A. Acupuncture is an ancient technique in which a skilled practitioner inserts hair-thin needles into specific points on the body to prevent or treat illness. Practiced for more than 2,500 years in China, where it originated, acupuncture is part of the holistic system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This highly effective system of medical care is based on natural laws, which govern the movement of vital life-giving energy, both in nature and in the body. It views health as a constantly changing flow of energy, or qi (pronounced “chee”). When the energy flow is disrupted due to diet, medications, stress, or other medical conditions, pain or illness can result. To address the underlying cause of a condition, these symptoms are viewed in relationship to the totality of the person. The aim of acupuncture is to balance the energy, keep the normal flow of energy unblocked, and maintain or restore health to the body and mind. The gentle insertion of hair-thin needles at specific points along the channels of qi helps restore harmony. In the presence of this subtle yet profound intervention, symptoms often resolve, and patients frequently feel renewed.
Although Western science has not proven nor accepted the notion of qi, a large body of evidence indicates that acupuncture leads to real physiological changes in the body. Numerous studies have shown, for example, that inserting needles into the skin stimulates nerves in the underlying muscles. This stimulation, researchers feel, sends impulses up the spinal cord to a relatively primitive part of the brain known as the limbic system, as well as to the midbrain and the pituitary gland. Somehow that signaling leads to the release of endorphins and monoamines, chemicals that block pain signals in the spinal chord and brain.
In one study, researchers using brain scans discovered that acupuncture could alter blood circulation within the brain, increasing the blood flow to the thalamus, the area of the brain that relays pain and other sensory messages. Hundreds of studies are now ongoing in the United States and elsewhere seeking to prove the usefulness of acupuncture for various ailments.
As the body of research regarding its benefits grows, acupuncture is being widely recognized by and integrated into the mainstream healthcare system. Acupuncture has become one of the newest healthcare professions in the United States.
Q? Does Acupuncture Hurt?
A. Acupuncture needles, unlike hypodermics, are ultra-fine and flexible, thereby permitting a nearly painless insertion. Acupuncturists attain a high level of skill in gently placing these tiny needles, and often the insertion is barely perceptible. You may feel a vague numbness, heaviness or slight tingling. After treatment some people are energized, while others feel very relaxed. Some points are more sensitive than others. Some patients are more sensitive than others.
Fear of acupuncture is mostly psychological. Through our many years of personal experience, we’ve discovered that 99% of our patients feel just fine with acupuncture needles. For those patients who are really afraid of needles, we usually just try one needle to see how the patient feels. Most of these patients are usually very surprised to find out that they are actually OK with needles.
If you find that you are a patient who is truly afraid of needles, don’t worry. We have many other s, or modalities, to use in acupuncture treatment, like cupping or acupressure. These modalities work as well as needles for most kinds of illnesses. We may also recommend that you take herbal products. So, your treatment can be needle-free.
Q? What Problems Can Acupuncture Help?
A. Acupuncture is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world and is used by one-third of the world’s population as a primary healthcare system. It is likely that more people have been treated by Chinese medicine throughout history than by any other formalized system of medicine.
Because of its relatively low cost and its noninvasive nature, acupuncture has become a highly popular form of complementary healthcare in the United States.
Traditionally, acupuncture has been used to treat a wide range of disorders, but its primary use in the United States has been to relieve chronic pain – caused by such ailments as arthritis, headaches, PMS, and back pain – and to assist withdrawal from addictions such as drug and alcohol dependency. Today, both conventional and alternative practitioners are exploring more innovative applications for acupuncture, including its use as an analgesic to reduce pain during surgery.
In 1997, an advisory panel for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) evaluated hundreds of acupuncture studies and concluded that the therapy is an effective treatment for postoperative pain after dental surgery and for nausea induced by chemotherapy, pregnancy (morning sickness), and anesthesia. The NIH panel also called acupuncture a useful adjunct and acceptable treatment for a variety of conditions, including fibromyalgia, stroke rehabilitation, asthma, headache, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Q? How Does Acupuncture Work for Weight Loss?
A. We use acupuncture and herbal products to aid weight loss with very good results. These treatments can help you increase your metabolism, regulate your endocrine system, reduce your appetite, and have smooth bowel movements. All these work together to help you lose weight.
Q? I Have Tried All Kinds of Pain Medication, But None Helped. Can Acupuncture Still Help?
A. Pain medications do not cure the pain. They hide or mask it. This is why most patients with chronic pain have to take pain medications forever. Prolonged taking of these medications can cause many side effects, which can make people’s lives miserable.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are different. They address the pain’s cause. In acupuncture, for many patients, since the cause of the pain is identified and eliminated, the pain can be gone permanently. We have cured pain for many patients and changed their lives.