- Doctor, what's this
acupuncture all about?
- Treatment Logistics
What is it?
- Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to
promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This
is done by inserting needles and applying heat or
electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture
- How does acupuncture work?
- The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of
energy run in regular patterns through the body and over
its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are
like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and
nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of
these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow
in one part of the body and restricts it in others.
- The meridians can be influenced by needling the
acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the
obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular
flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can
therefore help the body's internal organs to correct
imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy
production activites, and in the circulation of their
energy through the meridians.
- The modern scientific explanation is that needling the
acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to
release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain.
These chemicals will either change the experience of
pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals
and hormones which influence the body's own internal
regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical
balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating
the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting
physical and emotional well-being.
- What is medical
acupuncture? Is it different from
- Acupuncture is a very old medical art, and there are many
approaches to learning and practicing it. Medical
acupuncture is the term used to describe acupuncture
performed by a doctor trained and licensed in Western
medicine who has also had thorough training in
acupuncture as a specialty practice. Such a doctor can
use one or the other approach, or a combination of both
as the need arises, to treat an illness.
- What is the scope of medical acupuncture?
- Medical acupuncture is a system which can influence three
areas of health care:
- - Promotion of health and well-being,
- - Prevention of illness, and
- - Treatment of various medical conditions.
- While acupuncture is often associated with pain control,
in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much
broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the
only treatment used or as the support or adjunct to other
medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical
- The World Health Organization recognizes the use of
acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical
- - Digestive disorders
- - Respiratory disorders
- - Neurological and muscular disorders
- - Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive disorders
- Acupuncture is particularily useful in resolving physical
problems related to tension and stress and emotional
- How many treatments will I need?
- The number of treatments needed
differs from person to person. For complex or
long-standing conditions, one or two treatments a week
for several months may be recommended. For acute
problems, usually fewer visits are required, and for
health maitenance, four sessions a year may be all that
- Are there any side effects to the treatment?
- Usually not. As energy is redirected in the body,
internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and
healing begins to take plave. Occasionally the original
symptons worsen for a few days, or other general changes
in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or
emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause
concern, as they are simply indications that the
acupuncture is starting to work.
- It is quite common with the first one or two treatments
to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild
disorientation immediately following the treatment. These
pass within a short time, and never require anything more
than a bit of rest to overcome.
- What are the needles like? Do they hurt?
- People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most
patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are
inserted; some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are
in place, there is no pain felt.
- Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made
from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow
with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and
insertion through the skin is not as painful as
injections or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and
skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle.
- Because your doctor carefully sterilizes his needles
using the same techniques as for surgical instruments, or
uses disposable needles, there is no risk of infection
from the treatments.
- Does acupuncture really work?
- Yes. In the past 2,000 years, more people have been
successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other
health modaltities combined. Today acupuncture is
practiced widely in Asia, the Soviet Union, and in
Europe. It is now being used more and more in America by
patients and physicians.
- Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time
other techniques are being used, such as conventional
Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic
adjustments, and homeopathic or naturopathic
prescriptions. It is important that your
physician/acupuncturist knows everything you are doing,
so he can help you get the most benefit from all your
- Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to
- No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs,
horses, and other animals. These animal patients do not
understand or believe in the process that helps them get
better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce
the effects of the treatment recieved, just as a negative
attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any
other treatments. A neutral attitude ("I don't know
if I really believe in this.") will not block the
- Are there any "do's and dont's" for me
on the day of treatment?
- Yes. To enhance the value of treatment, the following
guidelines are important:
- Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before
or after your treatment.
- Do not over-exercies or consumer alcoholic beverages
within 6 hours before or after the treatment.
- Plan your activities so that after the treatment you
can get some rest, or at least not have to be working
at top performance. This is especially important for
the first few visits.
- Continue to take any prescription medicines as
directed by your regular doctor. Substance abuse
(drugs and alcohol), especially in the week prior to
treatment, will seriously interfere with the
effectiveness of acupuncture treatments.
- Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what
your response is to the treatments. This is important
for your doctor to know so that the follow-up
treatment can be designed to best help you and your
- Is acupuncture covered by health insurance?
- Some insurance companies currently cover acupuncture
costs, other companies do not yet recognize the value of
acupuncture. Each health policy must be reviewed to
determine acupuncture benefits.
- The AAMA is working to inform insurance companies and the
public in order to standardize payment practices and
accessibility to this type of treatment. You can help be
insisting that your insurance company offer you
reimbursement for medically indicated acupuncture
treatments before you accept their policy.
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