Mary McNeil, Licensed Acupuncturist,
Diplomate of Oriental Medicine
How does acupuncture work?
Human bodies have natural wisdom that is absolutely astounding. Acupuncture provides one means of helping the body tap into this natural wisdom. Classical Chinese medicine encompasses a holistic view of a person in which spirit, mind & body merge together in the form of an energetic system that continuously seeks homeostatic balance. In Chinese medicine, there are 12 primary meridians systems that run along the surface of the skin. These 12 meridian systems are the outward manifestation of internal physiological processes. Illness occurs when the flow of injury becomes blocked or insufficient. The insertion of sterile, single use, hair fine needles into acupuncture points sends a message to the body to resolve imbalances in spirit, mind & body in order to restore the person back to a state of health.
What does acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture treats a wide range of symptoms stemming from various health conditions including pain relief, neurological conditions, mental & emotional health, digestive issues, urinary conditions and female/male reproductive conditions. Pain management is probably the most common condition acupuncture is known to treat. This includes both acute and chronic pain syndromes such as sciatica, carpel tunnel, migraines, low back pain, neuropathy, and fibromyalgia. Acupuncture can also help with such things as infertility, menstrual issues, hormonal and metabolic disorders, sleep issues, mental and behavioral conditions, addiction, allergies, asthma, chronic sinusitis, digestive issues and urinary dysfunction. All in all, this is a short list of conditions that the World Health Organization recognizes as acupuncture being an effect modality to treat and / or alleviate associated symptomology.
What should I expect during a treatment?
New patients should allocate 1 ½ - 2 hours and return patients should allocate 1 hour. At the start of each treatment, there should be an intake process comprised of questions about main health concerns as well as general questions about the state of major physiological systems. For new patients, an extensive health history will also be conducted that reviews current medications, past surgeries and in depth information about the state of all 12 physiological systems of the body. Then, pulses will be taken, and the tongue examined. All these practices help to formulate a diagnosis which helps determine appropriate acupuncture points selections. Sterile, single use, hair fine needles are then inserted, and then you’ll be left alone to relax and enjoy the experience. If appropriate, an adjunct technique may also be used to enhance treatment outcomes.
What are adjunct techniques?
Adjunct techniques are supplemental practices that help accentuate the acupuncture treatment plan. Gua sha, cupping and Tui Na are probably the most common adjunct techniques used. Gua sha involves gliding a smooth edge spoon over tight muscles to help bring blood to those areas in order for the tightness to relax. Fire cupping utilizes glass cups and briefly lit alcohol soaked cotton ball to create a vacuum. The cup is then placed over the area of muscle pain or tightness to help undo any muscle adhesions and relax those areas. Tui Na is Chinese medicine’s version of massage. It also helps relax areas of tightness.
How long before I see results?
This actually depends on a lot of factors including whether the condition is acute or chronic as well as patient compliance to keep appointments and adopt any recommended lifestyle changes. Typically, acute conditions rectify within 1-3 treatments. Chronic conditions are able to see improvement after 1 month of treatment for every year the issue has been chronic.
Do acupuncture needles hurt?
This is a common question for newcomers to acupuncture. It’s understandable, since many associate the word “needle” used in a medical context with the image of a hypodermic needle. The needles used by acupuncturists are extremely thin – about the circumference of a strand of hair. Acupuncture needles are sterile, single use needles. Many people reported experiencing some sort of sensation when the needle is first inserted. From a practitioner’s standpoint, this is a positive sign that the patient’s body is responding to the treatment. The most common descriptions include a dull ache, itching, slight tingling, increased warmth or coolness at insertion site, or a feeling of heaviness around the needle. Typically, these sensations diminish in strength over the duration of the treatment. Some people indicate that the sensation disappears as quickly as it arrived, while others share that certain sensations continue throughout the entire treatment. There are patients that report little to no sensation at all upon needle insertion, but several minutes after all needles are in, these patients comment about feeling a deep sense of relaxation or that they sense their body’s are responding to the treatment. All in all, the range of sensations that people experience upon and after needles insertion are as wide and varied as people themselves! As a general rule, acupuncture treatments should not produce excruciating pain. However, it often produces some type of sensation, which is the body’s way of communicating that it has received the message sent by the needles and is responding in an appropriate manner.
For more information, or to schedule a consult, please call 252-215-9011.