What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the five branches of traditional Chinese medicine, which also includes herbalism, nutrition, massage and meditation. It is originally from China and has a history of use for over 3,000 years. Acupuncture needles are extremely thin stainless steel, about the diameter of a few strands of hair. An insertion guide tube is commonly used to assist in quick and painless insertion. Needles are never reused at IAOM. A sensation is often felt once the needle reaches to the level of the body's energy or "qi". The number and placement of needles varies depending upon the condition and the person; they might be placed in the knee even though it is back pain that is the patient's complaint. Needles generally remain in place for a period of 15-45 minutes, again dependent on the person and condition. A sense of relaxation can be expected after an acupuncture treatment. Rather than taking a symptomatic approach to illness, traditional Chinese medicine treats underlying imbalances by stimulating the body's own natural healing ability.
What Does Acupuncture Treat?
Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems. The following are some of the more common conditions treatable by Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, as outlined by the WHO.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Western science posits that there are three main mechanisms for acupuncture’s effects:
1. Activation of opioid systems: Research has found that several types of opioids may be released into the central nervous system during acupuncture treatment, thereby reducing pain.
2. Changes in brain chemistry, sensation, and involuntary body functions: Studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Acupuncture also has been documented to affect the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes whereby a person’s blood pressure, blood flow and body temperature are regulated.
3. Changes in blood flow: Acupuncture and Oriental medicine alters the circulation of blood to the affected area, resulting in removal of pain causing chemicals, and restoring normal function to the area being treated.
Is it safe?
Acupuncturists are required by law to use disposable, one-time-use sterilized needles. Because blood loss and bleeding are minimal with acupuncture, there has been no attempt to require acupuncturists to wear gloves. It is quite reassuring to review the medical literature and not find one documented case where an acupuncturist has transmitted a "personal" infectious disease to a patient or vice versa.
Will it hurt?
There is a sensation when the acupuncture needle is inserted, which most people do not describe as painful. The gauge of the acupuncture needle is 3 times smaller then a hypodermic needle, used for most blood draws. Children have been known to not even notice when an acupuncture needle is inserted. Patients often relax during their acupuncture treatment, many even fall asleep.
How deep do the needles go?
The depth of insertion as well as the angle of insertion, varies depending upon the location of the acupuncture point and the patient's body size. Needle depth may be as shallow as 1/16 of an inch to several inches.
How many needles do you use?
The number of needles varies depending upon condition being treated; we estimate the use of 10 needles per treatment.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments required and the frequency of treatments will vary depending upon your condition and your overall health. Your practitioner can best assess this question after your first appointment. Acupuncture has an accumulative effect, often results are improved for a longer time after each session. A typical series of treatments may be 6 treatments administered once per week, with follow up visits once every two weeks for 1-2 months.