Acupuncture and Wellness
Dr. Howard Dinner, Acupuncture Certified
Understanding Acupuncture & Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
- What is Acupuncture?
- What is the Scope of Acupuncture?
- How Does Acupuncture Work?
- Does Acupuncture Really Work?
- Do I Have to Believe in Acupuncture?
- How Many Treatments Will I Need?
- What Does Acupuncture Feel Like? Does It Hurt?
- Are There Any Side Effects to Acupuncture Treatments?
- Acupuncture and Scientific Research Studies
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture was developed by the ancient Chinese more than 5000 years ago.
Acupuncture is performed by stimulating designated points on the body through the insertion of small very thin needles.
According to the ancient Chinese, there is a network of energy, called chi or qi, (pronounced chee) that flows through the body and connects acupuncture points through different channels called meridians. Qi can be considered the life force within all living organisms. These channels are related to specific internal functions, and any imbalance in the flow of energy will cause a disease process. Therefore, the purpose of an acupuncture assessments is to detect energy imbalance. Acupuncture assessments are made according to diagnostic categories of energy (qi) flow, as measured by a complete medical history, consultation and examination. Any imbalance of energy detected through these comprehensive assessments is then treated by application of acupuncture at carefully selected points. This stimulation helps restore the human body to normal health.
In its first encounters with acupuncture, Western medicine was understandably suspicious, since explanations of exactly how the procedure works are bound up in seemingly mysterious concepts formulated 3000 years ago. Qi cannot be measured by traditional medical instruments or be observed in an anatomy class. However, in light of recent advancements in understanding the neurophysiology of pain and scientific explanations of how acupuncture relieves it, suspicion is giving way to tolerance and acceptance.
Acupuncture does not offer an instant cure. While frequently there is a noticeable difference in how a person feels after a few treatments, true and lasting healing takes time and repeated treatments.
During the initial evaluation, a thorough health and life history from you and assess your present condition.
Your initial treatment will start by clearing blockages of qi, a procedure necessary for rebuilding the energy balance. Some people feel noticeably better after the first session or after the first few sessions. They may sleep better, feel less pain, or notice an improvement in their moods -- benefits beyond what they had hoped for. Nevertheless, further sessions are needed to balance and stabilize the qi among the ten officials. You can expect to begin noticing changes after about 6 to 10 sessions.
What is the Scope of Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a system which can influence three areas of health care:
Promotion of health and well-being
Prevention of illness
Treatment of various medical conditions.
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in practice it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other medial treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:
Digestive disorders: gastritis and hyperacidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea.
Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections.
Neurological, muscular and skeletal disorders: headaches, migraines, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, TMJ disorders, tennis elbow, various forms of tendonitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia.
Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems.
Acupuncture is also particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions.
Acupuncture has also been proven helpful for substance abuse problems, such as those related to alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, cannibus, etc.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others. The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points- the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the bodys internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The way acupuncture works neurologically is also rapidly becoming apparent, speeding up its acceptance into traditional medicine. Needles used in acupuncture activate small nerve fibers in the muscle, which transmit impulses to the spinal cord and activate centers in the brain and spinal cord releasing a variety of neuro- transmitters. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the bodys own internal regulating system. Pain relief, for example, is mediated by the release of opioid-like substances.
Stimulation by acupuncture is said to remove blockages in the Qi or life force by diffusing the lactic acid and carbon monoxide that accumulates in muscle tissue. These accumulations, or blockages, are believed to cause stagnation of body fluids, which can in turn cause abnormal pressure on nerves, blood, and lymph nodes. Hence, the functioning of the skeletal system and internal organs can also be abnormally affected.
Does Acupuncture Really Work?
Yes. In the past 5,000 years more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia and Europe. It is now being used more and more in America by patients and physicians. Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine and chiropractic adjustments. It is important that we know everything that you are doing, so that we may help you get the most benefit from all your treatments.
Do I Have to Believe in Acupuncture?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the processes that assist them get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral or open attitude ("I don't know if I really believe in this.") will not block the treatment results.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long-standing conditions, treatments 3 times per week initially and then less frequently for several months may be necessary and recommended. For health maintenance, one session once per month may be all that is necessary.
What Does Acupuncture Feel Like? Does It Hurt?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only a brief pricking sensation as the needles are inserted- some people feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling. There is no bleeding involved as the needles are very thin. As the needle begins to work and effects begin to occur, the patient may feel numbness, heat, dull aching or a tingling sensation in the vicinity of the needle insertion.
Generally, the needles are left in place for about 15 to 30 minutes. They may be rotated by the practitioner or stimulated by electricity.
Are There Any Side Effects to Acupuncture Treatments?
Usually there are none. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place.
Most side effects associated with acupuncture are minor and transient. They include occasional dizziness, light-headedness, and very slight bleeding after needles are withdrawn. Infection and other serious side effects are rare, especially with the use of sterile and disposable needles.
It is also quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.
Because we use only sterile, disposable needles, there is almost no risk of infection from the treatments.
Acupuncture and Scientific Research Studies
Findings emerging from both basic science and epidemiological research have been encouraging, since many studies have shown the potential usefulness of acupuncture.
Acupuncture, in one form or another, has been used in the treatment of various aspects of drug and alcohol dependence for at least 3 decades with good empirical results.
Dr. Janet Konefal at the University of Miami School of Medicine completed a study examining the efficacy of adding auricular acupuncture and frequent urine testing to an existing drug abuse counseling program which is part of the Miami-Dade County, FL, criminal justice system.
In this blind trial, three groups were examined: counseling alone, counseling and frequent urine testing, and counseling and frequent urine testing plus acupuncture. Clients in the group receiving acupuncture showed a faster rate of obtaining clean urine samples and a higher rate of being clean over time as compared to a similar group of clients not receiving acupuncture.
Ji-Sheng Han Study
Electrical stimulation, a variation of acupuncture, is used in diverse modes with or in place of other therapies in the treatment of chemical dependence.
Electrical stimulation is presumed to alter activity in the brain through the release of neuropeptides in order to facilitate withdrawal and reduce the rate of relapse.
Dr. Hans studies have shown that electro-acupuncture stimulates the endogenous opioid system, which, in turn, interacts with other endogenous neurotransmitter systems to regulate analgesia and provide pain relief.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Office of Alternative Medicine, AM, Vol. 1, Number 3, January 1994.