Tell Me More About Acupuncture. . .

HOW IS IT DONE?

The therapist uses skills in identifying placement of needles to treat particular conditions. The needles are thin and come in varying lengths. The patient feels a mild prickling sensation as the needle pierces the skin. The needle is inserted just a few millimeters until the patient feels an electrical sensation indicating that the needle has connected with the desired energy point. This is crucial to the effectiveness of the treatment.

Once the needle is inserted it is left in place for 10 to 30 minutes depending on the purpose of the treatment. During that time stimulation is applied manually or with a battery operated electronic device. Manual stimulation is done by the therapist gently rotating the needle. Electrical stimulation is an alternative to manual stimulation. The intensity of the stimulation is gradually increased to avoid discomfort. The patient feels a mild vibration that seems soothing. After the prescribed length of time the needle is withdrawn. There is usually no bleeding associated with the procedure. The bleeding that occurs at times is very minimal.

HOW ARE NEEDLES STERILIZED?

Disposable needles are most commonly used. When needles are reused they are sterilized by high pressure steam. It is the same sterilization process used in hospitals for surgical instruments.

HOW MANY TREATMENTS ARE REQUIRED?

The number of treatments needed varies. Generally, long term, severe conditions require more treatments than illnesses where onset was recent. Treatments are spaced at regular intervals. These intervals could be daily, every other day or once a week depending on the nature and severity of the condition being treated.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Chinese medicine is based on the principle of body energy called "chi", which is believed to be the energy of life. This body energy flows freely in the 14 energy pathways in the human body. Any congestion or imbalance of this flow causes illness. Needles placed in strategic energy points work by re-establishing the balance, releasing obstruction of energy flow; thus opening the energy channels.

Western physicians have done studies correlating the influence of acupuncture on the sympathetic nervous system. Studies show that the needles influence the production of endorphins (the body's own pain relievers), hence the relief of pain. Other studies relate acupuncture to the gate control theory where needles work by masking or jamming the sensory stimulus at the spinal cord level and pain is then perceived by the brain as some sensation other than pain.
Scientific research continues to enlarge our understanding of why acupuncture works. While more research is needed, therapists and their patients are convinced by their experiences that acupuncture is effective, including cases where all other methods have failed.

WHICH DISEASES RESPOND BEST TO ACUPUCTURE?

Acupuncture works best in the following situations: pain control, treatment of addictions, weight control, and organ dysfunctions. Examples of conditions that have been treated successfully include allergies, asthma, anxiety and depression, arthritis, tic douloureaux, tinnitus, sexual dysfunctions, hypertension, sinusitis, and gastrointestinal problems. It offers a safe alternative to drugs.

Auricular acupuncture, a technique which involves the application of needles and electrical stimulation on the external ear, offers treatment for drug and nicotine dependencies. Ear points are also used for appetite control, aiding people in a safe way towards weight control.

ARE THERE ANY RISKS OR SIDE EFFECTS?

Unlike drugs, acupuncture does not appear to have adverse side effects because it is a natural healing method. Occasionally minimal bleeding may happen after the needle is removed. Sometimes the patient may feel faint at the start of a treatment but that is just a passing feeling.

Cautious practitioners eliminate risks of puncturing delicate organs by using the appropriate technique and avoiding points that endanger delicate organs. Patients often feel mellow after a treatment because of the release of endorphins. Patients generally feel better, have more creative energy, feel more at peace and in control of their emotions during the course of treatments.

DOES INSURANCE COVER THE COST OF TREATMENTS?

Some health care providers cover the cost of treatment, including Health Partners, the Blue Cross-Blue Shield plan with 3M company and all automobile insurance. Workers Compensation and automobile accident insurance cover the cost of treatment in many states. You must check with your major medical or Health Maintenance Organization company to determine what kind coverage is available to you. Your therapist can explain the process for insurance reimbursement.

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Last Updated November 25, 2004