Acupuncture is a healing art based on the laws of nature. It is one of the oldest systems of health care in the world, originating in China over 5,000 years ago. During treatment, very fine metal needles are inserted into specific acupuncture points located just under the surface of the skin. These points are used traditionally to restore balance and harmony to the individual and thus promote healing. Traditional acupuncture takes into account the complexity of each person in body, mind and spirit - that is, as a total, unified being. It is based on Chinese ideas about the order and harmony of the Universe as a whole - the Tao - and the balance of the Five Elements in each person. When we are well, we are in balance inside of us and in relation to the world outside of us. This, according the Chinese, is health. Acupuncture was traditionally used as preventative medicine to correct small imbalances before they became more serious and resulted in pain and dysfunction. Today, we use it both preventatively and curatively for many chronic and functional disorders.
At the core of this ancient medicine is the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”), or the Life Energy, which flows throughout the body in specific pathways called meridians. This Qi animates the body and protects it from illness, providing the energy for all of the internal organs to do their work. A persons health is determined by the quality, quantity and balance of Qi. Meridian pathways flow like rivers inside the body, and each is connected to a specific organ or gland and represents one of the Five Elements. There are 14 major meridians, and each one brings life-giving Qi as nourishment to every cell, organ, gland, tissue and muscle in the body. Any obstruction in the flow of Qi is like a dam on the river - when the Qi becomes backed up in one part of the body, the flow is restricted in other parts. This blockage in the flow of Qi can cut off vital nourishment to parts of the body and prevent waste products from being carried away from others. This disruption in the flow of Qi is the basis for all disease and dysfunction.
Many things can influence the quality, quantity and balance of Qi, among them:
physical and emotional trauma, stress, lack of exercise, overexertion, seasonal changes, poor diet, and accidents. Normally, the body bounces back easily when a blockage occurs, returning to a state of health and well-being. Occasionally, however, this disruption is prolonged or excessive, and illness, pain or disease can set in. When this happens, acupuncture can help to restore the flow of Qi in the meridians by using needles in acupuncture points to unblock the obstruction and balance the Qi.
During the initial session, a full health history is taken. The acupuncturist asks questions about your past illnesses, current symptoms and lifestyle. as well as questions about your work, relationships and goals. A physical exam according to Chinese diagnostic principles is conducted, including diagnosis of your pulses and tongue.
This information enables the practitioner to effectively diagnose and detect the specific imbalances of Qi that may have contributed to a person’s health problems. The practitioner can then create a comprehensive treatment plan.
Once the imbalances of Qi are diagnosed, the practitioner places fine, sterile needles at specific acupoints along one or more of the meridian pathways, which the acupuncturist has determined are the meridians with the primary imbalance. This safe and relatively painless insertion of the needles can unblock the obstruction and balance the qi, so that it can freely circulate again throughout the body. This can eliminate pain and restore balance and harmony, as well as the body’s ability to heal itself. Sometimes the acupuncturist will also add other Chinese treatment techniques like moxibustion, herbs, or gua sha to the acupuncture treatment
The Chinese believe that you have 12 pulse positions on each wrist, felt along the radial artery. Each position is connected to a specific meridian and organ of the body, and the volume and quality of each pulse will reflect the health of each organ. If there are problems, they may be detected on the pulses.
The tongue reflects the general health of the body, and indicates problems in specific organs and meridians. The acupuncturist will look at the color, shape, coating and any cracks on the tongue to determine where the problems are; for example, the tip of the tongue is related to the heart, the sides of the tongue to the liver and gall bladder, and the center of the tongue to the digestive organs.
Some people feel a sharp sensation as the needles are inserted, but once the needles are in place, there is no pain. The needles are tiny, about the thickness of a human hair, so many people feel only a tiny prick at first, and then nothing.
This varies depending on the point; for example, the acupuncturist may insert the needles deeper in fleshier areas of the body, such as the thighs or buttocks. Typically, needles are inserted at depths ranging from 1/8” to 1/2”.
Moxibustion is the traditional use of an herb called mugwort which is burned on the handle of the needle or above the skin. This is used to “warm” the acupuncture points or areas in order to quicken the healing process.
Gua Sha is a technique to release muscle tension, tightness and constriction. A medicated oil is rubbed into the skin, and then a specialized tool is used to gently scrape or rub the skin over the problem area. This technique is not painful but may leave some slight redness that will quickly dissipate. The result feels a bit like a deep massage and can relieve pain and tension in the muscles.
Herbs can be a powerful addition to acupuncture care. They can strengthen, build and support the body between treatments, and can clear the body of excess problems like a cold or fever or inflammatory pain. They can amplify the acupuncture treatments, and speed the healing process.
You may feel a vague numbness, heaviness, tingling or a slight ache where the acupuncture needles have been inserted. Some people experience a sensation of energy spreading or moving around the needle - this is called the “Qi sensation” and is a good sign that the treatment is working. Most of the time, the treatments will make you feel a deep sense of relaxation and well-being.
Acupuncture is extremely safe. It is an all-natural, drug-free therapy, with no side effects except feelings of relaxation and well-being. There is little danger of infection from acupuncture needles because they are sterile, used once, and then discarded.
The number of treatments varies from person to person. Some people feel immediate results, but others may take months to achieve results. Chronic conditions, or conditions that have been experienced for a long time, will take longer to resolve that acute ones. The usual course is to do a minimum of four treatments and then evaluate. The frequency of treatment depends on the severity of the problem and strength of your constitution. An acupuncturist might suggest one or two treatments a week to start, tapering off to once a month or seasonal “tune-ups” for health maintenance.
Initial consultations are a two-hour appointment and cost $100.00. All follow-up treatments are approximately one hour and are $80.00.
Many insurance plans do not cover acupuncture, or only cover it for acupuncturists who are listed on their Provider List. I am currently not listed with any insurance companies. Some patients have been successful being reimbursed through insurance for specific things like car accidents or work-related injuries, or through small, private insurers. Contact your insurance provider to learn what kind of care is covered.
Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems. Here is a list of some of the health concerns that acupuncture has been effective in treating:
Addiction - alcohol, drug, smoking
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome
Low back pain
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Urinary tract infections