: How deep do the needles go?
That depends upon the nature of the problem, the location of the points selected, the patient’s size, age, and constitution ,and upon the acupuncturist’s style or school they came from. Usually, needles are inserted from ¼ to 1 inch in depth.
Q: Does it hurt?
If your practitioner has obtained the correct stimulus of the needle, the patient should feel some cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling, or electric sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected meridian, or energy pathway. In Chinese, acupuncture is bu tong, painless. Some Western cultures may categorize these sensations as types of pain. In any case, if you experience any discomfort, it is usually mild.
Q: Are the needles clean?
The best practice among acupuncturists in American today is to use sterilized, individually packaged, disposable needles. Needles should not be saved and reused for later treatments. This eliminates the possibility of transmitting a communicable disease by a contaminated needle.
Q: How does acupuncture work?
Modern Western medicine cannot explain how acupuncture works. Traditional acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (Energy) and Xue (Blood) through distinct meridians or pathways that cover the body somewhat like the nerves and blood vessels do. According to ancient theory, acupuncture allows Qi to flow to areas where Qi is Deficient and away from where itis Excess. In this way, acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious energetic balance of the body. In Chinese there is a saying, “There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow”.
Q: Are there different styles of acupuncture?
Yes, there are. Acupuncture originated in China but ahs spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, the British Isles, and America. In different countries, different styles have developed based on differing opinions as to theory and technique. Patients should talk to their practitioner about their particular style and learn as much as possible about the treatment being proposed.
Q: What criteria should one use in choosing an acupuncturist?
Patients should ask about where the practitioner trained, how long the training was, how long he or she has been in practice, and what experience the practitioner has had in treating the patient’s specific ailment.
Acupuncture is a licensed and regulated healthcare profession in about half the states in the US. Ask your practitioner if your state requires a license to practice. In states that do not currently require licensing, patients should ask their practitioner if they are certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists. Acupuncturists who have passed this exam are entitled to add Dipl. Ac. (Diplomate of Acupuncture) after their name.
Q: How many treatments will I need?
That depends upon the duration, severity, and nature of your complaint. You may need only a single treatment of an acute condition. A series of five to fifteen treatments may resolve many chronic problems. Some degenerative conditions may require many treatments over time.
Q: What should I know about the proposed treatments?
Your practitioner will explain the nature of your problem and what treatment he or she is recommending. Your practitioner will tell you what benefits and risks there are to the proposed treatments, what other treatment options are available to you through this practitioner or by referral to another practitioner or physician.
If you agree to go ahead with the treatment, your practitioner will tell you what progress to expect, what to do if you don’t experience that progress and what to do if you feel worse.
Q: Is there anything I need to do before receiving an acupuncture treatment?
Yes, the following suggestions will help you get the maximum benefits from your treatment.
- Maintain good personal hygiene to reduce the possibility of bacterial inflection.
- To prevent loss, do not wear jewelry.
- Wear loose clothing. Women should not wear one-piece dresses. Avoid wearing tight stockings.
- Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, hungry, full, emotionally upset, or shortly after sex.
Q: Is there anything I need to do while receiving acupuncture?
- Relax. There is no need to be frightened. Ask your practitioner any questions you have along the way so that you can get the most benefit possible from the treatment.
- Do not change your position or move suddenly. If you are uncomfortable, tell your practitioner.
- Some people experience dizziness, nausea, cold sweat, shortness of breath, or faintness during treatment. This often occurs if you are nervous. Inform your practitioner immediately so he or she can readjust or withdraw the needles. Also let your practitioner know if you feel an increasing amount of pain or burning sensation during the treatment.
- If you find your treatment unbearable at any point, be sure to speak up so that your practitioner can make the proper adjustment or stop the treatment.
Q: What can I expect after treatment?
You may note a spot of blood at one or more of the needles sites and/or a small bruise could develop. These should not be harmful, but please talk to your practitioner if you are concerned.
Patients often experience the most dramatic results in the first treatment. Some patients experience an immediate total or partial relief of their pain or other symptoms. This relief may last or some pain may return. In a few cases, there may be no immediate relief only to notice the pain diminish over the next couple of days. Generally, you should expect to feel better.
Most patients will have more questions than this. Your practitioner is used to answering questions such as:
• Should I continue to see my medical doctor?
• Should I continue taking my present medication?
• What should I eat? Is there anything I can do for myself at home?
• What signs of success should I look for first and after how long?