Acupuncture is a Useful Functional Medicine Technique
Living with chronic pain is no way to live life. The good news is that acupuncture is an effective treatment for it. A 2012 study found that acupuncture was able to relieve back and neck pain significantly. Other studies have shown that it can relieve pain in other areas of the body.
ACN Wellness specializes in acupuncture. Dr. Le and his staff deeply believe in the therapeutic effects of acupuncture when it comes to pain relief. ACN has been performing this treatment for many years often in addition to other functional and integrative medicine treatments.
What is Acupuncture?
Very thin needles are inserted into the body at specific places on the body. Where the needles are placed is important, as it is what can stimulate the flow of energy (Qi) throughout the body leading to health and well-being.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of Western medicine. The ancient Chinese recognized the vital energy inherent in all living things. This energy is called Qi (pronounced chee).
Over thousands of years of practice, physicians have discovered a system of cyclic energy flowing in the human body along specific pathways called meridians. Each meridian is associated with a particular physiological system and internal organ.
Just as water flowing through a landscape and tends to seek the path of least resistance, so Qi flows through the body. The flow of Qi follows the folds and creases of the body’s landscape. It follows the divisions between muscles and the clefts between muscles and bones, collecting in the small hollows and depressions of the body to form pools of Qi.
These pools of Qi are places where Qi is concentrated and more accessible. They are the acupuncture points, where Qi can be accessed and manipulated through the use of finger pressure (acupressure), massage techniques (tuina; literally pinch and pull), dermal friction (gua sha), cupping, moxibustion (a form of heat therapy), and, of course, acupuncture.
When the Qi in the pathways becomes obstructed, deficient, excessive, or imbalanced, disease occurs. The meridians communicate with the surface of the body at specific locations called acupuncture points. Needles inserted in these points influence the Qi that flows to internal organs. Acupuncture can also affect specific areas of pain associated with injury or trauma.
A needle inserted near the area of overstrained muscle or tendon will increase the flow of Qi to that area, which reduces pain and accelerates the healing process. Using a system of pulse and tongue diagnosis, along with findings from other signs and symptoms, the flow of the meridian system is determined. A treatment plan is then formulated to help the body to achieve a balanced state of health.
Conditions Acupuncture Can Help
Acupuncture doesn’t treat medical conditions, but it can make dealing with the symptoms easier. Many functional medicine doctors, such as Dr. Le, use acupuncture in addition to other treatments to resolve illnesses and diseases. Some of the conditions acupuncture can help are:
- Periodontal Disease
- Back Problems
- Neck Pain
- Hormonal inbalances
- Respiratory Disorders
To know if acupuncture is right for you, contact ACN Wellness for a consultation with a certified acupuncturist.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Acupuncture is very safe; there have been three surveys in the last six years in the UK which have shown that acupuncture is amongst the safest therapies in use today. Out of 68,000 recorded treatments in two of the 2001 surveys, there were only 14 minor (bruising, feeling nauseous) adverse events. There have been very few reports of serious adverse events, and most adverse effects are transient, lasting no more than a day or so.
The needles used are extremely safe, because they are sterile, individually packaged, and disposable. As a licensed acupuncturist I have had extensive training in anatomy so as to avoid inserting a needle in a place that can cause damage. This clinic only uses sterile, single-use, disposable needles.
Is Acupuncture Painful or does it Hurt?
I am dedicated to making your acupuncture treatment as comfortable as it is effective. Most people barely feel a thing when needles are inserted. Some people feel a slight pinch, similar to a mosquito or gnat bite.
Most patients find the treatments very relaxing and many fall asleep during the treatment. Acupuncture may include a variety of non-needle techniques, such as heat treatment (called moxibustion), cupping, acu-pressure, and herbal applications.
What to Expect at Your First Appointment
During your first office visit, we spend a lot of time getting a complete picture of your health and lifestyle. I examine the condition of your tongue (is it cracked, coated, excessively pink? purple? etc.), and check your pulse on both wrists (the quality of your pulse gives information about possible imbalances). I’ll also ask questions about your emotional state and specific symptoms you may have.
This is done because unlike Western medicine, TCM treats the whole person instead of focusing on the symptoms of your condition. The first visit (with diagnosis) lasts approximately an hour including an acupuncture treatment. Your subsequent visits will be shorter – usually about half an hour long. Well make a brief review of your progress followed by an acupuncture treatment.
Every acupuncturist has a unique style. Most often, practitioners will combine Easter and Western approaches. Each approach can deliver results that will resolve certain symptoms. This is why before acupuncture can be performed, the practitioner will ask patients a series of questions to understand the symptoms and conditions he will be helping with it.
The initial appointment may take up to 60 minutes. This is when you will identify where you’re experiencing pain or discomfort. The practitioner may want to examine your tongue, the color of your face, and the strength and rhythm of your pulse.
Treatment is usually performed once or twice a week. The number of treatments you will receive depends on the condition and desired results. Most patients achieve maximum benefits after six to eight treatments.
During the appointment, you will have the tiny needles places in all areas of your body. Do not worry if you have needles far from where you feel pain – where the needles are inserted will active the area needed to reduce the pain in another area. Some needles may be moved and some may even be twisted.
Following the needling, the practitioner may apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles. This will intensify the results.
Usually, the needles remain in place for ten to twenty minutes before they are removed. Most people are not able to feel the needles being removed.
Most patients feel energized following the session, but not everyone does, so keep that in mind when you experience it the first time. Acupuncture results may not be seen for a few weeks.
How Will I Feel After Acupuncture?
You may feel rather relaxed and calm. If the treatment has been particularly strong you could feel quite tired or drowsy for a few hours, so plan to take it easy after your treatment.
Most patients report they feel energized and a sense of well being afterwards. Occasionally there may be a short-term flair-up of your symptoms as your Qi clears and resettles itself.
Does Acupuncture Work?
Many studies have been performed to show the efficacy of acupuncture. However, it remains unclear how it works. Some researchers believe there’s a balancing of vital energy that occurs with the needling, while others believe the needles inserted into the body leads to a neurological effect. Even though acupuncture may be controversial among Western medical doctors and scientists, what remains clear is that many people have claimed that it helps them.
The only way to truly know if acupuncture will work for you is to experience it. Remember, it may take many sessions because you see the effects of it so be patient and allow your acupuncturist guide you through the treatment.
Risks of Acupuncture
The risks of acupuncture are relatively low. Patients may feel some soreness, minor bleeding, or bruising at insertion sites. Infection is no longer an issue as practitioners are required to use different needles every time.
People who have a bleeding disorder, pacemaker, or are pregnant are not candidates for acupuncture, as there can be complications with the stimulation that occurs.
How Should I Prepare for Acupuncture Therapy?
Before your appointment, there are a few ways you can prepare for it.
- You should be relaxed before your appointment and allow yourself time to enjoy the experience afterward. This means try to schedule your appointment when you don’t have to leave work for it or go back to work immediately afterward.
- Bring a list of your medications and supplements for the practitioner to review before the session. Acupuncture can interact with some medications/supplements.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced meal about two hours before the session. You don’t want to eat too close to the session or eat too much, as that can make the appointment uncomfortable. Not eating can have undesirable effects as well – some people feel faint when they don’t eat beforehand.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages two hours before the appointment because this may increase the body’s fight-or-flight response. This goes against what the acupuncturist is trying to do with the session.
- Wear comfortable clothing to the appointment, so you can relax during it.
If you have any questions about what you should or shouldn’t do before your appointment, be sure to ask your acupuncturist. This should be a pleasant and positive experience.
You should try not to have a large meal within an hour of your appointment as the process of digestion will alter the pattern of your pulse. You should also avoid alcohol and food or drinks which colour your tongue, such as coffee, immediately prior to treatment.
How Many Treatments will I Need?
The number of treatments will depend on the nature of the complaint, its severity, and how long it has been present. Typically acupuncture treatments are given once a week. If the condition is acute and painful, treatments may be needed 2-3 times per week until the condition starts to come under control. On average, a typical course of treatment requires 10-12 treatments over 2-4 months. The exact duration of treatment depends on the condition, your basic level of health, and how well you respond to acupuncture.
Through Traditional Chinese Medicine, a patient will become more aware of his or her own body, thus increasing its ability to maintain well-being. After achieving the results they are looking for, many people come in once every 2-3 months for a seasonal tune-up.
Chinese and Western medicine complement each other and can be integrated to offer optimal health care. In cases where medical circumstances can be dealt with more effectively by Western medicine, I will recommend that you contact a physician.