How Acupuncture Works
About Acupuncture: An Introduction
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
You may not even feel the needles at all, some needles go in without causing any sensation. Every point has its own personality, you may feel some of the needles. There may be a slight pinch upon insertion. Once the needle is in, you may feel nothing, or you may feel what is called a “Qi (pronounced Chee) Sensation.” A Qi sensation may be heavy, electric, shooting, warm or tingling. This is a combination of certain nerves being stimulated and blood flowing to the area because the body has detected a needle under the surface of the skin. Qi sensations are normal. In fact, they are a sign of a healthy and functioning nervous system. You should feel a sensation when your body is presented with any stimuli. That being said, people don’t feel most of the needles and that’s ok too, as long as you are seeing results.
How many treatments will it take before I feel better?
It depends on the type, severity and chronicity of the condition. Some new and acute conditions may only take one to three treatments to resolve. Other chronic and degenerative conditions need up to 5 treatments before seeing a significant change and around 10 for maximum benefit, with maintenance treatments every 4-6 weeks after the initial treatment phase.
The initial treatment phase is based upon the patient, their lifestyle, their condition and other therapies. In any condition, you want your first treatments close together in order to get the results you are seeking, just as you would see your physical therapist or chiropractor more often in the beginning of your therapy with your doctor. If you are not receiving other therapies you may have acupuncture twice a week for the first week or so, until you’re feeling better. Then you would decrease to once a week and then every two weeks, then three and four weeks for maintenance as you feel better. If you are receiving other therapies, you may begin your treatment once a week and spread your treatments out from there.
What should I expect during my acupuncture appointment?
Chinese Medicine looks at the body differently than Allopathic Medicine (also known as Biomedicine). Instead of blood tests, X-Rays and MRIs, your acupuncturist will feel your pulse in multiple positions. They will take your heart rate, but they are also looking for qualities in the pulse. They want to know how big or full the blood vessel is. They are feeling for how the pulse hits their hands, and they’ll notate their findings.
Your acupuncturist will also look at your tongue. They will draw and/or write down a description of what they see. The pulse and tongue give your acupuncturist a picture of your health. They can tell if blood and energy are flowing and if there is a sufficient amount of each. They can get a sense of body substances both pathological and physiological.
In addition to tongue and pulse diagnosis, your practitioner may palpate (touch) the painful area and different acupuncture points on your body. They are feeling for knots, depressions and tender spots.
Your acupuncturist may have a lot of questions for you too. They may sound funny at first, but your practitioner just wants to know more about your overall health because it helps them to diagnose and treat you. They may ask about your digestion, appetite, urination, menstruation and libido. The benefit to answering these questions openly and honestly is that these conditions can be improved with your acupuncture treatment!
Your acupuncturist may needle you at the site of pain, or they may not needle the site of pain at all. At NeuroloQi Acupuncture, Desiree Sale LAc tends not to needle directly into the pain. In any case your practitioner will likely needle points nowhere near your pain. Don’t fret, She is listening to you and your complaint. Desiree is simply using points on your body to help you gather the resources you need to heal. Acupuncture points may be selected by their function or based upon their reflexology (how they relate to the part of body that’s ailing you). In order to address the pain “directly” Desiree may use techniques known as Cupping, Gua Sha or Moxibustion to release tight muscles and bring blood into a given area. She may also use topical linaments, creams or a heat lamp for the same effects.
A Brief History and evolution of Acupuncture
Most civilizations around the world used shamanism before any other modality of healing, even before they discovered the medicinal properties of indigenous plants. China is not exempt from this model. Shamanism preceded the use of plants and and animals in Chinese Medicine. Next came massage and the discovery of acupuncture points. Ancient Chinese medical practitioners wanted to stimulate more than two acupuncture points at a time, so they began using needles, in stead of their own two hands, to activate the points. Acupuncture in all its forms is based on ancient Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture’s success and popularity have helped the medicine last over the span of thousands of years and migrate out of China into the rest of Asia, Europe, Australia, North and South America. Over the course of time, each country has made its own contribution to the medicine resulting in many different styles of acupuncture. More styles of acupuncture mean more ways to treat difficult conditions and help you heal!
Acupuncture: The insertion of fine, sterile, single use, disposable, surgical grade stainless steel, malleable needles into the surface of the skin. The purpose is to send a message to the brain to relay a neurochemical response to the body. Depending on where on the body the needle is inserted, it will tell the brain to release neurotransmitters like serotonin, acetylcholine and dopamine, or proteins like GABA to initiate the healing process.
[Fire] Cupping: Fire inserted into a glass cup burns the oxygen of it, the fire is taken out of the cup that is immediately put onto the affected area. Because the cup is lacking oxygen, it pulls up the flesh and musculature up allowing blood and lymph to move through the area and for muscles to relax their contracted state. Cupping is not hot or painful, but it may leave a red or purple bruise.
Gua Sha: Passing a spoon or other tool along the skin rapidly to break up adhesions and loosen tight muscles. Gua Sha will likely leave red or purple bruising as well. Gua Sha does not have to be painful, if you tell your acupuncturist that it hurts, they can use less pressure.
Moxibustion: It literally means heat therapy, but it is in reference to burning dried mugwort on or near the skin to bring blood or energy to a point or area. Moxa, as it is lovingly called, is good for sharp or stabbing pain. It is particularly effective on arthritic pain and digestive conditions like diarrhea and colitis. The heat from the moxa penetrates deeper to the skin than the heat of a heating pad or hot shower.