How Does Acupuncture Work?
There are many theories that suggest how acupuncture might work. Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests that acupuncture promotes the free-flow of Qi, or energy, which creates a balancing and harmonizing effect within the body-mind complex. Modern scientific research has shown acupuncture to have specific biological effects:
- Acupuncture promotes the release of endorphins, which are pain-blocking biochemicals
- Acupuncture influences the cellular matrix of connective tissue
- Functional MRI studies have shown acupuncture to stimulate regions of the brain that correlate to the treated acupoints
- Acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system to move the body into a balanced state known as homeostasis
In my mind, none of the leading theories adequately explain why acupuncture works as effectively as it does for such a wide range of conditions. Hopefully, further research will shed more light on the biological mechanism behind acupuncture’s success.
What Should I Expect at My First Visit?
At your first visit, the acupuncturist will conduct a thorough intake evaluation asking questions specific to your main complaint as well as many questions relevant to your overall health. Based on this initial intake, a diagnosis and treatment strategy will be formulated to specifically address your individual needs. On your first visit, you can expect to receive a 40 to 60 minute acupuncture treatment during your hour and a half visit.
Are Acupuncture Needles Safe? And Do They Hurt?
In my practice, I use only pre-sterilized, pre-packaged and disposable needles. Each needle is used only once and disposed of in a sharps bio-hazard container after use. Acupuncture needles are much thinner than standard hypodermic needles used by phlebotomists. Most needles aren’t much thicker than a couple of human hairs! And many clients hardly feel the needle insertions at all. It is essentially a painless experience, and it is not stressful, even for people who dislike needles.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The number of treatments required is determined by the nature of the complaint, the underlying health of the patient and how the patient responds to treatment. It is best to approach acupuncture like a form of therapy. Some chronic conditions require ongoing treatment, while other conditions may resolve in a matter of 2-3 treatments. Many patients choose to continue treatment on a bi-weekly or monthly basis as part of a self-care routine to prevent illness. This is in keeping with one of the basic tenets of Chinese medicine that prevention is better than a cure.