Acupuncture: What is it?
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
How does acupuncture work ?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others.
The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The improved energy and balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
What is the scope of acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a system which can influence three areas of health care:
- Promotion of health and well-being
- Prevention of illness
- Treatment of various medical conditions
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other treatment forms in many disorders.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of problems:
- Digestive disorders: gastritis and hyperacidity, spastic colon, constipation,
- Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, and recurrent chest infections.
- Neurological and muscular disorders:
headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendonitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteo-arthritis.
- Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems.
Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions.
How many treatments will I need ?
The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long-standing conditions, one or more treatments a week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually fewer visits are required. For health maintenance, four sessions a year may be all that is necessary.
Are there any side effects to the treatment ?
It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.
What are the needles like? Do they hurt ?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only minimal discomfort as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all.
Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth
(not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle.
Because your doctor disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
Does acupuncture really work ?
Yes, in the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia, the Soviet Union, and in Europe. It is now being used more and more in America by patients and physicians. Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments, homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions as well as conventional western medicine. It is important that your physician-acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so he or she can help you get the most benefits from all your treatments.
Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects
of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude ("I don't know if I really believe in this.") will not block the treatment results.
Are there any "Do's and Don'ts" for me on the day of a treatment?
Yes, to enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:
- Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after your treatment.
- Do not over-exercise, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hours before or after the treatment.
- Plan your activities so that after the treatment you can get some rest, or at least not have to be working at top performance. This is especially important for the first few visits.
- Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) especially in the week prior to treatments, will seriously interfere with the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatment.
- Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment. This is important for your doctor to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem.