Acupuncture is a medical procedure with ancient roots. The earliest recorded principles and acupuncture theories are dated around 2000 years old, but archaeologists have discovered mummies with tattoos located precisely over points used in modern practice. So how old is acupuncture, really? The world may never know. What truly matters to my patients and me is how can it help today.
What does acupuncture treat?
The short answer is: a lot. Because acupuncture is a holistic medicine, it lends itself to most physical (internal and external) and emotional conditions. Your acupuncturist will assess your main health concerns against the backdrop of your health history from infancy or early childhood, through the present. Diet and habits (good and bad), major life experiences (injuries or illnesses), environments (work or home), emotional health, and age are all considered as factors impacting your overall health.
Given all this information, your provider is able to create a custom treatment as unique as your fingerprint – addressing problems such as: insomnia, anxiety, chronic gastrointestinal complaints, hormonal imbalances, stress, and back or joint pain.
What does acupuncture excel in treating?
PAIN!... Acupuncture has been extensively studied for its efficacy in pain management. Recent meta-analyses and peer-reviewed studies have focused on a comparison of acupuncture outcomes in treating pain versus treatment of pain with medications. Results agree that acupuncture provides significant - if not superior and lasting - relief from physical pain. If you sprained an ankle yesterday or have been managing knee pain for years, you have a strong chance of feeling some relief of symptoms with treatment.
How does acupuncture work?
As we presently understand, acupuncture is a dynamic healing modality. Placement of needles in specific and specialized places (acupoints) causes an endocrine response that changes the way your brain perceives pain in your body. This is partly due to a balancing and correction of homeostasis between your parasympathetic (PNS) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activities. Additionally with treatment, the immune system is activated and supported. When your PNS and SNS are balanced and your immune system is robust, this optimizes the environment that encourages your body’s innate ability to heal.
What should I expect in a treatment?
Your provider will initially gather information about your overall health. Do not be surprised if you are asked about your digestion, elimination habits, sleep habits, and more! Your acupuncturist is trained to see your body as an integrated whole. Even if your visit is focused on pain, your overall state of health will inform your treatment. After discussing your health history and goals for recovery, your provider may feel your pulses and ask to see your tongue (this is not just to make you smile - although we highly encourage smiling!). Again, valuable information about your organ systems is detected in the tongue and pulse.
After your provider makes an assessment, you will be asked to lie or sit in a way that feels comfortable. You will stay like this for 20-40 minutes – so get comfy! The acupoints are located by palpation, so your acupuncturist will gently search for points before placing needles. The most powerful points are found on the arms and legs – but points may be used on either the back or front of your body, your ear, or your scalp. After the needles are placed, you will be encouraged to rest while your body takes over. The idea of resting with needles seems counter intuitive, but most people find this time very relaxing and meditative – so enjoy!
How many treatments do I need?
Frequency of treatment is determined case by case, and greatly depends on your health history and current concerns. In treatment for pain management, results are often felt after 3-6 treatments. Factors like how long you have had the pain, whether it is acute or degenerative in nature, and what you do for work and play will influence your results and determine your treatment plan. Some conditions will resolve quickly, while others will require routine visits to maintain wellness.
In any case, you will be encouraged to use acupuncture as a preventative measure. Returning to treatment before your pain symptoms are severe will encourage less reliance upon medications, create ease so that you can strengthen and protect your body from re-injury, and allow you to enjoy activities that nurture your heart and spirit.