Acupuncture – Frequently Asked Questions
Acupuncture is a natural approach to healing which originates from China and has been practiced there for thousands of years to treat various health conditions. During the second half of the twentieth century acupuncture began to spread rapidly in Western Europe, the United States and Canada. Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through the patient’s skin at specific points on the body and left in place for a period of time before removal. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment or as an adjunct to other therapeutic interventions.
There are two schools of thoughts regarding the mechanisms of acupuncture. The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theoretical framework believes that a vital energy or life force called qi (pronounced “chi”) circulates in the body through a system of pathways called meridians. Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony in the circulation of qi. When there is excess or deficiency of qi along the meridians, illness or disease ensues. Acupuncture seeks to restore balance to the body to promote healing and well-being. The Contemporary Medical Acupuncture approach is based on neuroscience. The scientific explanation of acupuncture is that needling certain points in the body stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the brain, spinal cord and muscles. These chemicals will 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 thereby promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment or as an adjunct to other therapeutic interventions. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of:
- Neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, neck and back pain, sports injuries, sciatica, osteoarthritis, neuritis and facial pain
- Digestive disorders: irritable bowel, constipation, diarrhea and gastritis
- Menstrual and reproductive problems: dysmenorrhea and perimenopausal symptoms
- Urinary tract disorders: prostatitis and bladder dysfunction
- Respiratory problems: sinusitis, asthma, sore throat and recurrent respiratory tract infections
- Stress and psycho-emotional problems
When performed by a trained and licensed practitioner, acupuncture is very safe. Serious side effects are rare. Only single use, sterile, disposable needles are used. The needling of acupuncture needles in general is very comfortable. Many times patients are not even aware that a needle has been inserted. Certain acupuncture points are more sensitive than others due to tissue thickness and degree of blood and nerve supply present at the site. At times needle insertion may elicit some tenderness or discomfort but would quickly resolve within seconds once the needle is in place.
It completely depends on the condition that you’re seeking acupuncture treatment for. An acute tendonitis may resolve within 8-10 sessions whereas frozen shoulder could take months to fully recover. Furthermore some conditions can resolve fully after a course of treatments whereas others require periodic maintenance care to prevent symptoms from reoccurring. Acupuncture is very effective for treating pain but its role in regular wellness care should not be overlooked. Many patients continue to seek acupuncture for overall well-being after their pain have fully resolved.
During a treatment session, very thin solid needles are inserted through the patient’s skin at specific points on the body and left in place for a period of time, 15-30 minutes, before removal. At times the practitioner may attach a small electrical device to one or more needles to aid in treatment.