Does Acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture does not produce the same feeling as receiving an injection or phlebotomy. Receiving an injection or having blood drawn is performed with a much larger gauge (thicker) needle. Conventional Western medical needles are also hollow, either to draw fluid from the body or to inject a substance into the body which can be painful and uncomfortable. Acupuncture needles are solid, and very small. Due to the many natural chemical reactions that are sparked in the body by acupuncture, including endorphin release, most patients find acupuncture treatment very relaxing and many fall asleep during treatment. This is your body’s energy reorganizing and finding homeostatic balance.
Do the acupuncture needles have medicine on them?
A quick lesson on acupuncture and Chinese medicine: It is based on the premise that the body has the innate potential to heal itself. That means the needles stimulate the body to heal itself. In Chinese medicine, we use modalities like acupuncture, massage, Chinese herbal medicine, cupping and moxabustion to support the body’s transition towards health. There's a lot of theories as to why this works - from the idea that it works by affecting the nerves... to the research suggesting it stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and opiates...to the idea that it calms down inflammation and increases circulation...to the fact that it relaxes knotted muscles...to the idea that it creates micro-traumas thus stimulating the healing response...to the idea that the stainless steel needle acts as a transmitter of the low level electromagnetic energy we have in our bodies, and that the collagen matrix of the skin is the perfect conduction system... to the idea that it stimulates pathways of energy along the body called meridians, or harmonizes chakras, or stimulates qi. Regardless of all those theories, the fact is it has helped many people, which is why its been around so long. Because it works.
How many Acupuncture Treatments do I need? It's just one right?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments build upon one another, so you need to give them some time to work. Success cannot be judged if results aren’t instantaneous. You don’t get into shape after working out for one day, right? Stop looking for a quick fix! Chinese medicine and acupuncture would not be the oldest continually practiced form of medicine in the world if it didn’t work.
Generally speaking, there are 4 criteria that I use to provide you with a realistic prognosis:
- The length of time that the issue has existed. Acute conditions, issues that are less than a month old, tend to respond to treatment sooner than longstanding, chronic complaints.
- Overall health of a patient. Generally, people in better overall health respond faster to treatment.
- Severity of the issue. Milder complaints respond faster than severely debilitating disease processes.
- A willingness to make some changes to your life and/or routine. Illness can be seen as an opportunity to reshuffle things a bit. I recommend lifestyle modifications to enhance the healing process.
I hear Acupuncturists are all the same?
This is like saying all doctors or nurses are the same. To receive the best care in the United States you should seek a practitioner who has been comprehensively trained and has a 3-4 year Masters of Acupuncture or a Masters of Oriental Medicine and is licensed in the state they are practicing in (this means they've passed board exams, been screened by the state, and passed all the state requirements to be awarded an acupuncture license). Generally, the longer they have been practicing, the better they are, because the more cases they have seen. This is true in any profession. I've been practicing 7 years. Also, different clinics offer different types and styles of acupuncture. So a clinic with a business model set up to do fast paced cheap cash treatments is very different from a business model that is full service, slower paced, and may be more expensive. Also, acupuncturists are trained in different styles. So I may practice differently than an acupuncturist trained in a traditional oriental medicine school that practices TCM style, because I use and was trained in 3 styles: TCM, Japanese acupuncture, and Acupuncture Physical Medicine (with trigger point therapy and muscle releases). There's also people who use 5 element style, and many other styles of acupuncture. Each one provides a slightly different treatment.
Isn't Acupuncture folk medicine? Legitimate healthcare professionals would not recommend it, right?.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are recommended by many medical institutions as both a stand-alone and integrative treatment. Both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recognize acupuncture and Chinese medicine as efficacious treatment options for a wide range of conditions. It's even covered now by many insurances.
The WHO recently released the document The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023, a policy statement developed and launched in response to the World Health Assembly resolution on traditional medicine (WHA62.13). The strategy aims to support member states in developing proactive policies and implementing action plans that will strengthen the role traditional medicine plays in keeping populations healthy. Even the United States military uses acupuncture. The Department of Veterans Affair’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center offers veterans care that includes acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
Isn't Acupuncture only for pain relief?
While many patients do seek acupuncture for relief of chronic pain such as arthritis, low back pain, headaches, neck pain and basically any other muscle pain you can think of, the benefits of treatment do not stop there.
The World Health Organization and National Institute of Health recognizes acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine’s ability to treat over 43 common disorders. Studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective treatment alone or in combination with conventional therapies to treat anxiety, depression, stress, addiction, insomnia, allergies, hypertension, asthma, nausea from chemotherapy, infertility, digestion, fibromyalgia and may also help with stroke rehabilitation among many other things.
Frankly, I don’t believe in acupuncture so it won’t work for me. What do you think about that?
Acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system. This releases chemicals such as endorphins into the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These natural painkillers stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities, promoting physical and emotional well-being. So, you don’t need to believe in acupuncture for it to believe in (or work for) you.
I'm worried Acupuncture is dangerous and unregulated.
No one wants to receive any sort of medical treatment in an unsafe environment – and acupuncture is a medical treatment. The FDA regulates acupuncture needles just as it does other medical devices under good manufacturing practices and single-use standards of sterility. Acupuncturists are required to follow clean needle technique, use prepackaged new needles that are never reuse, and to dispose of them in a sharps container for medical waste (the same ones the hospital uses for needles).
Currently, most states plus the District of Columbia require the passage of the NCCAOM examinations as a prerequisite for state licensure (so make sure your acupuncturist is licensed in the state they are practicing in...for example, I'm licensed in NY state). Like any other medical professional, the more time and training your acupuncturist or Practitioner of Oriental Medicine has spent seeing patients, the more experience they might have for your particular concerns.
Do I need to take the next day off work? Will acupuncture have alot of side effects?
Actually, acupuncture has very few side effects. Treatments do affect everyone differently however, so it is generally recommended to take it easy after a treatment. It is also recommended that before having treatment, make sure you have had light meal so you reduce the likelihood of becoming light headed or faint. Sometimes needles in certain acupuncture points can cause a residual ache or even some slight bruising lasting a couple of days after the treatment. This can be soothed with topical ointments or a warm epsom salt bath and drinking water. Sometimes, and this is usually if someone is in really poor health or is having a chronic health problem, sometimes you will feel worse before you get better. But this is more rare, and when it does happen, it's part of the healing process and goes away after a handful of treatments. If you are worried about it, schedule on a saturday so you can rest on sunday. Most people just experience the most common side effects: better sleep, more energy, less stress, mental clarity, and better digestion.