What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an essential part of traditional Oriental medicine, a comprehensive system of health care with a continuous clinical history of over 3000 years. Oriental medicine includes acupuncture treatment, Chinese herbology and bodywork, dietary therapy and exercise based on traditional Oriental medicine principles. These therapies work with the natural vital energy inherent within all living things to promote the body’s ability to heal itself. This system of health care is used extensively by one-quarter of the world’s population residing in Asia, and is rapidly growing in popularity in the West.
How does it work?
So what is acupuncture, exactly? Chinese medicine and acupuncture is based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of Western medicine.
The ancient Chinese recognized a vital energy behind all life forms and life processes. They called this energy Qi (pronounced chee). In developing an understanding of the prevention and cure of disease, these healing practitioners discovered that this energy flows along specific pathways called “meridians.” Each pathway is associated with a particular physiological system and internal organ. Disease is considered to arise due to a deficiency or imbalance of energy in the meridians and their associated physiological systems.
Acupuncture points are specific locations along the meridians. Each point has a predictable effect upon the vital energy passing through it. Modern science has been able to measure the electrical charge at these points, thus corroborating the locations of the meridians mapped by the ancients.
Traditional Oriental medicine and acupuncture practitioners use an intricate system of pulse and tongue diagnosis, palpation of points and meridians, medical history and other signs and symptoms to create a composite Oriental medical diagnosis. A treatment plan is then formulated to induce the body to a balanced state of health.
What can I expect?
The acupuncture benefits available are diverse and wide-ranging. Many conditions may be alleviated very rapidly by Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Acupuncture for depression can be a great treatment option. So can acupuncture for arthritis. However, some conditions that have arisen over a course of years will be relieved only by slow, steady progress.
As in any form of healing, the patient’s attitude, diet, determination and lifestyle will affect the outcome of a course of treatment. Many patients have doubt, or at the very least questions, such as how many treatments of acupuncture are needed for anxiety? In all instances, patients are encouraged to actively participate in their healing process.
Although Oriental medicine can treat most conditions, there are circumstances that can be dealt with more effectively by Western medicine. In such cases, your acupuncturist will recommend you contact a Western medical doctor. Acupuncture therapy and Chinese medicine should be seen as complementary to Western medicine.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
In the hands of comprehensively trained acupuncture doctors, your safety is assured. Acupuncture needles are sterile and are either disposable or autoclaved between treatments. If you have a preference, you should discuss the type of needles to be used with your practitioner.
Is Acupuncture Painful?
Acupuncture bears no resemblance to the feeling of receiving an injection, since the main source of pain from injections is the larger diameter, hollow needle and the medication being forced into the tissue by pressure. Acupuncture needles are very fine and flexible, about the diameter of a human hair. In most cases, insertion by a skilled practitioner is performed without discomfort.
You may experience a sense of heaviness or electricity in the area of insertion. Most patients find the treatments very relaxing, and many fall asleep during treatment. In some cases, your practitioner may also recommend herbs or dietary, exercise or lifestyle changes.
The World Health Organization (WHO)
- The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture and traditional Oriental medicine’s ability to treat over 43 common disorders, including:
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as food allergies, peptic ulcer, chronic diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, gastrointestinal weakness, anorexia and gastritis.
- Urogenital disorders, including stress incontinence, urinary tract infections and sexual dysfunction.
- Gynecological disorders, such as irregular, heavy or painful menstruation, infertility in women and men, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Respiratory disorders, such as emphysema, sinusitis, asthma, allergies and bronchitis.
- Disorders of the bones, muscles, joints and nervous system, such as arthritis, migraine headaches, neuralgia, insomnia, dizziness and low back, neck and shoulder pain.
- Circulatory disorders, such as hypertension, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis and anemia.
- Emotional and psychological disorders, including depression and anxiety.
- Addictions, such as alcohol, nicotine and drugs.
- Eye, ear, nose and throat disorders.
- Supportive therapy for other chronic and painful debilitating disorders.
How do I find a Qualified Practitioner?
Oriental medicine is a complex form of medicine that has been practiced in several countries around the world for thousands of years. As a result, there are many valid schools of thought and traditions within the profession.
In order to obtain the best health care, you should seek a practitioner who has been comprehensively trained in acupuncture. Hawaii acupuncture practitioners are becoming more and more common.
Over 40 states have passed statutes or regulations setting standards for the practice of acupuncture by professional acupuncturists and acupuncture doctors. If you live in a regulated state, you should seek a licensed, registered or certified acupuncturist. If you live in an unregulated jurisdiction, it would be best to locate an individual licensed in another state or certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Safe, Effective, Cost-Savings Health Care.
One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions.
Services for naturopathic physicians are covered by no-fault insurance plans, various private insurance companies, and Hawaii workmen’s compensation.
Naturopathic physicians and acupuncture doctors cooperative freely with any licensed doctor in the healing arts profession when it is in the best interest of the patient.
Acupuncture benefits persist when accompanied by a complete naturopathic treatment
A recent article in the Star Advertiser, from Honolulu, Oahu, which claimed that benefits from treatment of acupuncture points are not long-lasting, obscures a crucial difference between conventional medicine and naturopathic medicine. Whereas conventional medicine attempts to resolve isolated symptoms with isolated treatments, naturopathic medicine evaluates the root cause of disease and seeks to heal the whole person for truly long-lasting results. Naturopathic medicine addresses nutrition, digestive and intestinal health, yeast (candida) overgrowth, hormonal balance, chronic stress patterns, energy and fatigue issues, and chronic viral conditions. All of these components work together to determine our state of health, and they must be addressed simultaneously by a doctor who is sensitive to the unique condition of each patient.
Acupuncture treatment is an effective adjunct to naturopathic medicine that supports healthy immunity, relieves chronic pain and improves digestion. In addition, the cited study also found that acupuncture may help relieve symptoms of hay fever. In the conclusion, the researchers noted that results faded after eight weeks of no treatment. However, when acupuncture is accompanied by a complete naturopathic treatment that addresses the root cause of symptoms, the results will be much longer lasting.
It’s encouraging that researchers are testing the many uses of acupuncture. However, Chinese physicians and acupuncture doctors have known for centuries that acupuncture is a powerful treatment with no negative side effects for a variety of conditions. When administered in conjunction with the type of complementary, personalized treatment plan that naturopathic doctors provide, it can result in complete and long-lasting symptom relief, as well as cure.
Acupuncture Frequently Asked Questions
Does acupuncture hurt?
You may feel a slight prick when the needle is inserted, but it is much less than the prick you feel during an injection, since the needles are much thinner. You may feel a heaviness, numbness, tingling or mild soreness after the needles have been inserted. Some acupuncturists insert needles in such a way that there is an electrical shock-like sensation, which is the stimulation of chi. This is not necessary to get the benefits. I have earned a reputation for doing painless treatments. Though effective, I don’t like to have it hurt my patients. In fact, it is so relaxing that most patients fall asleep, feeling well-rested afterward.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Yes. When acupuncture is performed with disposable needles under clean, sterile conditions, and by a qualified practitioner, it is highly unusual to have any complications.
What Are the Advantages of Acupuncture?
One acupuncture benefit is that it is a drug-free way to minimize pain. With drugs, people often develop a tolerance, or the need for an increased dosage to achieve the same required effect. However, this does not happen with acupuncture. In addition, acupuncture allows the doctor to immediately examine a person’s response to the treatment and make adjustments if necessary. In my practice, I use acupuncture for stress relief, insomnia, depression, weight loss, headaches, neck and back pain, ear aches, PCOS, cramps and to promote healthy conception and pregnancy. Personally, I give myself an acupuncture treatment most days after work, before making dinner, going to pick up my children or taking a ballet class. It gives me a second wind and keeps me going for another five hours in a good mood.
Does the Medical Establishment Approve of Acupuncture?
Yes. There are approximately 6,500 licensed acupuncturists in the U.S., and 3,000 doctors who perform acupuncture as part of their medical practices. In addition, the World Health Organization currently recognizes more than 40 medical problems, ranging from allergies to AIDS, which can be helped by acupuncture treatment. Lastly, the FDA regulates acupuncture needles as medical devices.
Will My Health Insurance Policy Cover Acupuncture Treatment?
Some insurance companies will pay for acupuncture treatment. Because each insurance provider has different restrictions, it is best to consult with your provider to determine if your acupuncture therapy will be covered.
How Often Should I Be Treated With Acupuncture?
The number of acupuncture treatments required depends on each person’s condition and response to acupuncture. One session of acupuncture therapy does not usually result in lasting pain relief. According to the literature, at least two sessions a week for four to five weeks is a normal course of treatment. However, I have had patients with chronic insomnia fall asleep on my table, never to need Ambien again. I have had patients one day away from knee surgery cancel their surgeries, and individuals on multiple anti-anxiety medicines get instantaneous relaxation responses. For me, I just love the deep relaxation that my body undergoes during my treatment. Think about it: You really can’t play on your phone or get distracted with your emails. It is like forced down time that feels so good.
Can I Resume My Daily Activities Following a Treatment?
Absolutely YES! And if possible, it is best to bring someone with you on your first acupuncture treatment so that you will have transportation home. This is because acupuncture may have a very calming effect. You may feel overly relaxed after the treatment, and shouldn’t drive. No matter how good you feel after the treatment, it is important not to overextend yourself. You should take it easy for a few days after the treatment. In addition, it is important to go to your session well fed and hydrated, and drink water when you are finished—a good idea anyway!
What is actually happening during the Session?
The insertion of tiny needles provides a “micro trauma” to the area, sending signals to the brain to send fresh blood and lymph fluid to the area, thereby causing a healing to the area being treated. When the insertion is to a distal point on the hands, arms, feet or legs, the organs that correspond to the treated meridian are re-energized and oxygenated, and tissue healing to those vital organs is encouraged.
*Results may vary from person to person
Dr. Diana Joy Ostroff, Licensed Naturopathic Physician & Acupuncturist at The Center for Natural Healing