"Doctor, what's this acupuncture all about?"
*** What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting very fine needs and applying heat and/or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
*** What is MEDICAL Acupuncture?
Medical Acupuncture is a term used to describe Acupuncture performed by a doctor trained and licensed in Western medicine, who has also had thorough training in acupuncture as a specialty practice. Such a doctor can use a combination of both approaches as the need arises, to treat illness.
*** How does Acupuncture work?
The classical explanation is that acupuncture needles "unblock" the obstructions in energy flow and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling at the specific points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain or will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Recent research using Functional MRI of the brain is showing that certain special areas are "stimulated" by the insertion and treatment with acupuncture needles.
*** Does Acupuncture really work?
YES. In the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined.
*** Why is Acupuncture slow to become popular in America?
Mostly ignorance and a resistance to change.
Today, acupuncture is widely practiced in Asia, the former Soviet Union, and in Europe. It has recently become more popular in the USA. On the West Coast, especially, the success of Acupuncture is spreading rapidly.
A brief introduction to Acupuncture is now included in many Medical School curriculums. Most Western medicine physicians haven't had any first hand experience with Acupuncture. Also, Science has been slow to discover a firm mechanistic understanding as to why Acupuncture works. Others acknowledge acupuncture's ability to alleviate pain, but have been skeptical of its ability to actually TREAT a wide range of medical conditions.
Acupuncture, however, can be given at the same time as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments. It is quite complimentary to physical therapy, which mostly treats the "range of motion".
Conventional medical doctors are often faced with patients that they just don't seem to be able to treat successfully. Only recently have some medical doctors been trained additionally as Physician Acupuncturists. Medical doctors can now be more assured that they can refer these "difficult" patients to be in the hands of capable Physician Acupuncture specialists.
*** What is the scope of Medical Acupuncture?
While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner, it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be used to support other medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders, or it can be effective as the only treatment.
The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems. Medical acupuncture can influence three areas of health care - 1. promotion of health and well-being, 2. prevention of illness, 3. treatment of various medical conditions.
*** How many treatments will I need?
In general, one or two treatments per week may be recommended for complex or long-standing conditions. For acute problems, fewer visits are necessary and for health maintenance, four sessions a year may be adequate.
*** Do the needles hurt?
Only minimally, if at all, in most cases using "classical" acupuncture. Many Americans have unfortunately put off pursuing Acupuncture because they fear it would be like their experience with hypodermic needles. Acupuncture needles however have a smooth point and aren't hollow, so they don't have a cutting edge. They are also very thin, so patients feel almost no pain as they are inserted, not much different from when we are "bit" by mosquitos. Once in place, there is no real pain felt. When combined with Heat and/or Electical Stimulation, patients often report a very satisfying sensation. The more successful the treatment, the greater the sensation. These patients are anxious to return for further treatments.
*** Are there any side effects to the treatment?
Usually not. As energy is redirected , internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Occasionally the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination pattern, or emotional state may be triggered. These shouldn't cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work.
*** Do I have to believe in Acupuncture for it to work?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses, and other animals. However, a positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects. A neutral attitude will not block treatment results.
*** Are there any "Do's or Don'ts" on the day of treatment?
Yes. To enhance the value of a treatment you may wish to follow the following guidelines:
Don't eat an usually large meal before or after treatment. Don't over exercise or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hrs. before or after treatment. It is best to get some rest after treatment, especially for the first few visits. Continue to take prescription medicines as directed with your regular doctor and check with your Physician Acupuncturist. Drug and alcohol abuse in the week prior to treatment could reduce the effectiveness of the treatments.
Keep good mental and written notes of your response to the treatment. This way, your doctor can design follow-up treatments that best help you and your problem.