Frequently asked questions about Acupuncture, and my answers. Everybody always asks: does it work? how does it work? how many needles do you use? is it safe? And more! Find out the answers to what you’ve been dying to know about the ancient art and science of Acupuncture.
1. Where do the needles get inserted in Acupuncture sessions?
It depends on why you’re being treated, what your signs and symptoms are on the treatment day, and the style and cultivation of the practitioner. Often the locations will change from one session to the next especially if your condition is quickly changing. Common locations include the legs, arms, or hands.
2. How many needles get inserted in an Acupuncture session?
Again depends on above factors, especially the style, school of thought of the practitioner, and their diagnosis. Its generally agreed that the advanced doctor uses less points. You can expect anywhere from one to twenty in an average session, often around nine. In some problems, like shingles for example, you can do a technique where you surround the whole lesion with needles; which dramatically increases the running total of insertions – but this kind of use speaks of a different use of needling which is trying to effect the immediate location, rather than acupuncture to activate an acu-point. Often the needles are left in from 20 to 40 minutes. Some occasions they are immediately withdrawn.
Where are the acupuncture points on the body ?
Over the course of over two thousand years, the Chinese have identified about 400 standard points. Those points lie along different pathways that have come to be called meridians or channels in English. Different segments of the pathways are associated with different organs. In the past three decades, electromagnetic research has confirmed the existence and location of the acu-points. Besides the standard points, there are different lineages that have their own styles so you can say there are at least 1000 specific points. Developments outside of China over the centuries have also added to the total. In clinic, each practitioner develops their own favorite “top 40.”
4. What are the needles like?
They are disposable, one-use, hair-thin, not-hollow, and do not inject anything into you. They are nothing like hypodermic needles you are used to that DO inject things into you. Often you don’t feel much but maybe a pinch from an insertion.
5. How does acupuncture work?
Modern Western medicine doesn’t explain how acupuncture works yet, but we’re getting there! Traditional acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi throughout the meridians. These channels of energy surround and traverse the whole body, much like the blood vessels and nerves. These points have various physiological effects on the body, so when activated they send messages to the body to regulate some function. In this way, the body uses its own abilities to bring itself back in harmony, with a little hint from the practitioner.
6. Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is very safe when done by a licensed professional. These days all licensed acupuncturists are required to use disposable needles which are individually packed and sterile.
7. Is Acupuncture effective? What problems can acupuncture treat?
You bet it is. It is one of the most inexpensive, most powerful ways there are to help you heal. Acupuncture and the medicine it comes from are holistic, they work with your body’s own natural healing processes. Unlike an aspirin which numbs your sense of the pain, skillful acupuncture activates your own body’s mechanisms which eases your pain as a side-effect of the commencement of the healing process. And not just for pain, the correct application of acupuncture can address a huge range of maladies. Acupuncture’s effectiveness has been recognized by the World Health Organization for over 40 common disorders including: ear, nose and throat, respiratory, gastrointestinal, circulatory, urogenital, and gynecological disorders.
8. How many Acupuncture treatments will I need?
A good practitioner will identify the root of your problem and work on fixing it in the most healthful way possible. How long this takes depends on the severity, duration, and nature of your health problems. In very acute conditions, often a single treatment is enough. Many problems are addressed in 8-20 treatments. Long term diseases take longer but results can still be dramatic in a short time. Acupuncture is only one mode of treatment in Traditional Chinese and Oriental Medicines. There is also the dietary and herbology aspects that will go a long way to help chronic complicated issues.
9. Can I stop taking pills and do acupuncture instead?
Its a good idea to get off pharmaceuticals; all their side-effects are guaranteed if you live long enough! But if you’ve been on them for any length of time, you most likely can’t just stop and also shouldn’t. You have to ease off gradually, and at the same time make sure your health problems are really being addressed.
Regardless of the health issue, always talk to your M.D. about your intentions – its not that they know anything about acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it works or helps; but they should be included in your plans for taking control of your health. Some doctors are more open than others. Always remember that if you get in any emergency medical situation with your health problem, they will always first look to see if, from their perspective, you’re taking the appropriate drugs.
There are many cases where correct treatment with Chinese Medicine (which includes acupuncture, herbology, and more) will take away or at least lessen the need for drugs, but you have to make sure you’re getting results before you play with the dose of your prescribed meds.
Some cases are easier to deal with than others. For example, if you have asthma and find that after some time, treatment with Acupuncture/herbs makes it easier for you to breathe, then it makes sense to use the inhaler less. Similarly with blood sugar issues, when you find that your levels are more consistently in the healthy range after starting treatment with Chinese medicine, there will clearly be less need for insulin shots.
Harder cases are in situations like high blood pressure where the medications are masking your problem. Treatment with Chinese Medicine might be making you stronger but you don’t know how to judge whether its really helping the blood pressure situation because the drugs have been keeping your levels in check since before you started treatment with Chinese Med. In this case, you have to look for other signs of the body getting stronger, and work with your M.D., as well as your acupuncturist, to make sure you are easing off meds in a healthful and safe manner.
The great news is that you’d be astounded just how unnecessary so many drugs are IF you ARE getting correct treatment with acupuncture, herbs, and lifestyle changes.
10. Do you have to be Chinese, or believe in it to get benefits?
No, but I believe it helps! The Chinese have a cultural history of validating the energetic aspects of the body-mind, the role of emotions in health, etc… ; therefore its easier for (some of) them to withhold judgement and get consistent treatment, as compared to the average Westerner.
In my own experience, I have noticed that regardless of what you believe, if you are ready to get better, then correct application of the medicine will do wonders. But there are some people who are really convinced nothing will help and are only going through the motions to prove themselves correct – these are the type of people who will ‘try’ acupuncture (once, or maybe three times) and then claim it didn’t work.
What do I mean ‘ready to get better’? Doesn’t everyone who is sick want to get better? Maybe consciously, but sickness always happens for a reason. If that reason is not resolved, you will not be getting better.
Have other questions not covered here in my FAQ about acupuncture? Leave a comment below.