What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a treatment based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) -- a system of healing that dates back thousands of years. At the heart of Chinese medicine is the notion that a type of life force, or energy, known as qi (pronounced "chee") flows through energy pathways (meridians) in the body. Each meridian corresponds to one organ, or group of organs, that governs particular bodily functions. Achieving the proper flow of qi is thought to create health and wellness. Qi maintains the dynamic balance of yin and yang, which are complementary opposites. According to Chinese medicine, everything in nature has both yin and yang. An imbalance of qi (too much, too little, or blocked flow) causes disease. To restore balance to the qi, an acupuncturist inserts needles at points along the meridians.
Acupuncture literally means 'needle piercing," the practice of inserting very fine needles into the skin to stimulate specific anatomic points in the body (called acupoints or acupuncture points) for therapeutic purposes. The acupuncture points are places where the energy pathway is close to the surface of the skin. By tapping into these energy reservoirs to unblock obstructions and balance Qi where it has become unbalanced, the Qi can then circulate freely throughout the body, providing sufficient oxygen to cells, organs, glands, tissues and muscles. This can eliminate pain and restore balance and harmony, as well as the bodies ability to heal itself -- ultimately leading to optimal health and well-being.
How does it work?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others.
The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being. It is a safe, painless and effective way to treat a wide array of medical problems.
What can I expect during my first visit?
During the initial exam a full health history is taken. Questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health, and lifestyle. You may be asked a wide range of questions about your symptoms, eating, exercise, sleep habits and emotional states just to name a few. Your Acupuncture Physician may also check your pulses and your tongue and may conduct a physical exam. This information is compiled and analyzed to create a complete, differential, and comprehensive diagnosis of where the Qi has become blocked or imbalanced, along with your timeline of care and what types of treatment would best suit you. After the initial consultation and evaluation process is completed, you may receive an acupuncture treatment at that visit. Visits with your Acupuncture Physician may last from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on level of complication and treatment plan designed.
Inserting the Needles
You may experience a vague numbness, tingling, heaviness or dull ache where the Acupuncture needle has been placed. Sometimes people notice a sensation of energy spreading and moving around the needle. This is called the “Qi sensation”. All of the reactions are fine and indicate the Qi is moving and the treatment is working. The sensation caused by the needle itself varies as some people notice a little pain as they are inserted (often described as a slight pinch) to the more typical response of no pain at all. The needles are in fact tiny, just a little larger than a cat’s whisker or a human hair. After the treatment, you may feel either energized or you may experience a sense of relaxation and peace.
What to expect after the treatment
Everyone responds differently to Acupuncture. Some feel more energetic and alert while others feel more calm and relaxed. These are typical responses and generally they last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. You may realize immediate relief for what you were seeking treatment for or it may be a delayed response and take a few more days and/or treatments to take effect. That generally depends on what you are being treated, the severity, complexity and how long you have had it.