About Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a technique of using needles or other means to stimulate specific points on the body. It is also a system of health care used throughout the world. Originally developed in China about 5,000 years ago, it is used extensively in China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Russia, and Germany. Acupuncture is now used increasingly in the United States and elsewhere around the world. An estimated 2.5 billion people now use Acupuncture, often along with western medical care. Traditionally Chinese Medicine includes Acupuncture, herbs, exercise, diet and massage. More and more, it is coupled with western medical care and chiropractics.

How does Acupuncture work?

Traditional Chinese Acupuncture focuses primarily on the body as an energy system rather than primarily as a muscular, skeletal or bio-chemical system. When the body’s energy system gets out of balance, illness, disability or pain may occur. Acupuncture stimulates the energy system, which affects the glands, organs and body parts, enabling them to function better and mobilizes the body’s own healing processes. Western research has shown that stimulation of certain Acupuncture points does trigger the flow of endorphins (the body’s own pain relieving system).

How is Acupuncture done?

Acupuncture is the stimulation of certain points on the body. This stimulation can be done with very thin needles (about the size of a human hair). It can also be done with low-level electrical stimulation using the TENS unit (transcutaneous electrical stimulation) with a 3 to 9 volt battery which was developed in the Twin Cities and is now produced by Medtronic, and others, and is used extensively by MDs, PSs, and DCs. Needles and TENS can be used together for strong stimulation. Stimulation can also be done with “moxa” (heat), laser, acupressure, or massage.

What are the Acupuncture Points?

Acupuncture points are generally points on the tertiary nervous system (sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system) and other energy pathways, which in Acupuncture are called “Meridians.” Usually three to twelve pairs of points will be used in a treatment. While there are over 2,000 points, most Acupuncturists use between 150 and 360. The points needing treatment can be found with an electrical ohm meter, a heat sensitive thermometer, with a sensitive touch or observation and experience based upon Acupuncture knowledge.

What can Acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture can be used for hundreds of different conditions. Like western medical care, it is better for some things than for others. Since we have a variety of approaches including physician services, we will work to get the most healthful and effective means of treatment. Results will vary in people, but in general the most commonly treated conditions include:

  • Arthritis 
  • Headaches
  • Stop smoking
  • Chronic pain in joints and muscles
  • High blood pressure
  • Back pain
  • Migraines
  • Facial tics and jaw pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Low energy
  • Neuralgia
  • Depression
  • Stop drinking
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • Numbness in limbs
  • Insomnia
  • Digestive problems
  • Stop drug use
  • Sports injuries
  • Heart problems
  • Anesthesia
  • Allergies
  • Menopause/menstruation problems
  • Colitis
  • Chills
  • Ulcers
  • Meniere’s
  • Liver and bladder problems
  • Circulation problems
  • Sciatica
  • Skin problems

If Acupuncture is not the most effective means to treat the condition, our inter-disciplinary team will be able to help you find the best approach.

Does Acupuncture cure or just give temporary relief?

Most find complete and permanent recovery within five to ten treatments, while some experience immediate relief. Stop smoking treatments usually require two treatments. Where the condition is serious, of long duration, and the person is weak, more treatments may be needed and/or recovery may be only partial. A small percentage does not respond to acupuncture. The success of Acupuncture does not rely upon your “belief” in Acupuncture and skepticism is fine. Acupuncture is used extensively on animals who do not “believe.” You do need to want to get well and your actions are needed in certain lifestyle changes to help the process. Acupuncture helps your body heal itself.

Does Acupuncture hurt?

Most patients do not find it painful but find it relaxing and many doze or sleep once the needles are in. Perhaps 40% find the placement of the needles somewhat uncomfortable, but less than a finger prick and much less than the pain being dispelled. A few sensitive people find it difficult, and elect TENS or acupressure. Some points in real need of treatment are more painful than others. However it is good to remember that the Acupuncture needle is about one tenth the size of a hypodermic needle and about the size of a human hair. Hence, it does not tear the tissue but generally goes between the cells. It bounces off or goes around the larger veins, arteries, and nerves without injury. Most find it a relaxing and restful experience.

Does it interfere with other types of treatments?

Nobody is asked to discontinue other medical treatments without the agreement of your Physician but many can once the treatments are complete. Continue your medications and or treatments, but let us know what else is being done so that we can complement that treatment. Acupuncture does not interfere with other medications. Since many MDs do not have training in this area, you or your MD may want to discuss this with our acupuncturist.

What if you are pregnant?

Acupuncture may relieve many pregnancy discomforts and can even be used in turning the fetus. Many problems can be treated safely during pregnancy but others should be left until after pregnancy.

Be sure to tell us if you are pregnant.

Is Acupuncture dangerous?

Acupuncture is one of the safest forms of medical care as attested by the extremely low malpractice rate. Only two cases of hepatitis in the United States have been reported in 30 years even with thousands of practitioners treating hundreds of thousands of people. In a few cases, symptoms have been aggravated temporarily. It is very safe.

How should I prepare for a treatment and what should I expect?

Treatments will be more effective if you avoid strenuous physical activity, a heavy meal, or a hot bath before or after treatment. A light snack or light meal might be appropriate as you should not be hungry or thirsty. Plan a restful activity for an hour or so after treatment.

After initial intake questions, the practitioner will discuss your problem and appropriate treatment with you. The most experienced traditional Chinese acupuncturist relies very heavily upon visual and touch diagnostic techniques developed over the years such as skin, tongue color, posture, muscle and joint conditions, eye, voice, pulse and other clues. When needles are inserted most can tell when the point is reached by a sensation. You may feel sensations of the energy traveling elsewhere in the body and something happening that is different. If it is painful without benefit tell the acupuncturist. Once in, it should not be too painful and you should be able to relax and enjoy the treatment. After 20 to 40 minutes or when you feel the treatment is complete, the Acupuncturist will come and remove the needles (sometime you can remove them yourself) or disconnect the TENS. Take your time in getting up as some feel weak or faint as they get up. Some will feel the energy and even the pain moving to different points even in the next day as the process works. If you have any questions or unusual sensations after treatment, please, you are asked to call the center. Most will feel a feeling of well being and relaxation after treatment.