What is Acupuncture and How is it Used?
Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. The ancient practice, which was developed in China several thousand years ago, has since spread across the globe, and it’s now practiced in both Western and Eastern medicine, especially as a way to relieve symptoms of chronic pain or illness without the use of drugs or surgery. Though the exact mechanisms by which acupuncture works remain unclear, the practice has been shown to help with conditions ranging from arthritis to infertility to asthma and more, often when nothing else will work.
In brief, acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles into certain areas of your body in order to stimulate your qi (your body’s vital energy). In Chinese medicine, diseases are believed to be caused by either an excess or a deficiency of qi. In many cases, acupuncture treatment can help balance your body’s qi. The diagram below shows where most acupoints are located on your body: [diagram]
The Benefits of Acupuncture
There are many benefits of acupuncture, but most people turn to it for relief from pain. If you have chronic back or joint pain, or are experiencing symptoms of a specific medical condition (including allergies and sinus problems), acupuncture can bring real relief. It has also been used to treat depression, insomnia, heart disease, digestive disorders like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances like menopause symptoms (like hot flashes) … in fact, there’s a good chance that if you’re feeling crummy today – acupuncture might help! That’s why more than 14 million Americans visit acupuncturists each year.
Types of Needles
There are three basic types of needles: stainless steel, disposable, and single-use. Stainless steel needles are reusable, but they should be sterilized before each use by either boiling or using a sterilizer. Disposable needles come in a variety of sizes; although they’re one-time use only, they offer cost savings over stainless steel needles. They also come in an array of gauges (thicknesses), which impacts depth of insertion. Single-use acupuncture needles are very fine stainless steel (used to prevent infection). These are packaged individually in sterile pouches that you can keep at home for when you have an itch that needs treating. You can use them once then throw them away; no sterilization required!
Why Might I Need to See an acupuncturist?
Because acupuncture stimulates your body’s self-healing response, you may want to consider seeing an acupuncturist if you are in pain. Acupuncture can treat a number of conditions, such as headaches and back pain, but anyone can benefit from acupuncture. If you struggle with anxiety or stress, an acupuncturist can help relax your body to improve your overall quality of life. After just one treatment, many people feel significantly better. People with autoimmune disorders sometimes use acupuncture to reduce symptoms like joint pain or fatigue. By stimulating specific points on your body through tiny needles, you can actually encourage your own body to produce substances that promote healing; alternatively called self-regulation, it’s known for reducing inflammation.
Finding a professional acupuncturist in my area
Not all acupuncturists are created equal. Anyone can claim to be an acupuncturist — but that doesn’t mean you’ll find success in treatment. If you live in a major metropolitan area, odds are good that there are several acupuncturists practicing somewhere close by; start by asking your primary care physician for recommendations. Additionally, some insurance providers offer coverage for acupuncture, so it might be worth checking with your insurer to see if they have any providers who fit your needs covered under their plan.
My First Visit to an Acupuncturist
I was feeling a little under-the-weather when I made an appointment with Borys. What began as a sore throat had blossomed into an unrelenting cough, which left me feeling incredibly tired all day long. My visit was quick, but he seemed genuinely concerned about my cough and wanted to learn more about its nature. He poked at my lymph nodes while asking me to breathe deeply in order to understand what was happening with my respiratory system. The acupuncture itself didn’t hurt — in fact, I almost felt like he wasn’t even sticking needles into me (though he assured me that he did). In five minutes, it was over; I went home and slept for eight hours straight. A couple of days later, my cold symptoms were gone!
Questions About Treatments from An Acupuncturist
If you’re considering acupuncture for your health, there are some important questions you should ask. Your acupuncturist will answer your questions, like: What happens during an acupuncture session? Do I need to stop taking my current medications prior to treatment or can I continue with them? (Most patients are able to continue their existing medications.)