Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medical therapy using very fine, pre-sterilized, disposable needles inserted into the body at specific points, called acupoints. Acupuncture, when performed by a trained Acupuncturist is a very safe procedure.
Traditionally, acupuncture is based on the ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy) through meridians in the body and the balance of Yin and Yang within the body. Meridians transverse the body similar, but not identical, to the nervous and circulatory systems. According to this theory, acupuncture regulates the flow of Qi by directing it to those areas where it is deficient and releasing it from where it is in excess. Yin and Yang are two opposite and co-existing energies which must be in balance in order to achieve or maintain optimal health. Thus, acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious energetic balance of the body. One of the most important concepts in the treatment of the body in Traditional Chinese Medicine is that you cannot treat just the symptoms, but you must treat the root of the problem in order to truly heal the body. Simply put, the root of the problem almost always lies in an imbalance of energies or a blockage of Qi and blood flow.
Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH), and the World Health Organization (WHO), to be effective in the treatment of over 40 different conditions, including:
- Facial Paralysis
- Reproductive Problems
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Shoulder Pain/ Frozen
- Chronic Fatigue
- Common Cold
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Sleep Disorders / Insomnia
- Low Back Pain
- Smoking Cessation
- Digestive Disorders
- Menstrual Irregularities
- Tennis Elbow/Golf elbow
- Emotional Problems
- Eye disorders
- Wrist Pain
It is understandable to be apprehensive about the insertion of needles. Acupuncture needles cause minimal to no pain. They are very different than the hypodermic needles used at the doctor's office to vaccinate or draw blood. Acupuncture needles are hair-thin, sterile and disposable. Nothing is injected into the body from acupuncture needles. You may feel a slight stinging sensation upon insertion of the needles. After insertion, patients often report sensations of tingling, warmth, or heaviness, but rarely pain. Many patients report feeling a sense of deep relaxation or increased energy after a treatment. Sometimes the therapeutic changes are not felt until hours or days after the treatment.
Acupuncture is extremely safe when administered by a qualified and licensed professional. In fact, when practiced correctly, acupuncture is associated with very minimal side-effects and iatrogenic (doctor-caused) diseases. Thin, sterile needles are used and disposed of after each use so there is minimal risk of infection. The needles are inserted into the skin, fat, or muscle layers. They are never inserted into any internal organs or blood vessels.
It is best to arrive 10-15 minutes early to your first appointment so that you can fill out the necessary paperwork before beginning your session. Please allow between ninety minutes to two hours for your first treatment. The session begins with a discussion of your chief complaint and a comprehensive health history. This is followed by an examination of your tongue and pulse, both of which are diagnostic tools used to assess your health condition. Physical examination may also be necessary, which may include palpation of certain areas of the body or certain acupoints. After the consultation, acupuncture and/or other modalities will be administered. Your acupuncturist will discuss with you the treatment protocol and any other recommendations regarding diet, exercise, and/or lifestyle.
The number of treatments varies depending on the severity and duration of the condition as well as the strength and constitution of the patient. In general, acute conditions may take just a few treatments while chronic conditions may take longer to treat. Many patients report feeling changes after one acupuncture treatment, however, it is not uncommon for patients to feel minimal to no changes, or for their conditions to worsen before improvements are seen. Weekly treatments are advised although some acute cases may require 2-3 treatments a week at the beginning of a course of treatment. It is highly encouraged that treatments be regular and consistent in order to achieve optimal results.
Acupuncture has a cumulative effect. Once symptoms improve and overall harmony and balance are reached, treatments are gradually reduced to once every other week and eventually once a month or less to maintain health and prevent reoccurrence. After the completion of your first visit, the recommended length of treatment will be discussed with you.
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points. Often, it may be necessary to remove clothing for the treatment.
- Don’t eat large meals just before or after your visit. However, you should eat a light meal prior to treatment. You should avoid coming to a treatment on an empty stomach.
- Refrain from overexertion or the use of alcohol for up to 24 hours after your first visit.
- After your treatment, avoid stressful situations. Avoid swimming or excessive outdoor activities. Instead, make time to relax.
- Between visits, make notes of any changes in your body that may have occurred. Such as, the alleviation of pain or pain moving to a different area, changes in the frequency and/or type of problem, etc. This information will be important to share with your acupuncturist on your next visit.
What are the other modalities that may be used during a treatment?
- Guasha (skin-scraping)
- Tuina (massage) and acupressure
- Head massage
- Herbal prescriptions
Moxibustion(moxa) involves the burning of the mugwort herb over certain acupuncture points on the body. This is usually accomplished with moxa sticks that are lit and held over the body. Moxa helps to stimulate blood and Qi flow and adds warmth to the body, therefore, it is often used for deficient conditions as well as cold and damp conditions. During a moxa treatment, you will feel warmth on the area being treated but it will not leave any scars as it does not touch the body.
Cupping is the application of glass or plastic cups onto the body creating suction. This helps to stimulate blood and Qi flow, relax the muscles, and relieve pain. It is also effective for expelling external pathogens (ie. wind) which can cause conditions such as the common cold, fever, or stiff neck. Since it creates suction on the skin, it often leaves red or purple marks, much like bruises. However, these marks usually fade within a week.
Guasha is a technique similar to cupping, but instead of creating suction, a guasha tool (a smooth-edged tool made out of plastic, bone, or jade) is scraped along the skin until warmth is felt and redness is seen. Although it may sound and look painful, it is quite the opposite. Patients often feel very relaxed during a guasha treatment.
Tuina is the Chinese name for massage, or more specifically to ``push and pull``. This type of massage uses techniques aimed at stimulating acupoints and meridians
Head massage focuses on the head, face, neck, and shoulders and the acupoints on these areas. It is often used to treat conditions such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, stress, and headaches. However, it is also a useful complement to other forms of treatment because the entire body is reflected on the face, much like reflexology.