Who, What and How...
Who can benefit from acupuncture?
For patients who has allergies, who requires pain management, who may need surgical prevention / recovery, who seeks disease prevention and health maintenance, and who suffers infertility or gynecological dysfunctions.
What happens during an acupuncture session?
Acupuncture therapy usually involves a series of weekly or biweekly treatments in an outpatient setting. It's common to have up to 12 treatments in total. Although each acupuncture practitioner has his or her own unique style, each visit typically includes an exam and an assessment of your current condition, the insertion of needles, and a discussion about self-care tips. An acupuncture visit generally lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
During acupuncture treatment, the practitioner uses sterilized, individually wrapped stainless steel needles that are used only once and then thrown away. You may feel a brief, sharp sensation when the needle is inserted, but generally the procedure isn't painful. It's common to feel a deep aching sensation when the needle reaches the correct spot. After placement, the needles are sometimes moved gently or stimulated with electricity or heat.
How does acupuncture work?
The traditional Chinese theory behind acupuncture as medical treatment is very different from that of Western medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, imbalances in the basic energetic flow of life — known as qi or chi (chee) — are thought to cause illness. Qi is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. These meridians and the energy flow are accessible through approximately 400 different acupuncture points. By inserting extremely fine needles into these points in various combinations, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will rebalance. This will allow your body's natural healing mechanisms to take over.
In contrast, the Western explanation of acupuncture incorporates modern concepts of neuroscience. According to the National Institutes of Health, researchers are studying at least three possible explanations for how acupuncture works:
- Opioid release. During acupuncture, endorphins that are part of your body's natural pain-control system may be released into your central nervous system — your brain and spinal cord. This reduces pain much like taking a pain medication.
- Spinal cord stimulation. Acupuncture may stimulate the nerves in your spinal cord to release pain-suppressing neurotransmitters. This has sometimes been called the "gate theory."
- Blood flow changes. Acupuncture needles may increase the amount of blood flow in the area around the needle. The increased blood flow may supply additional nutrients or remove toxic substances, or both, promoting healing.
What should I expect during my first visit?
During your first office visit, the practitioner may ask you at length about your health condition, lifestyle, and behavior. The practitioner will want to obtain a complete picture of your treatment needs and behaviors that may contribute to your condition. Inform the acupuncturist about all treatments or medications you are taking and all medical conditions you have.
How widely is acupuncture used in the United States?
In the past two decades, acupuncture has grown in popularity in the United States. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey--the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults to date--an estimated 14 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, up from 8 million in 2002.
Other key facts...
-Acupuncture originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest and most commonly used medical procedures in the world.
-It is important to inform all of your health care providers about any treatment that you are using or considering, including acupuncture. Ask about the treatment procedures that will be used and their likelihood of success for your condition or disease.
-Be an informed consumer and find out what scientific studies have been done on the effectiveness of acupuncture for your health condition.
-If you decide to use acupuncture, choose the practitioner with care. Also check with your insurer to see if the services will be covered.