WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is the ancient art and science of inserting very fine needles into specific points on the skin to relieve a variety of medical problems. This method encourages the body to naturally heal itself and improve its functioning. Acupuncture can help treat current issues, help heal previous problems, and help prevent new ones.
During an acupuncture treatment, very fine single-use, disposable needles are inserted into various points on the body. Patients typically feel nothing or only a very slight pinch as the needles are inserted. Sometimes heat or mild electrical stimulation is applied to the site of the needle insertion.
HOW DOES MEDICAL ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
The classical Chinese explanation for the effectiveness of acupuncture is that channels of energy run through the body and over its surface in regular patterns. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction to movement in the meridians dams up the energy on one side, while cutting off the supply downstream. By applying the needles at the right points along the meridians, the obstructions are unblocked and the proper flow of energy is restored.
The scientific explanation of acupuncture is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the body to release natural chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These substances either change the experience of pain or trigger the release of other chemicals or hormones that influence the body’s own internal regulating system. The needles also reduce muscle spasm and cause a healing response at the site of insertion. We know from studies using fMRI (functional MRI) scans that acupuncture can positively change the blood flow in the brain. Numerous other well-designed studies show that acupuncture is effective for treating chronic pain and other conditions.
Most importantly, acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural healing and promotes improved energy and better physical and emotional well-being.
WHAT CONDITIONS CAN BE TREATED BY MEDICAL ACUPUNCTURE?
Medical acupuncture can influence three areas of health: promotion of health and well-being, prevention of illness, and treatment of various medical conditions. Our medical acupuncturists will address all three at each of your acupuncture treatments.
While medical acupuncture is often associated with pain control, it actually has much broader applications. Medical acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used or as the support to other modalities of medical treatment. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture for the treatment of a wide range of medical problems.
Our physicians often recommend acupuncture as the primary or supportive treatment for a wide variety of conditions:
Back and neck pain. Acupuncture is highly effective for back pain, including sciatica, radiculopathy, sacroiliitis (including ankylosing spondylitis), and disc problems, including bulges and herniation. And much more…!
Cancer treatment. Acupuncture can be a valuable adjunctive treatment to help relieve the side effects of conventional cancer care. It is helpful for chemotherapy side effects such as nausea, mucositis, fatigue and peripheral neuropathy. Acupuncture can also help with the side effects of radiation therapy, including dry mouth, colitis, cystitis, and pain.
Chronic pain. Pain issues, including spinal, pelvic and abdominal pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, are all responsive to acupuncture treatment.
Digestive problems. Nausea, morning sickness, diarrhea, constipation, reflux (GERD), and vomiting can all be helped by acupuncture. Both irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are also often helped by acupuncture.
Men’s health issues. Common male health problems can be helped by acupuncture, including benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH), prostadynia, low libido, and general sexual health.
Neurological problems. The symptoms of many neurological problems are often improved by acupuncture treatment. Headaches, including chronic daily headaches, tension headaches, and migraines are often very responsive to acupuncture. Other conditions that are helped by acupuncture include carpal tunnel syndrome, Bell’s palsy, neuralgia, post-herpetic neuralgia (shingles), and peripheral neuropathy. Acupuncture can also be helpful with stroke rehabilitation.
Psychological problems. Acupuncture is often highly effective for reducing symptoms from psychological problems including anxiety, depression, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Respiratory problems. Breathing problems, including asthma, seasonal environmental allergies, sinusitis, sore throat, and recurrent chest infections, can all be helped by acupuncture.
Sports injuries and joint problems. Pain and lack of mobility from sports injuries and joint problems can be helped by acupuncture. Acute sports pain and injury, bursitis, tendonitis, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, plantar fasciitis (heel pain), and rotator cuff impingement all usually respond well to treatment.
Urinary tract problems. Acupuncture can be helpful for relieving the symptoms of interstitial cystitis and kidney stones.
Women’s health issues. We have found that women’s health issues can be very responsive to acupuncture. In particular, our physicians often recommend acupuncture as a main or additional treatment for infertility, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual problems, menopause symptoms, low libido, and sexual health.
Other health issues. Acupuncture can be helpful for a variety of other health problems, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), hives, insomnia, Meniere’s disease (vertigo), smoking cessation.
Wellness. One of the most profound benefits of acupuncture is its ability to produce a state of well-being. People often feel like they “float out of a treatment.” Our patients who come in regularly report they get sick less often and enjoy having their minor aches and pains taken away.
HOW DOES A MEDICAL ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT FEEL?
During your acupuncture treatment, single-use, very fine, hair-like needles will be placed in various therapeutic areas of your body. Most people hardly feel them being inserted; some may experience a mild pinch. Once the needles are in place, you won’t be aware of them. The needles are left in place for anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes, depending on your condition. During that time you’ll listen to calming music and rest quietly—you may even fall asleep! In total, your acupuncture treatment will usually take 30-60 minutes.
DOES MEDICAL ACUPUNCTURE HAVE SIDE EFFECTS?
Usually not. In fact, just the opposite. Patients often feel deeply rested and replenished—sometimes even quite euphoric—after a treatment. Occasionally a bruise will develop where a needle was inserted. These are usually small, of no concern, and heal quickly.
Our needles are disposable and single-use, so the risk of infection is minimal. Puncture of an underlying organ is a very remote possibility.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED?
Our approach to acupuncture treatment is completely individualized, so the length of treatment varies from person to person. Treatments are usually divided into a treatment or replenishing phase, followed by a maintenance phase. In general, complex or long-standing conditions will require more intensive treatment— initially, one treatment a week may be necessary. Then, as the patient improves, they will need less frequent treatments. For acute problems, fewer visits are usually required. Our physicians recommend medical acupuncture only if they think you will genuinely benefit. They also monitor you carefully for treatment effectiveness.
WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER A TREATMENT?
To maximize your treatment benefits, we recommend that you generally take things easy for six to 24 hours. Avoid heavy exercise or exertion, alcohol, sexual activity, large or heavy meals, and foods that are very hot, very cold, or spicy. Continue to take any prescription medicine as directed by your personal physician.