What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a modality of treatment dating back thousands of years. It uses the strategic placement of fine sterile disposable needles into the body. The needles work to stimulate blood flow, and with it carries oxygen and healing cells to damaged areas, it carries away cellular waste, stimulates regulation of neurotransmitters and hormones, and calms the nervous system all to increase the bodies healing capacity and sense of well-being.

A typical acupuncture treatment will use 10-20 acupuncture needles, after which the patient is let to rest for 20-30 min. This procedure is mostly described as relaxing and often patients fall asleep for the resting portion of the treatment. 

Does it work?

Acupuncture has been well documented by clinical studies to be effective in treating certain disorders, and is covered by many insurance companies as a modality of healthcare.  Organizations such as the World Health Organization and the National Health Institute have listed many conditions as treatable through acupuncture. 

Is Acupuncture just a placebo effect?

Acupuncture has been effectively used to treat children and infants, dogs/cats and horses that cannot comprehend placebo effects.  Many people who seek acupuncture don’t “believe” that it could work prior to initial treatment and still gain positive results.  

Is it safe?

When a licensed practitioner does acupuncture correctly, the risks are low. Acupuncture should be done in a clean environment, using clean, disposable and unbreakable needles.

According to the NIH or National Institute of Health,  few complications from acupuncture have been reported, but when they are, they usually come from non-licensed acupuncturists using non-sterile needles and delivering treatments improperly.

Does it hurt?

The idea of needles being stuck into the skin can be daunting, but acupuncture needles aren’t anything like needles that are used for immunizations or for drawing blood. Acupuncturists describe the needles as “hair-thin”, and are stainless steel and disposable. 

While you may feel some sensation as the needles are inserted, it should not be painful. If it is tell your practitioner so needles can be adjusted. Other sensations are often experienced during treatment and include:

Heaviness: as if a weight is being placed on the area, but is perceived as calming
Achy: an initial achiness at the site of the needle, which typically dissipates in seconds.
Electric: a quickly disappearing jolt related to the location of an acupuncture pressure point and the nerve that lies underneath it.
• Tingly: acupuncture points can cause tingling at the site and through the body.
• Warm: a pleasant feeling that spreads around the acupuncture point.

What can it treat?

Acupuncture has been used and well documented in Asian cultures for thousands of years. It is an entire medicine, meaning it can and has been used to treat or influence all health conditions. The U.S has only started assessing all the conditions acupuncture can be used to treat. 

The WHO, world health organization has a long list of conditions that acupuncture has been proven to treat. This includes musculoskeletal and internal or soft tissue pain, internal and auto-immune conditions, digestive conditions, reproductive conditions, anxiety, insomnia, addiction, skin condition like acne, respiratory conditions like asthma and more. 

In general, health insurance covers neck pain, back pain, knee arthritis and pain, headache and migraine, and nausea associated with cancer treatment.  

The complete list of conditions the WHO has listed as effectively treated by Acupuncture. 

Respiratory: asthma, post-extubation in children, whooping cough
Ear, nose, and throat, eye and mouth: eye pain, epistaxis (nose bleeds), herpes zoster, Menier’s disease, sore throat, Sjogren syndrome
Gastrointestinal: cholecystitis, cholelithiasis, gastrokinetic disturbance,
 hepatitis B carrier status, ulcerative colitis
• Neurolo-psychiatric: anxiety, Bell’s palsy, depression, facial spasm, neuralgia, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, dementia, schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome
Pain: abdominal pain, cancer pain, earache, fibromyalgia, gouty arthritis, osteoarthritis, radicular pain, spinal pain, pain due to endoscopic examination, stiff neck, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, Tietze syndrome
Skin: acne vulgaris, neurodermatitis, pruritus
• Gynecological/renal: female infertility, female urethral syndrome, hypo-ovarianism, labor pain, overactive bladder, polycystic ovary syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, urinary tract infections
• Male sexual dysfunction: prostatitis, , bladder infections, recurrent lower urinary tract infection, urolithiasis, retention of urine
• Cardiovascular: cardiac neurosis, hyperlipidemia, pain in thromboangiitis, Raynaud’s syndrome
• General: alcohol dependence, competition stress syndrome, craniocerebral injury, diabetes (non-insulin dependent), hemorrhagic fever, obesity, insomnia, lactation deficiency, opium, cocaine and heroin, dependence, post-operative convalescence, tobacco dependence,

Can I use acupuncture along with other modalities to address my conditions?

Acupuncture can be used in congruency with western medicine including medication therapies, as well as pre and post-surgery to help with recovery and healing time. 

Acupuncture works well in congruency with other alternative methods such as physical therapy, therapy, chiropractic, massage, Ayurveda and homeopathy.

How many treatments will I need?

The amount of treatments needed really varies between patients and conditions. Usually a course of treatments (4-6 treatments) at a frequency of 1-2 tx per week is a starting point for most conditions after which a clearer picture of healing time can be assessed. In more acute conditions, this may only take 1-2 treatments. In general, the more chronic the condition, the longer it takes to treat. Noticeable differences in your condition may occur after your first session or may take a whole course of treatment. 

Who is a candidate for Acupuncture treatment?

Acupuncture is useful to treat a wide variety of people with a wide variety of health issues and concerns. Acupuncture is often sought out to address conditions that have not found improvement with or cannot be adequately diagnosed by traditional western medical modalities. This can include chronic pain conditions, stress related health conditions, and internal medicine conditions. Acupuncture has little to no negative side effects, therefore is a safe and often effective choice before using more invasive treatments such as surgery, and long-term medications. 

Do I need to do anything to prepare for treatment?

Generally, it is wise to eat a meal within 4 hours of having a treatment. This is because the relaxing effect of acupuncture treatment can sometimes cause a euphoric sensation. Please do not come to treatments intoxicated. 

What can I expect after the treatment?

Many patients feel very relaxed after treatment, which can sometime be described as a euphoric sensation. On occasion patients can feel soreness in the area where treatment has been performed that can last 1-3 days.  Improvements in the condition you have been treated for may occur right away, or can be felt 2-3 days after treatment. In more chronic conditions, 1-2 courses of treatment, usually 4-6 visits each, may be required before quantifiable improvements are seen. 

What education and licensing are required to become an acupuncturist?

Education in the state of California requires a 4-year Master’s degree in TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine. In the United States, acupuncturists are highly regulated and require licensing through a stringent state or nationally regulated licensing exam.  For your safety, never seek treatment from a person that does not have license.