What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique and branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture uses very fine, sterile, single-use stainless steel needles placed in specific locations around the body to manipulate energy. There are acupuncture points all over the body, including the face, scalp and abdomen. Where the practitioner places needles will depend on the patient's signs and symptoms. Other modalities used in treatment can include electrostimulation, gua sha, cupping, moxa, and 7 Star needling. Keep reading for an explanation of those modalities.
What Does Acupuncture Treat?
According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture is proven effective in treating the following-
- Upper Respiratory Tract
- Acute sinusitis
- Acute rhinitis
- Common Cold and Flu
- Acute tonsillitis
- Respiratory System
- Acute bronchitis
- Bronchial asthma (Most effective in children and uncomplicated conditions.)
- Eye Disorders
- Acute conjunctivitis
- Central Retinitis Myopia (in children)
- Cataracts (without complications)
- Mouth Disorders
- Post Extraction Pain
- Acute and Chronic Pharyngitis
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Spasms of esophagus
- Acute and Chronic Gastritis
- Gastric Hyperacidity
- Chronic Duodenal Ulcer (pain relief)
- Acute Duodenal Ulcer (without complications)
- Acute and Chronic Colitis
- Acute Bacillary Dysentery
- Paralytic Ileus
- Neurologic and Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Headache and Migraine
- Trigeminal Neuralgias
- Facial Palsy (early stage, i.e., within 3-6 months)
- Pareses Following a Stroke
- Peripheral Neuropathies
- Sequelae of Poliomyelitis (early stage, i.e., within 6 months)
- Meniere's Disease
- Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction
- Nocturnal Enuresis (bedwetting)
- Intercostal Neuralgia
- Cervicobrachial Syndrome
- Frozen Shoulder
- Tennis Elbow
- Low Back Pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Back and Knee Pain
- Chronic Fatigue
- Sports Injuries and Pains
- Reproductive & Gynecological Conditions
- Premenstrual Syndrome
- Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps)
- Spotting and Excessive Bleeding
- Amenorrhea (Loss of Menstrual Period)
- Mental Emotional Problems
Is Acupuncture Painful?
The acupuncture treatments themselves typically do not hurt. Occasionally, you will feel a pinching sensation as the needles are inserted. With the needles in place, you may feel pressure, tingling, or aching. This is the body's energy, or Qi, responding to the needles, and is a desired response. It is not expected to be uncomfortable or painful. If you do experience pain or discomfort, advise your practitioner, as your needles may need to be adjusted.
Are There Any Side Effects of Acupuncture?
Most people feel very relaxed and energized after an acupuncture treatment. On occasion, you may experience a small bruise, or some slight soreness or tenderness to the touch, where a needle was inserted. If you experience any pain, large bruises, swelling, difficulty breathing, or dizziness after an acupuncture treatment, advise your practitioner or doctor immediately.
Are There Any Reasons I Shouldn't Get Acupuncture Treatment?
There are no contraindications to receiving acupuncture or other TCM treatment modalities. It is best not to eat a large meal just before treatment, or come in with an empty stomach. Some conditions may mean that certain acupuncture points or treatments are cautioned or contraindicated, and your treatment plan will be adjusted accordingly. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, please notify your acupuncture intern immediately. Most acupuncture points are safe to use during pregnancy, but there are a few points that are avoided as a precaution.
What Kind of Training Do Acupuncturists Have?
In the state of California, an "L.Ac." (licensed acupuncturist) means that the practitioner has attended undergraduate education, done a four year masters program in Traditional Chinese Medicine, including training in acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, massage, and eastern mind/body practices. L.Acs are considered Primary Care Physicians in the state of California, and as such, are held to the highest standards of medical professionalism and education. All L.Ac.s have undergone rigorous state board testing in order to achieve licensure, and are required to pursue continued education classes annually. There are also Doctorate and PhD level programs available for acupuncture practitioners.
What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
"TCM" is an ancient and comprehensive approach to treating illness and improving health. Focusing on prevention, and using natural substances and treatments, TCM practitioners support and stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself. In the United States, TCM practitioners receive a thorough education in the use of herbal remedies, nutrition and dietetics, massage, and mind/body wellness practices such as Taiqi and QiGong. The primary goal of treatment is to address the root cause of illness, rather than to simply treat symptoms. The patient is seen as a whole person and the TCM practitioner takes the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual environments into account when diagnosing and developing a treatment plan.
What Is Electrostimulation?
Electrostimulation, or E-stim, uses small electrodes attached to acupuncture needles to send a gentle electrical pulse into the muscle tissue. It is most often used for chronic pain and paralysis. The acupuncturist will insert needles in an area and attach electrodes. You will feel a mild pulsing in time with the electrical impulse. It is not painful or uncomfortable. If you experience pain or discomfort, advise your practitioner, who will adjust the strength of the impulse to a more comfortable setting.
What Is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is a treatment that is used primarily for early cold symptoms or tightness in large muscle groups. This technique involves using a dull-edged device to rub the skin, usually the upper back and neck. It is not painful. With this treatment, you may experience some non-tender bruising that will last 3-10 days.
What Is 7 Star Needling?
7 Star needling is a technique similar to gua sha that uses a specially designed needle with 7 small tips. Like acupuncture needles, these are very fine, small needles. This technique is often used with early stage cold symptoms, trauma, and long-term pain. The clinic intern practitioner will use the 7-star needle to lightly tap on the affected area. There may be bleeding with this modality. Following treatment you may be advised to keep the area covered and avoid windy conditions for a day or two.
What Is Moxibustion?
Moxibustion, or "moxa" is a heating method of treatment using the Chinese herb Mugwort. Moxibustion is used for treating pain, trauma, and certain cold-related injuries or conditions. The mugwort is compressed into a stick that is burned near the body or into small cones that are placed on the body with a protective barrier that prevents burning. Both these methods warm the affected area, providing relief of pain. There is some limited smoke and odor when using moxibustion. Please advise your practitioner if you have asthma or other respiratory conditions, or if you are sensitive to odors.