Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that treats patients by insertion and manipulation of needles in the body. It is used to encourage natural healing, reduce/relieve pain, improve mood, and to promote general health.
The general theory of acupuncture is based on the premise that bodily functions are regulated by an energy called “qi,” which flows through the body. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for disease. Acupuncture is a procedure that aims to correct imbalances in the flow of qi by stimulation of anatomical locations on or under the skin (these are the specific acupuncture points, or ‘acupoints’).
The most common mechanism of stimulation of acupuncture points is via penetration of the skin by thin metal needles, which are manipulated manually or by electrical stimulation.
What should I expect during a treatment?
The acupuncture provider will complete a relevant history and physical examination in order to determine which acupuncture points to use (certain conditions or causes of pain require stimulation of certain acupuncture points).
Usually 1-10 needles will be used per treatment, depending on what condition is being treated. The needles used are pre-sterilized and individually wrapped; they are immediately disposed of after one use. The needles are usually left in anywhere from 1 minute to 20 minutes, depending on what condition is being treated.
In some cases, the acupuncture provider may choose to use electrical acupuncture; this consists of attaching alligator clips to a few of the needles in order to increase stimulation to the needle.
How does acupuncture work?
The insertion of acupuncture needles causes a release of endorphins (the ‘feel good’ hormones), which results in a decrease in pain. Acupuncture also exerts its effects by inhibiting the transmission of pain by way of the Gate Control Theory of Pain.
Along with helping to reduce pain, acupuncture also has other various effects such as:
- Increases blood flow, which aids in the reparative healing process
- Causes ‘micro-trauma’ in the area, which stimulates the brain to initiate the healing process (this is important in chronic pain patients)
- Restores proper nerve to brain communication and balances the nervous system
- Recruitment of the body’s own pain reduction system
- Increased release of endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid
What conditions acupuncture can help:
- Low Back Pain
- Neck Pain
- Muscle Pain – Tension/Trigger Points