Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese method of healing, involves the insertion of very fine, sterile needles into particular points of the body known as “acupuncture points.” Chinese medical theory holds that acupuncture works by normalizing the balance of Qi (pronounced chee) – or, vital energy – throughout the body. If your Qi is depleted or obstructed, you may notice symptoms. An acupuncturist finds the root cause of the disease and focuses on treating the imbalance.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture is classically thought to work by influencing the life force – or, Qi – which flows through channels – known as “meridians” – in the body. These channels can be compared to highways. When traffic is moving smoothly, all is well. But, an accident or stagnation can cause all sorts of disruption.
The flow of energy is influenced by the needling of acupuncture points. Acupuncture can unblock obstructions in the body’s meridians, promoting balance in the body. Western thinking and research has demonstrated that the acupuncture needling stimulates a number of positive changes in the body, influencing the body’s homeostatic system or internal regulating system.
What conditions can acupuncture treat?
Patients often ask, “Does acupuncture help treat <insert condition name>?”
The answer is yes! Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help patients dealing with any health concern because the medicine is rooted in treating the whole person. Acupuncture attempts to restore balance within a person, rather than solely focusing on treating a symptom.
This paradigm allows for practitioners to individualize Chinese medicine treatments to each patient. This can be difficult for our Western minds to understand because we desire to have everything explained through a research study. In fact, there are many interesting studies that have been done to help uncover the mechanism of how acupuncture works or to help validate its efficacy. Research demonstrates that acupuncture reduces stress in the body, relaxes muscles, reduces the intensity and perception of chronic pain, promotes circulation, decreases inflammation, and promotes the secretion of hormones that promote a sense of wellness. Because inflammation and stress are at the heart of most disease processes, acupuncture can be helpful for so many different health concerns.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Different people have different sensations, but typically patients feel minimal to no pain when acupuncture needles are inserted. Acupuncture needles are just slightly thicker than a strand of hair. They are solid with a smooth point that makes for a much less painful experience compared to the needles used for drawing blood samples.
During treatment, sensations can include: nothing, tingling, an electrical sensation below or above the needles, or a dull achy sensation. There should never be an intolerable level of pain. And, if that’s the case, the acupuncturist should be informed so they can adjust the needle.
After the needles are removed, there may be a dull achy sensation that shortly resolves.
How safe is acupuncture – Are there side effects?
Acupuncture is an extremely safe treatment. The needles are, sterilize, stainless steel, disposable and used one time only. There are no medications on the acupuncture needles.
When the needles are removed, there may be a small spot of blood. Uncommonly, some experience slight bruising, numbness, or tingling in the area that may last a few days. Other side effects are uncommon.
As energy is being moved in the body and other biological processes are stimulated, an in-body shift can occur. You may experience changes in sleep, appetite, bowel or urinary patterns. Emotions can also be triggered. This type of slight aggravation is not a cause of concern, but usually reflects that the acupuncture treatment is working. Often patients experience deep relaxation during or after treatment, which passes with time and can be overcome with rest.