Acupuncture

acupuncture

Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles in your skin at strategic points on your body. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago, but over the past three decades its popularity has grown significantly within the United States.

Traditional Chinese theory explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.

In contrast, many Western practi tioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body's natural painkillers and increase blood flow.

The risks of acupuncture

The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner. Possible side effects and complications include:

  • Soreness, bleeding or bruising at the needle sites
  • Internal organ injury, particularly to the lungs, if the needles are pushed in too deeply
  • Infectious disease, such as hepatitis, contracted from reused needles

Not everyone is a good candidate for acupuncture or for particular types of acupuncture. Conditions that may increase your risks of complications include:

  • Bleeding disorders. Your chances of bleeding or bruising from the needles increases if you have a bleeding disorder or if you're taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin).
  • Having a pacemaker. Some types of acupuncture involve applying mild electrical pulses to the needles, which can interfere with a pacemaker's operation.
  • Being pregnant. Some types of acupuncture have been known to stimulate labor, which could result in a premature delivery.

What you can expect

Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine.

To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you many questions about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. He or she may also closely examine:

  • The parts of your body that are painful
  • The shape, coating and color of your tongue
  • The color of your face
  • The strength, rhythm and quality of the pulse in your wrist
acupuncture

This initial evaluation may take up to 60 minutes. Subsequent appointments usually take about a half-hour. A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve six to 12 treatments, scheduled over a few months. Several maintenance sessions a year also may be recommended.

Acupuncture points are located in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your acupuncture practitioner will tell you the general location of the planned treatment and if articles of clothing need to be removed. If appropriate, a gown, towel or sheet will be provided to preserve your modesty. After you lie down on a padded table, the treatment begins.

  • Needle insertion. Acupuncture needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes very little discomfort. Between five and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. You may feel a deep, aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth.
  • Needle manipulation. Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after they've been placed. Another option is to apply heat or a mild electric pulses to the needles.
  • Needle removal. In most cases, the needles will remain in place for 15 to 30 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no sensation of discomfort when the needles are removed. Your acupuncture practitioner should discard the needles after removal — reusable needles can spread infection.

After acupuncture, Some people feel relaxed while others feel energized after an acupuncture treatment. But not everyone responds to acupuncture. If your symptoms don't begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for you.

Note: For every "Dr. Wu"appearance on this website and elsewhere, it refers to "Dr. Wu, OMD., L.Ac".