is part of a system of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in which hair thin, solid, needles are inserted at strategic places in the body. These are the places believed by the physician to be where the Qi, or, “energy” is not flowing properly. It is this blockage that causes problems, like pain.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a part of a system of medicine that originated in China over 2500 years ago. It is based on the principle that our health depends on the balanced functioning of currents of energy flowing throughout the body. Sometimes this energy is called ‘chi’. Acupuncture is inserting very fine needles in points on the body where there are said to be areas of ‘chi’ which are blocked or not flowing well. When these points are opened, the body’s own natural balance is restored and health is more vibrant.
How does the doctor know where to place the needles?
By using the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a pattern of diagnosis is determined. Some of the ways in which the Doctor does this is by observation, listening and smelling, asking questions, palpating your pulse, and looking at your tongue carefully. This is a good time to ask questions about what they are finding.
What are the needles like?
They are stainless steel, filiform (meaning solid), and hair thin. Sometimes they are made of silver or gold, or even copper, and these may also be used. The stainless steel needles are a little sturdier and used for most purposes, the others are ideal for small areas, like ears, or for very sensitive individuals. The length and width varies according to the condition being treated.
Are Acupuncture Needles Sterile?
Yes, absolutely! They come pre-sterilized and disposable. As they are removed, they are placed immediately into a sharps container and not reused. Licensed acupuncturists are also required, by the government, to be certified in how to use them appropriately to maintain sterility.
Does Acupuncture hurt?
Remember, acupuncture needles are very thin and they are solid, unlike those used in a hospital to deliver medication. They are designed to quickly and easily penetrate the skin, to reduce the possibility of pain. You may feel a slight pricking sensation or nothing at all. You may though, feel ‘something’ which we refer to as the arrival of chi. It may be a heavy sensation or numb feeling or a mild ache or feel very alive, like electrical energy.
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So, how does acupuncture work, really?
There is no simple answer to that question. We, in the West, might say that it stimulates the body’s own natural pain killers, endorphins, as a reason why it works for anesthesia during surgery. Recent scientific studies, using functional MRI, have shown that the brain is signaled when one receives acupuncture and responds by increasing immune system elements and activating neurotransmitters. If disease is considered to be an imbalance in the body system, then acupuncture activates the body’s own healing energy through manipulation of chi, blood and body fluids.
Is Acupuncture safe?
Absolutely safe, with no side effects, except for feelings of relaxation and well being, when performed appropriately. You must always seek a licensed and experienced practitioner of acupuncture. It is advised that you consume a small amount of food about two hours prior to your session, as blood sugars can drop and lightheadedness may occur.
What conditions is acupuncture used for?
The World Health Organization (WHO), currently recognizes more than forty conditions for which acupuncture is useful. Among them are pain of all kinds, drug addictions, osteoarthritis, allergies, Bell’s Palsy, stroke, TMJ, common cold, depression and infertility. You will find their information on the internet under World Health Organization, clinical acupuncture trials.
How many Acupuncture treatments are necessary to relieve the condition?
Many people feel a change after their first session. Acute conditions are often relieved immediately. A chronic condition will require many more visits, perhaps five to fifteen. Degenerative conditions, like osteoarthritis, will require maintenance over time, as well.
How long will an acupuncture session take?
Your first visit may be an hour and a half, as it requires an in depth intake session. Subsequent, follow up sessions, are about one half hour. After the needles are placed, you will simply rest comfortably for about twenty minutes to gain maximum effect.
What other things might an acupuncturist do?
Well, the use of herbal medications is very important in Traditional Chinese Medicine and also dietary advice about specific conditions, and body work, sometimes called ‘tuina’. Sometimes we decide to use warming medications like moxa or cupping to bring chi and blood to the surface or to run more smoothly.