Acupuncture is part of a system of medicine that has been in existence for 5,000 years. Its origins are in the shamanistic traditions of China, but it has evolved greatly over time. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into particular locations on the body for the purpose of restoring balance and health to the body, mind, and emotions.
When acupuncture is performed, there is a cascade of events that occur in the body involving the every biological system. There is a nervous system response, lymphatic response, endocrine response, circulatory response, etc. There is a higher electromagnetic frequency at the location of each acupuncture point, so insertion of the needle serves to literally conduct movement of the body’s natural energy. While much of this is not currently understood in terms of western physiology, more is being studied all the time. Research is constantly emerging about the impact of this fascinating science on the whole person.
The purpose of acupuncture and associated modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to correct the flow of qi (pron. “chee”) in order to relieve symptoms and also to attempt to stop the problem completely so that they do not return.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING AN ACUPUNCTURE SESSION?
A typical acupuncture session begins with a thorough evaluation of every aspect of your body, lifestyle, and overall wellness. Your acupuncturist will ask questions about how you are feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally and about your diet, exercise habits, sleep, and medical history. The acupuncturist will then look at your tongue (color, coating, shape, etc) and feel your pulse (rate and other qualities). Using the entire constellation of signs and symptoms, a plan of action will be made. Your acupuncturist will also want to know the dosage and frequency of any medications and supplements you might be taking. Allow for 1 to 1½ hours for your initial visit.
After the evaluation, your acupuncturist will look for the locations where there is imbalance or improper flow of qi. These “points” are located on channels called “meridians” which connect like fabric throughout the body. Treatment is not always in the exact location where you are having the problem. If you have a headache, for example, you might receive treatment in your hand or foot to influence flow to the head. These points may be used repeatedly in subsequent sessions or they may change depending on how you are feeling on the day of treatment, your reaction to the treatment, changes you may have made in your daily life, and even the season!
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE?
Acupuncture sessions by our practitioners are meant to be relaxing and restorative. Many people even fall asleep during the 20-40 minutes that the needles are retained!
Usually, you will feel a very slight pinch with the insertion of the point (though many times nothing at all). After that, you may feel heaviness, itching, warmth, or tingling at the site. Many people don’t feel them at all after a few seconds. Any sensation is fine and normal as long as it is comfortable for you. Make sure to tell your practitioner if something doesn’t feel “right.” It is very important that you feel comfortable during the session since it is partly this serenity that leads to an effective treatment.
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE USED FOR?
Acupuncture can be used to treat just about any condition from acute muscle strain to long-standing, chronic issues. Because your practitioner will be looking at every aspect of you, every symptom is considered important in the whole picture of your constitution.
The list of conditions that can acupuncture can be used for is almost infinite! Although many people have heard about acupuncture being used for pain conditions or fertility, there is so much more it is effective for. The respiratory system, digestive system, integumentary (skin & hair) system, nervous system, circulatory system, endocrine system, musculoskeletal system, immune/lymphatic system, urinary/bowel system, and reproductive system all respond favorably to regular treatment. Please ask your acupuncturist or contact us ahead of time if you have a particular question about your condition.
WHAT OTHER TOOLS TO ACUPUNCTURISTS USE?
In addition to needles, acupuncturists will often incorporate several other tools including:
Moxibustion (Moxa): a therapeutic herb that is burned in the form of a cigar-like stick or small cone to gently warm the acupuncture point. May be used with or without acupuncture needles
Tui Na: Chinese massage (Sometimes referred to as acupressure)
Guasha: gentle skin grazing technique using a Chinese soup spoon or a jade tool to improve circulation. Very helpful for muscle pain; also great for getting rid of a cold before it starts!
Cupping: using suction to adhere small jars onto large muscle groups to improve circulation
Electrostimulation: small alligator clips attached to particular needle sites to boost stimulation of the acupoint
Herbal Liniments: Topical liquid herbal treatments. Usually used for musculoskeletal problems or pain and occasionally for respiratory conditions
Chinese Herbal Medicine: A comprehensive therapy that may be used in conjunction with acupuncture to help with your condition. Herbs are mostly of plant origin, but may be mineral or animal that are combined to produce an effect on the body. Our clinic uses primarily pill/capsule and liquid tincture versions of these formulas
HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO COME?
Acupuncture is a therapy. Most people will feel great after one session, but the issues they are experiencing may not be completely resolved. Most people will need to return for several visits for any given condition. You will usually have a good idea within 3-6 sessions of how you are responding to treatment.
Your acupuncturist will ask you how you feel after each session and also how you responded in the time between sessions. Depending on your body’s response, you may be asked to come 1-2 times per week (occasionally more) for some time and then less frequently for maintenance.
It is also a great idea to visit your acupuncturist seasonally even if you are feeling great to keep your body, mind and emotional self balanced an harmonious.