What is acupuncture all about?
Acupuncture is the systematic use of needles as therapeutic devices to stimulate points on people’s bodies, with the goal of helping them feel better. The intent of acupuncture therapy is to promote health and alleviate pain and suffering. The method by which this is accomplished, has been time tested over thousands of years and continues to be popular today.
The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on concepts of Yin and Yang, “vital energy,” balance” and imbalance.” Just as the Western medical doctor monitors the blood flowing through blood vessels and the messages traveling via the nervous system, the T.C.M. Doctor assesses the flow and distribution of this “vital energy” within its pathways, known as “meridians and channels”.
The acupuncturist is able to influence health and sickness by stimulating certain areas along these “meridians”. Traditionally these areas or “acupoints” were stimulated by fine, slender needles. Today, many additional forms of stimulation are incorporated, including herbs, electricity, magnets and lasers. The purpose remains the same – adjust the “vital energy” so the proper amount reaches the proper place at the proper time. This helps your body heal itself.
Acupuncture is just one form of therapy used within the coherent system of healing known as T.C.M. Traditional Chinese Medicine includes herbology, physical therapy, dietetics and special exercises (such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong), and is a complete medical system unto itself and is not another branch of modern Western medicine. Acupuncture evolved from principles and philosophies unique to Oriental thinking and Oriental Medicine, and is most effectively applied when done in accordance with those principles.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Most people who have had acupuncture would describe it as virtually painless or far less painful than plucking out a hair. The sensations that follow range from nothing at all, to mild tingling, to slight numbness/achiness (‘qu’), to electrical pulsations in areas distant from the site of insertion. All these sensations usually subside once the needles are removed. The needles used for acupuncture are much smaller that the standard hypodermic needle, do not draw blood and are solid, not hollow.
What is treatment like?
Patients often say, “relaxing.” Usually patients leave in less discomfort and are more functional than when they walked in. A typical course is 5 to 10 treatments for a physical change.
How does acupuncture work ?
From Dr. Oz as seen on the Oprah Winfrey Show:
“Alternative medicines, Dr. Oz says, deal with the body’s energy – something that traditional western medicine generally does not. We’re beginning now to understand things that we know in our hearts are true but we could never measure,” he says. As we get better at understanding how little we know about the body, we begin to realize that the next big frontier…in medicine is energy medicine. It’s not the mechanistic part of the joints moving. It’s not the chemistry of our body. It’s understanding for the first time how energy influences how we feel.”
Despite the powerful technology available today, doctors can’t explain exactly how this ancient healing therapy works. It is based on results over time from many countries and two thousand years of treatments. In the near future, the actual chemical and electromagnetic events that occur during acupuncture could be described.
Increasingly, acupuncture is complementing conventional therapies. For example, doctors may combine acupuncture and drugs to control surgery-related pain in their patients. By providing both acupuncture and certain conventional anesthetic drugs, some doctors have found it possible to achieve a state of complete pain relief for some patients. They also have found that using acupuncture lowers the need for conventional pain-killing drugs and thus reduces the risk of side effects for patients who take the drugs.
Is acupuncture the same as Chinese medicine?
Acupuncture is just one of the treatment modalities of Chinese medicine. Acupuncture theory is a part of Chinese medicine theory, but there is much more to Chinese medicine than acupuncture. The other modalities of Chinese medicine are internal medicine (herbal medicine), therapeutic massage, nutritional therapy, and exercise. These modalities are often used in tandem and are applied according to the same types of theory.
Herbal medicine is the focus of Chinese medicine throughout most of Asia, including China, Korea and Vietnam, since it is the most widely applicable modality. It is significant that all of the modalities are applied according to the same or similar theories; without theory as a guide, techniques cannot be effective.
Does acupuncture really work?
Yes, when performed by a skilled practitioner. There is much more to acupuncture than just sticking needles in people, just as Western medicine is more than simply taking a pill. Practitioners have varying levels of knowledge and skill, just as they do in any other field, so the efficacy of acupuncture will vary according to the skill and understanding of the practitioner.
How big are those needles, anyway?
They’re not very big. The typical Chinese fine needle measures .25 to .30 millimeters in diameter, and 30-50 millimeters in length. Acupuncture needles, unlike hypodermic needles, are neither hollow nor rigid, and the tip is shaped to increase the patient’s comfort during insertion. It has often been stated that anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen acupuncture needles will fit inside the bore of a hypodermic needle; this depends, of course, on the diameter of all needles under consideration.
Some Japanese-made needles are quite a bit finer than their Chinese counterparts. Interestingly enough, needle diameter has very little to do with insertion comfort; needling technique and needle tip shape are much bigger factors.
How does it work?
Contemporary Western medicine has developed more than 17 different ways of explaining different aspects of acupuncture effects, but no unified theory. The traditional understanding of acupuncture provides a coherent framework for clinical evaluation and treatment (the channel system, five-phase theory, yin/yang theory).
Western and Chinese medicine agree on the fact that it really works, and that formal studies, using techniques ranging from blood serum analysis to MRI, have documented acupuncture’s efficacy in ways that are compatible with Western scientific methodology. The outcomes of many studies suggest that acupuncture is more effective when applied by a skillful practitioner using traditional theories.
What is it good for?
Walking-around problems of all kinds. For life-threatening problems, go to the emergency room. A good acupuncturist may still treat you under such circumstances, but will also advise you to see an MD. The bottom line: try it for your problem and see if it helps. If your situation is not critical, you have nothing to lose.
How long does it take to work?
It starts working right away, as soon as the qi sensation is obtained. Treatments consolidate over time if you treat with appropriate frequency (i.e. before symptoms return to pre-treatment intensity). People often feel dramatic results during the initial session. A typical course of treatment is 6-20 sessions; more or less depending on a person’s history, the severity of the problem, and other factors.
Is acupuncture safe?
Yes, it is very safe when practiced by a qualified practitioner. Disposable sterile needles and clean needling protocols make the risk of infection negligible. With distal-point styles of treatment, risks are reduced to an occasional small bruise. Acupuncture, as practiced throughout North America, has one of the best safety records of any form of health care.
Does acupuncture have side effects?
None that are serious. Approximately five to ten percent of people being treated for the first time with acupuncture may experience a brief exacerbation of symptoms, lightheartedness or mild nausea. An exacerbation of symptoms may last up to 48 hours and is almost always followed by a marked improvement afterward. Lightheartedness and nausea are addressed by removing the needles and waiting 15-30 minutes. These effects rarely happen more than once.
Do I have to believe in acupuncture?
Acupuncture’s theoretical models are not based on faith. Acupuncture works on horses, dogs, babies, and people . Its world view arises from empirical observation, and the acid test for the validity of the view is the result of its application by skillful practitioners. Faith is not a requirement.
Massage – What is Tui Na massage?
Tui Na, which dates back to 1700 BC, is the parent of most modern Asian bodywork forms. Tui Na can be thought of as a therapeutic extension of western massage, with an emphasis on restoring and balancing energy.
To those who’ve experienced both acupressure and Shiatsu, a Tui Na session may seem like a cross between the two. Like Shiatsu, Tui Na uses rhythmic compression along energy channels of the body, as well as a variety of techniques that manipulate and lubricate the joints. Like acupressure, Tui Na directly affects the flow of energy by holding and pressing the body at acupressure points.