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What is acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (a fine, essential substance which nourishes and constructs the body) through distinct channels that cover the body somewhat like the nerves and blood vessels. Pain and disease occur when these channels are blocked and the Qi no longer flows well. According to this theory, acupuncture adjusts the flow of Qi in the body, leading it to areas where it is stuck and/or superabundant. In this way, acupuncture restores the harmonious balance of the body and its parts. In Chinese, there is a saying, “If there is pain, there is no free flow; if there is free flow, there is no pain.” Acupuncture promotes and reestablishes the free flow of Qi.

What conditions can be treated by acupuncture?

Acupuncture can help with a broad range of physical and emotional conditions. Here is a list of a just few health concerns that acupuncture has been effective in treating:

  • Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders: toothache, earache, sinusitis, rhinitis, laryngitis
  • Respiratory Disorders: colds, flu, bronchitis, asthma, allergies, emphysema

  • Gastrointestinal Disorders: food allergies, nausea, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, colitis

  • Circulatory Disorders: hypertension, high cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, angina pectoris

  • Urogenital Disorders: cystitis, stress incontinence, neurogenic bladder, prostatitis, prostatic hypertrophy

  • Gynecological Disorders: menstrual irregularity, endometriosis, PMS, infertility, menopausal syndrome

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders: tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, TMJ, sciatica, low back pain, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia

  • Psycho-emotional and Neurological Disorders: depression, anxiety, insomnia, headache, migraine, trigeminal neuralgia, intercostal neuralgia, post-stroke paralysis, dizziness, tinnitus

Is acupuncture safe?

When acupuncture is performed by a competently trained and licensed professional, it is extremely safe. All licensed acupuncturists today use individually packaged, sterile, disposable needles. There is virtually no chance of infection or contagion.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are typically not much thicker than a hair, and their insertion is practically painless. In some cases, you will not even know the needles are in place. In others, there may be some tingling, warmth, heaviness, or feeling of the Qi moving up and down the channels. Most people find acupuncture extremely relaxing, and some people even fall asleep during the treatment.

How many acupuncture treatments will I need?

The number of treatments depends on the duration, severity, and nature of your complaint. You may need only a single treatment for an acute condition. A series of 5-10 treatments may resolve many chronic problems. Some degenerative conditions may require many treatments over time. To help reduce the number of treatments, your practitioner may suggest dietary modifications, specific exercise programs, relaxation techniques, self-massage, and/or Chinese herbal medicines, all of which may help to increase the efficiency of acupuncture. 

Are there different styles of acupuncture?

Acupuncture started in China but has spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, and many other regions of the world. In different countries, different styles have developed based on differing opinions as to theory and technique. Patients should talk to their practitioner about his/her particular style and learn as much as possible about the treatment being proposed.

What should I know about the proposed treaments?

Your practitioner will explain the nature of your problem in Oriental medical terms and what treatment he/she is recommending. Your practitioner will tell you what benefits and risks there are to the proposed treatment and what other treatment options are available to you through this practitioner or by referral to another practitioner or physician. 

What criteria should I use in choosing an acupuncturist?

Prospective patients should ask about where the practitioner trained and for how long he/she has been in practice, and, most importantly, what experience the practitioner has had in treating your specific ailment. Acupuncture is a licensed and regulated healthcare profession. In addition, National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certifies both acupuncturists and Chinese herbal practitioners. Acupuncturists who have passed the NCCAOM exam are entitled to add Dipl. AC (Diplomate of Acupuncture) after their name. 

Is there anything I need to do before receiving and acupuncture treatment?
The following suggestions will help you get the maximum benefits from your treatment: 
  • Wear loose clothing. Women should not wear one piece dresses nor should they wear stockings. 
  • Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, hungry, full, or emotionally upset.
Is there anything I need to do while receiving acupuncture?

Relax. There is no need to be frightened. Ask your practitioner any question you have along the way so that you can get the most benefit possible from the treatment. Do not change your position or move suddenly. If you are uncomfortable, tell your practitioner.

What can I expect after the acupuncture treatments?

Patients often experience dramatic results in the first treatment. Some patients experience an immediate total or partial relief of their pain or other symptoms. This relief may last or some pain may return. In a few cases, there may be no immediate relief only to notice the pain diminish over the next couple of days. Generally, you should expect to feel better. 

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