What is Acupuncture?
The practice of acupuncture involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles which are then opened by the practitioner by gently moving their hands or by electric stimulation.
Traditional Chinese medicine includes acupuncture as part of its ancient practice. There are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body, and these points are connected by pathways or meridians according to traditional Chinese medicine. Essentially, these pathways create a flow of energy throughout the body that is responsible for overall health. Disruptions in the energy flow can result in disease. It is thought that the application of acupuncture to certain points improves the flow of Qi, thereby improving health.
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What does acupuncture feel like?
The needles used for acupuncture are hair-thin. Most people report feeling little pain as they are inserted. It is inserted into a point that produces a sensation of pressure or ache. An electric current may be applied to the needles during the treatment or they may be heated. Many people report feeling energized after acupuncture treatment. Others report feeling relaxed after a treatment.
The placement of the needle during treatment can cause pain. To prevent infection, needles should be sterilized. The importance of seeking treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner cannot be overstated. Acupuncture needles are regulated by the FDA alongside other medical devices under good manufacturing practices and single-use standards of sterility.
Some acupuncture points are stimulated using other means instead of needles, such as:
- Heat (moxibustion)
- Pressure (acupressure)
- Suction (cupping)
- Impulses of electromagnetic energy
How does acupuncture affect the body?
The central nervous system is believed to be stimulated by acupuncture points. Consequently, the muscles, spinal cord, and brain release chemicals. Physical and emotional well-being can be increased as a result of these biochemical changes.
Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment alone or when combined with conventional therapy for the following conditions:
- Nausea caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer chemotherapy
- Dental pain after surgery
- Menstrual cramps
- Tennis elbow
- Myofascial pain
- Low back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
What conditions does acupuncture treat?
Many health problems can be treated through acupuncture. It is most commonly used to relieve chronic (long-term) pain, including:
- Back pain, neck pain, or muscle pain.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Knee pain.
- Menstrual cramps.
- Sports massage for sports injuries.
There are other conditions that acupuncture may help with, such as:
- Cancer and cancer treatment side effects.
- Face paint and another nerve discomfort.
- Immune system problems.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Menopause and hot flashes.
- Pregnancy discomforts.
- Repetitive strain disorders and overuse syndrome.
Are there different types of acupuncture?
The purpose of traditional/ancient Chinese acupuncture is to direct the flow of qi (pronounced “chee”), or energy, through the body. Some practitioners use western medicine, using needles to stimulate the body’s systems. Some practitioners combine the two approaches.
Another acupuncture treatment for myofascial pain is acupuncture. The condition involves the muscles and their connective tissues. Muscle trigger points – tight, painful knots – form when muscles are stressed, strained, or injured. There is a possibility that a trigger point in one muscle can refer to pain in another part of the body.
Treatment of trigger points by an acupuncturist can alleviate myofascial pain. Acupuncturists stimulate specific points in the body to alleviate the pain.
What happens during treatment?
The first appointment will consist of a consultation about your condition with the acupuncturist. Afterward, the provider will examine your body to determine which areas will react to acupuncture. During acupuncture, the needles are tapped into specific points on the skin throughout the body.
It uses sterile, disposable needles that are as thin as human hair. Various depths of needles are inserted by an acupuncturist, ranging from a fraction of an inch to several inches. Some needles stay in for a few minutes, while others stay in for 20 minutes.
What happens after an acupuncture treatment?
Getting a ride home after your first appointment may be a good idea because acupuncture has a soothing effect. In case that’s not possible, consider resting for five to ten minutes before driving. Following each session, your practitioner may suggest that you take it easy for a day or two.
How often should I get treatments?
Depending on your condition and the severity of it, you may need more or fewer treatments. The average patient will see the doctor once a week. Depending on how long the effects last, others get treatment more or less often. Acupuncturists will suggest a schedule tailored to your needs.
In the first or second treatment, you may not get the full benefits of acupuncture. You should at least try five treatments of acupuncture before you decide whether or not to keep going.
Things to consider
Treatments recommended by your doctor should be used in conjunction with acupuncture.
A primary care physician should be consulted before undergoing acupuncture for chronic pain or any other condition.