Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, this treatment method is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, practitioners in this field believe that your energy flow will re-balance. These points correlate to specific organ systems, emotions or sensations.
In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body’s natural painkillers (endorphins and enkephalins), may override pain signals and when combined with cupping, may tie into reflex pathways for relaxation and reduction of stress (sympathetic down regulation).
If you decide to try it, expect an initial evaluation with the practitioner. Ask what the cost is, if insurance covers it and what to expect. The initial evaluation and treatment may take up to 60 minutes. Subsequent appointments usually take about a half-hour. The number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated and its severity. An adequate trial of acupuncture is usually six to eight treatments.
During the procedure, acupuncture points are situated in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your trained practitioner will tell you the general site of the planned treatment and whether you need to remove any clothing. A gown, towel or sheet will be provided. You lie on a padded table for the treatment.
Acupuncture Treatment Steps:
- Needle insertion. Specific needles are inserted to various depths at strategic points on your body. The needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes little discomfort. People often don’t feel them inserted at all. Between five and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. You may feel a mild aching sensation or a sensation of warmth when a needle reaches the correct depth.
- Needle manipulation. Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after placement, apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles. Cupping may also be used.
- Needle removal. In most cases, the needles remain in place for 10 to 20 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no discomfort when the needles are removed.
Some people feel relaxed and often energized after an acupuncture treatment, sometimes called the “acu-high”, but not everyone responds to this alternative treatment method. If your symptoms don’t begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be right for you.
The benefits of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure, but many people find it helpful as a means to control a variety of painful conditions. Acupuncture has few side effects, so it may be worth a try if you’re having trouble controlling pain or stress with more-conventional methods. I have recommended acupuncture for years and have been treated with it as well.
To read more about acupuncture visit https://www.healthline.com/health/acupuncture-how-does-it-work-scientifically#home-alternatives
Eduardo R Elizondo, MD, CLCP https://charmaustin.com/why-charm/the-charm-team/eduardo-elizondo-md/