Acupuncture is an effective form of health care that has evolved into a complete and holistic medical system. Practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine have used this noninvasive medical system to diagnose and help millions of people get well and stay healthy. An acupuncturist will place fine, sterile needles at specific acupoints on the body. This activates the body’s Qi and promotes natural healing by enhancing recuperative power, immunity and physical and emotional health. It also can improve overall function and wellbeing. It is a safe, painless and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical problems. At the core of this ancient medicine is the philosophy that Qi (pronounced “chee”), or Life Energy, flows throughout the body. Qi helps to animate the body and protect it from illness, pain and disease. A person’s health is influenced by the quality, quantity, and balance of Qi. Qi circulates through specific pathways called meridians. There are 14 main meridian pathways throughout the body. Each is connected to specific organs and glands. Meridian pathways are like rivers. Where a river flows, it transports life-giving water that nourishes the land, plants and people. In the same way, meridian pathways transport life giving Qi to nourish and energize every cell, organ, gland, tissue, and muscle. When Qi flows freely throughout the body, one enjoys good physical, mental and emotional well-being. An obstruction of Qi anywhere in the body is like a dam, backing up the flow in one area and restricting it in others. This blockage can hinder the distribution of the nourishment that the body requires to function optimally.
During the initial exam a full health history will be taken. Questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health and lifestyle. Your acupuncturist also may check pulses and your tongue and may conduct a physical exam. This information is then organized to create a complete, accurate and comprehensive diagnosis of where Qi has become blocked or imbalanced. After the interview process, you may receive an acupuncture treatment. Visits with your acupuncturist may last from 30 to 90 minutes. Where the acupuncture needle has been inserted, you may experience vague numbness, heaviness, tingling or dull ache. Sometimes people experience a sensation of energy spreading and moving around the needle. This is called the “Qi sensation.” All these reactions are good and a sign that treatment is working. After treatment, you may feel energized or may experience a deep sense of relaxation and wellbeing.
Number of Treatments
The number of treatments will vary from person to person. Some people experience immediate relief; others may take two weeks to start experiencing results and months to achieve desired results. Chronic conditions usually take longer to resolve than acute ones. Plan on a minimum of a month to see significant changes. Treatment frequently depends on a variety of factors: your constitution, the severity and duration of the problem and the quality and quantity of your Qi. An acupuncturist may suggest one or two treatments per week, monthly visits for health maintenance or seasonal “tune ups”.
Trigger Point Dry Needling is also an effective therapy to treat muscular tension and spasm which commonly accompanies conditions such as arthritis, nerve irritation, muscular strain, ligament strains and herniated discs. It is called “Dry” Needling because there is no solution injected as with a hypodermic needle during a flu shot. With Dry Needling, the needle itself and the effects it produces within the tissue is the treatment.
When an injury occurs from repetitive use or acute trauma, inflammation will be produced from the damaged tissues. The damaged tissues will also go into a protective tension state or contracture to guard against further damage from utilizing the injured tissue. This contracture and inflammation inhibit microcirculation which limits both the oxygen rich blood reaching the injury and the waste products leaving the injury. The injury site becomes hypoxic (decreased in oxygen) which stimulates the body to produce fibroblasts, a cell that produces fibrosis or scar tissue. This fibrosis and scarring builds up around the muscles and tissues limiting the tissues ability to fully function (lengthen/shorten) and can also cause compression and irritation of nerves (such as carpal tunnel syndrome) – all of which inevitably lead to biomechanical disturbances in gait and function.
Dry Needling uses a small, solid filament needle (acupuncture needle) which is inserted in a contracted painful knotted muscle to create a local twitch reflex which is both diagnostic and therapeutic as it is the first step in breaking the pain cycle as research shows will decrease muscle contraction, reduce chemical irritation, improve flexibility and decrease pain. When a needle is inserted into muscle it will also produce a controlled lesion and will cut between three to fifteen thousand individual muscle fibers. The body considers the needle as a foreign invader and will activate the immune system as a response. The cut muscle fibers also produce an inflammatory reaction that your body will respond to not just locally but all over the body to reduce inflammation systemically.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of ailments is acupuncture used to treat?
Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems. The following are some of the more common conditions treatable by Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, as outlined by the WHO.
- Upper Respiratory Tract: Acute sinusitis, acute rhinitis, common cold, acute tonsillitis
- Respiratory System: Acute bronchitis, bronchial asthma (most effective in children and in patients without complicating diseases)
- Disorders of the Eye: Acute conjunctivitis, central retinitis, myopia (in children), cataract (without complications)
- Disorders of the Mouth: Toothache, post-extraction pain, gingivitis, acute and chronic pharyngitis
- Gastrointestinal Disorders: Spasms of esophagus and cardia, hiccough, gastroptosis, acute and chronic gastritis, gastric hyperacidity, chronic duodenal ulcer (pain relief), acute duodenal ulcer (without complications), acute and chronic colitis, acute bacillary dysentery, constipation, diarrhea, paralytic ileus
- Neurological and Musculoskeletal Disorders: Headache and migraine, trigeminal neuralgia, facial palsy (early stage, i.e. within three to six months), pareses following a stroke, peripheral neuropathies, sequelae of poliomyelitis (early stage, i.e., within six months), Meniere’s disease, neurogenic bladder dysfunction, nocturnal enuresis, intercostal neuralgia, cervicobrachial syndrome, “frozen shoulder,” “tennis elbow,” sciatica, low back pain, osteoarthritis
Is acupuncture used to treat any other kinds of ailments?
The most common ailments presented to acupuncturists in the U.S. are pain-related conditions. However, as the public becomes more educated about acupuncture and Oriental medicine, people are seeking help for a number of other conditions, with good results. These include:
- Eye, Ear, Nose & Throat Disorders: Sinusitis, sore throat, hay fever, earache, nerve deafness, ringing in the ears, dizziness, poor eyesight
- Circulatory Disorders: High blood pressure, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis, anemia
- Gastrointestinal Disorders: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), spastic colon, colitis, constipation, diarrhea, food allergies, ulcers, gastritis, abdominal bloating, hemorrhoids
- Gynecological and Genitourinary Disorders: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS); irregular, heavy or painful menstruation; endometriosis; menopause; fibroids; chronic bladder infection; complications in pregnancy; morning sickness; kidney stones; impotence; infertility (men and women); sexual dysfunction
- Immune Disorders: Candida, chronic fatigue, HIV and AIDS, Epstein Barr virus, allergies, lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), hepatitis
- Addictions: Smoking, drugs, alcohol, food
- Emotional and Psychological Disorders: Anxiety, insomnia, depression, stress
- Musculoskeletal and Neurological Disorders: Arthritis, neuralgia, sciatica, back pain, bursitis, tendonitis, stiff neck, Bell’s palsy, trigeminal neuralgia, headaches and migraines, stroke, cerebral palsy, polio, sprains, muscle spasms, shingles
- Respiratory Disorders: Asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, colds and flu
Miscellaneous: Chemotherapy/radiation side effects, diabetes, dermatological disorders, weight control
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture achieves the desired results by stimulating specific points near or on the surface of the skin – acupuncture points – that have the ability to alter biochemical and physiological conditions in the body. Because acupuncture points are designated areas of electrical sensitivity, inserting needles at these points stimulates sensory receptors. This in turn stimulates nerves that transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system in the brain. The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing hormones (thought to be some 200 times more potent than morphine). Endorphins play a significant role in the hormonal system, which is why acupuncture is effective in treating back pain, arthritis, PMS and infertility. The substances released as a result of acupuncture relax the body, and also regulate serotonin in the brain, which affects emotional states. Other physiological effects include increased circulation, decreased inflammation, relief of muscle spasms and increased T-cell count, which supports the immune system.
Western science posits that acupuncture triggers three primary mechanisms in the body:
- Activation of opioid systems: Research has found that several types of pain-reducing opioids may be released into the central nervous system during acupuncture.
- Changes in brain chemistry: Studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by altering the way in which neurotransmitters and neurohormones are released. Acupuncture has also been documented to affect sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes involved in regulating blood pressure, blood flow and body temperature. Modulation of subcortical structures of the brain may be an important mechanism by which acupuncture exerts its complex multisystem effects.
- Changes in blood flow: Acupuncture and Oriental medicine affects the circulation of blood to the affected area, which helps to remove pain-causing chemicals and restore normal function.
How deep do the needles go?
Acupuncture points are located on or close to the skin’s surface, but needles can be inserted from 1/16 to a few inches deep. The depth of insertion depends on the nature of the location and condition being addressed, the patients’ size, age, and constitution, as well as the acupuncturist’s style and training.
Do acupuncture needles hurt?
There is little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles. One reason is that they are much finer than those used for injections and blood tests – 25 to 50 times thinner than hypodermic needles. Further, the actual insertion is done very quickly. While some feel nothing at all, others experience a brief moment of discomfort, sometimes followed by a mild sensation of cramping, tingling or numbness (desirable sensations known as “attaining qi”). The needles are left in place for 20 to 90 minutes. Most people find the experience relaxing, and some even fall asleep during sessions.
Are the needles sterile?
Yes. Licensed acupuncturists are required to be certified in Clean Needle Techniques and only use sterilized, individually packaged, disposable needles. However, it is a good practice to verify your acupuncturist’s clean needle technique prior to attending sessions.
What brand of needles do you use?
Dr. Hoch uses only the finest Seirin brand needles. They cost about twice as much as some other brands but they are well worth it.
Can i get a disease like hepatitis from acupuncture?
No. Every licensed, board certified acupuncturist is trained to prevent the transmission of diseases. Like in a hospital, acupuncturists use only disposable needles, which are used only once on patients and then discarded. While there may have been reported statistics of possible transmission of diseases over 20 years ago, current standards have virtually eliminated any risk of infection through acupuncture.
How much does Acupuncture cost?
Acupuncture is an effective form of health care that has evolved into a complete and holistic medical system. It can improve overall function and well being; and is a safe, painless, and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical problems. Acupuncture is performed by inserting needles into specific acu-points on your body to activate your body’s Qi and promote natural healing by enhancing recuperative power, immunity and physical and emotional health. Most treatments take between 20-30 minutes and costs $75.