What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is what Americans call Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and consists of:
Probably the most important aspect of TCM is the various schools of thought about the diagnostic techniques used to identify a pattern of imbalance or disease in the patient.
Almost all of these methods follow the same simple two-step methodology: find out which acupuncture channel or organ has an imbalance and then chose acupuncture points and other techniques to re-balance the patient.
This procedure is repeated as often as possible until the patient is recovered. It can take any number of treatments depending on the duration and severity of the problem, and the age, strength and lifestyle of the patient.
How does acupuncture work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of Western medicine. The ancient Chinese recognized the vital energy inherent in all living things. This energy is called Qi (pronounced chee). Over thousands of years of practice, the ancient physicians discovered a system of cyclic energy flowing in the human body along specific pathways called channels or meridians. Each channel is associated with a particular physiological system and internal organ. When the Qi in the pathways becomes obstructed, deficient or excessive, disease occurs. The corresponding organs and muscles do not get their necessary flow of energy and nutrients to properly perform their physiological functions.
The channels communicate with the surface of the body at specific locations called acupuncture points. Needles inserted in these points influence the Qi that flows to internal organs. Acupuncture can also affect specific areas of pain associated with injury or trauma. A needle inserted near the area of overstrained muscle or tendon will adjust the flow of Qi and nutrients to that area, thereby reducing pain and accelerating the healing process.
The acupuncture points have various functions, like stopping pain, stimulating immune function, or resolving phlegm (for coughs or runny noses). There are even points with empirical functions, like treating rashes or constipation. Other points are chosen with regard to location; for example, using points on the shoulder, knee or back to treat pain.
Using a system of pulse and tongue diagnosis, coupled with findings obtained by inquiring about related symptoms and physical exam, the acupuncturist determines the pathology affecting Qi (energy) flow to internal organs, muscles, skin and joints. The acupuncturist will then develop a treatment protocol to resolve the patient's condition.
From western biomedical research, we understand that acupuncture influences a number of physiological functions such as release of endorphins (natural pain killing chemicals) by the brain, restoration of proper circulation in diseased areas, and stimulation of hormonal glands and immune system function. Research into the effects of acupuncture is still young. Scientists discover more information every year that helps us understand more fully how acupuncture works.
Why should I see an acupuncturist?
Most commonly, patients have a condition that does not respond to conventional care. They seek a treatment option that can effectively provide a solution to their healthcare issue without drugs and surgery.
How many acupuncture treatments are needed?
On average between 4 and 12 treatments are performed. The number of treatments you need will depends on the severity and duration of the condition and your lifestyle. The longer you have had it and the more damage you do to yourself the longer it will take to treat.
How often should I come for treatments?
Ideally twice per week for the first two weeks then weekly until the condition is resolved. If you cannot come that often we will do the best we can with the time that you have.
Will I be prescribed Chinese medicinal herbs?
Chinese medicinal herbs are prescribed in most cases. They are not meant to be taken in perpetuity but only for a short time to resolve an imbalance in the patient. The only exceptions would be longevity treatments for the elderly or a chronic life-long problem.
If my condition is resolved should I come back for regular maintenance treatments?
Many patients come back regularly for maintenance after a condition is resolved. Quarterly visits are a good idea. Also patients tend to notice other areas of pain or imbalance after the primary problem goes away.
Are there any side effects?
Practically zero. In 2001, the British Medical Journal (vol. 323, no.7311) published the results of two large-scale studies showing that the benefits of acupuncture far outweigh negative side effects of treatment.
What size are the needles and do they hurt?
The needles are smaller than a human hair and most people hardly feel them. If a person is very sensitive we have needles that are extra small and thin just for them.
What should I do if I have more questions?
Just call or email. We are happy to answer all your questions.