What is Acupuncture and How Does it Work?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world and is one of many healing modalities used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture treats health conditions by stimulating “acu-points,” found at specific locations and depths in the body. Acu-points can be stimulated by inserting very thin needles into the skin. This produces multiple physiological effects including the promotion of circulation, the reduction of inflammation, and the release of endorphins in the blood.

There are 381 acupuncture points in the body, all of which turn signals on and off in the brain. Each point has a number of functions associated with it and therefore can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions.

According to the general theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, health and wellness depend on the circulation of blood and Qi (pronounced “chee”) through a network of “channels” or “meridians.” Qi is the energy or mechanism that moves blood from one part of the body to another.

Pain and illness occur when the flow of Qi and Blood in the body is disrupted or blocked. This can be caused by many things, including disease, pathogens, trauma/injury, and medication. Overwork, poor diet, emotions, lack of rest, and stress can also disrupt the flow of Qi and Blood. Stimulating the appropriate acu-points helps to restore a sufficient, continuous, and even flow of Qi and Blood throughout the body. This restores health, rebalances the body, and relieves pain and other symptoms. An acupuncturist uses a variety of diagnostic methods to determine which parts of the body are balanced and imbalanced. By rebalancing the body, the acupuncturist is able to address the root cause of all symptoms as well as prevent them from reoccuring.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Unlike hypodermic needles used to draw blood or give injections, acupuncture needles are extremely fine. Generally, acupuncture needles are as fine as a piece of hair and most patients do not even feel them being inserted. One may feel a mild, dull sensation as the needle touches the point, but the sensation differs from pain. Patients sometimes describe the sensation as numbness, tingling, warmth or pressure. They often comment that the feeling is unfamiliar yet pleasant and relaxing.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners and requires that needles are manufactured and labeled according to certain standards. The FDA requires that needles be sterile, nontoxic, and labeled for single use and only be used by qualified and licensed practitioners. In light of the millions of people treated with acupuncture each year, acupuncture is very safe and effective.

How Many Treatments Are Needed?

The number of treatments needed varies from patient to patient. Factors to be considered include the severity of the condition, the amount of time the condition has been present, the general constitution of the patient, and the patient’s lifestyle. Most patients experience a change in their condition after four or five treatments. For chronic conditions, treatments are usually scheduled once a week. For acute conditions, treatments may be twice or three times a week. As the condition improves, visits are usually reduced to once every two weeks, once a month, or as needed.

While Chinese medicine is an internal system of medicine capable of addressing current disorders, it is also a preventative system of medicine. Therefore, it is advisable for patients who are not suffering from any particular illness to come in for periodic check-ups and maintenance. The diagnostic tools of Chinese Medicine can reveal future disorders long before they manifest with visible symptoms.

What Can Acupuncture Treat?

The practice of acupuncture is over 3,000 years old. In the Asian culture, acupuncture and herbs are considered primary forms of medicine. In the last few decades, Oriental medicine has been systematically explored using Western research methods and clinical trials. Chinese and Western scientists have proven that acupuncture increases levels of endorphins. It also enhances the immune system by increasing neutrophils, lymphocytes, and killer T Cells. Because of this, acupuncture is able to treat a range of illnesses. Here are just a few conditions, recognized by the World Health Organization, that can be effectively treated with acupuncture.

Psychological Disorders

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • OCD
  • PTSD
  • Insomnia

Neurological Disorders

  • Headache and Migraine
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Paralysis
  • Peripheral Neuropathy 
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo

Cardiovascular Disorders

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Atrial Fibrillation

Respiratory System Disorders

  • Sinus Infection
  • Sore Throat
  • Common Cold
  • Chronic Cough
  • Tonsillitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Allergies

Musculo-Skeletal Disorders

  • Muscle Pain, Swelling, Stiffness, and Weakness
  • Pain due to Injury
  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Back Pain
  • Sciatica
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Neck Pain
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Golfer’s Elbow
  • Carpal Tunnel
  • Knee Pain
  • Morton’s Neuroma
  • Plantar Fasciitis

Gynecological Disorders

  • Infertility
  • PMS
  • Painful or Irregular menstruation
  • Menopausal syndrome

Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • Irritable Bowel
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Acid reflux
  • Ulcer

In addition, there are many other conditions that acupuncture can treat successfully.