Acupuncture Know How: 10 Things You Should Know About Acupuncture

It Does Not Hurt.

Contrary to movies and assumptive thinking, acupuncture is not painful. The needles bear no resemblance to those used by your orthopedist for cortisone, or for drawing blood. Acupuncture needles come in many gauges, but in all cases, they are extremely fine and thin, often as thin as hairs.  A practitioner who has attended a 3-4 year program in Traditional Oriental Medicine has also participated in clinics through formal acupuncture schools, that are open to the public. This means that your licensed acupuncturist provider has treated all sizes and shapes of patients. Under supervision, that future acupuncturist is practicing needle technique, or the ability to correctly insert the needle to the correct depth, with rapidity and precision, in order to obtain Qi. The sensation of an acupuncture needle may feel like nothing is happening, or it may feel like a dull ache. But it won’t hurt.

It Really Works.

Often patients ask about how acupuncture works. It is not magic, or voodoo, or a placebo.  Acupuncture provides a stimulus to an area of the body that is mapped out on a meridian chart of points. Meridians are lines or pathways that have an exact correlative to actual body regions.  It takes a concentrated type of study to understand how these locations work as single points, and how they work in tandem with other points to ease pain, reduce inflammation, and promote flow of blood and lymph.

It Works Well With Modern Medicine.

Acupuncture is joining the mainstream more and more, and is included in the treatment plans for many health issues, including chronic pain, digestive disorders, hormonal imbalance, and immune system dysfunction.  While it shines in its usefulness in improving outcomes, there are some physicians, as well as patients, who hold the rather pervasive belief that clinical trials are the gold standard for validating medical interventions. This holds true for medications and technologies that have most assuredly advanced medicine, and have saved countless lives.  Acupuncture does not match very well with clinical trials, due mostly to the fact that treatments are individual, and follow finely tuned patterns seen during initial intake and diagnosis. This makes it impossible to use single points to design reliable trials. The reason for acupuncture’s popularity is its effectiveness. Millions of people have had their lives indelibly changed, and their ailments erased, by acupuncture treatment. The road to better health should not be dictated by clinical studies. Achieving a state of health is not about doing something because a study said you should.  It is about making choices and finding out what works for you.

It Will Surprise You

Oftentimes the first treatment is a bit strange. It doesn’t hurt, but you might not feel anything right away.  The effects of treatment can be immediate, and this happens more often with pain and dysfunction, like a rotator cuff injury or tight muscles in the low back.  Afterwards you might spring up and notice that you feel lighter on your feet, more mobile, more energetic, and just happier.  The effects of moving Qi and opening up circulatory pathways, microcirculation as its more aptly known in western medicine, can have an euphoric effect. But even if it doesn’t happen that fast, the effects do happen and whether a day later, 2 days later, or in more stubborn cases, after the 3rd treatment, you feel better.

It Is Not A One-Shot Deal

Just like any other therapeutic modality, such as physical therapy or chiropractic, acupuncture typically requires a course of treatment to gain the most benefit. Generally, the longer you have had a problem, the longer it will take to overcome it.  Some ailments like allergies and immune system dysfunction take quite a while to treat, but the benefits are well worth it. Muscle and joint pain are often in the middle requiring up to 10 treatments. An acute problem like a tension headache or pulled muscle may get better very quickly, in only 1 or 2 sessions.  Even for those instances that a problem is more complex, once the hurdle is overcome, treatment can revert to maintenance or for a flare up.

It Is A Great Teacher on Gratitude

Acupuncture is holistic, and is based on the premise that you already have everything you need to be well.  Even if you are ailing, your body has an innate wisdom about recovery that only needs to be tapped.  This is in contrast with biomedicine, which can make us feel that we need outside intervention to solve a problem, or fix us. Acupuncture does not require a huge lifestyle change, and is able to work with us where already live, inside our bodies and within our communities.  It allows us to be truly present with ourselves without judgment, and that is a gain.

It Treats More Than Just Pain

Even though the NIH now recognizes acupuncture as an effective modality for treating digestive disorders, allergies, immune system, menstrual cramps, and more, many people still only associate it with pain.  “I got acupuncture for my knee pain and it really helped,” is a great testimonial.  Since pain is one of the most disabling issues in our life, it is good to know there is a natural method for healing shoulder and neck pain, neuropathic pain, headaches, and migraine.  Yet acupuncture can address much more, since it is its own medical system.  I specialize in gastrointestinal and immune health, dermatology, and have a long history treating various types of pain and cancer-related issues.  Other practitioners have their own specialities.  Specializing allows me to advance my skills in my chosen areas and do better work, leading to more successful treatment outcomes.  I am more than willing to refer out to other practitioners when there is an issue that I do not treat often enough to feel confident.

It Has A Spiritual Background

No one knows exactly where acupuncture first originated.  The first evidence dates back over 4,000 years ago.  Some theorize that it was passed down by aliens from other planets, whereas others believe it was invented by monks who sat in long periods of meditation and visualized energetic fields of the body.  For such an old medicine, it has strong and very grounded results. There is a true energetic origin that contains a rich base of knowledge of how the organs function in relation to one another, that includes elements, meridians, and organ syndromes. It takes years of study to really feel like a true practitioner.  The system behind it all is mystical and spiritual, but not religious.

It Has Great Side Effects

Yes, there are side effects from acupuncture.  Many people who try acupuncture for one issue end up noticing that their other issues have improved. The top 5 side effects of acupuncture: better digestion, more energy, better sleep, less anxiety, and mental clarity.  One of the most common examples of this is allergy sufferers who are being treated for some other, unrelated complaint. They came in seeking help for neck pain, for example, and notice that their allergies were much less bothersome while undergoing treatment.

It Will Open Your Mind

Acupuncture confounds the medical mindset.  There is still no biological description for “qi,” the energy that fills the meridians and circulates in pathways.  While some may find this vague and unsettling, we should be reminded that we really don’t understand the body all that well, even in allopathic models. Measurements of cells and diagnostic labels serve a purpose, but do not offer all the answers.  Acupuncture and Chinese medicine reminds us that the field of healing is much more vast than previously recognized.


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