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What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of treatment that encourages the body to heal itself naturally. It is based on the belief that the human body has its own healing system and the practitioner’s job is simply to support the body’s ability to heal. It involves inserting fine sterile needles along the body’s energy channels. The practitioner may also stimulate the acupuncture points by using other methods such as heat or electrical simulation at very precise acupuncture points. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
In traditional Chinese medicine, disease is caused by disruptions to the flow of energy, or qi, in the body. The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others.
The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is a system which can influence three areas of health care:
• Promotion of health and well-being,
• Prevention of illness,
• Treatment of various medical conditions.
While acupuncture a great form of drug free pain relief, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders. The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems. See the complete list at the end of this section below.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
Patient visits are usually scheduled three times a week for the first week. Typically, after assessing the patient’s progress the first week, the treatment frequency can be reduced from there. Although two or three visits each week are not uncommon, the number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For example, complex or long-standing conditions require fewer treatments per week but last for several months. Acute problems require fewer visits overall but are more frequent initially.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO THE TREATMENT?
Usually not. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Occasionally the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work. It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.
WHAT ARE THE NEEDLES LIKE? DO THEY HURT?
Very rarely will a patient report feeling any pain. Most are pleasantly surprised because their expectation is that it will feel similar to medical shots that they have felt in the past. This is not the case because the acupuncture needle is so much different then medical needles.
Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) so the insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a medical needle and because your doctor uses disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE REALLY WORK?
Yes. In the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia, the Soviet Union, and in Europe. It is now being used more and more in America by patients and physicians. Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments, and homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions. It is important that your physician-acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so he or she can help you get the most benefit from all your treatments.
Do You Have To Believe In Acupuncture For It To Work?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude ("I don't know if I really believe in this.") will not block the treatment results. As acupuncturists, we meet patients where they are. We strive to provide a positive environment for healing to happen.
Are There Any “Do’s And Don’ts” For Me On The Day Of A Treatment?
Yes. To enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:
• Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after your treatment.
• Do not over-exercise, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hours before or after the treatment.
• Plan your activities so that after the treatment you can get some rest, or at least not have to be working at top performance. This is especially important for the first few visits.
• Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) especially in the week prior to treatment, will seriously interfere with the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments.
• Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment. This is important for your doctor to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem
Is Acupuncture Covered By Health Insurance?
Most insurance plans do not cover acupuncture yet. However, some policies are beginning to include acupuncture because of it's cost effectiveness as a treatment.
Doctor, can acupuncture help my condition?
The best answer will come from an experienced practitioner. The practitioner, based on your medical history, condition, and what other treatments you have been or are receiving, can best help you decide whether acupuncture is suitable by itself or as adjunctive therapy.
I generally tell patients that if their treatment, according to a Western diagnosis with options, isn’t resolving the problem, is quite expensive, or has significant side effects/hassles associated with it, then clearly acupuncture is worth a try. I include the Western diagnosis criteria because I think, as just an example; it is ridiculous to treat someone’s dizziness with acupuncture if what they need is to have excessive wax cleaned out from their ear canals. On the other hand, if one is having difficulty controlling or improving ones asthma with Western treatments, a trial of acupuncture makes utmost sense.
Conditions Recommended for Acupuncture by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.)
• Acute sinusitis
• Acute rhinitis
• Common cold
• Acute tonsillitis
• Acute bronchitis
• Bronchial asthma
• Acute conjunctivitis
• Cataract (without complications)
• Central retinitis
Disorders of the Mouth Cavity
• Pain after tooth extraction
• Periarthritis humeroscapularis
• Tennis elbow
• Low back pain
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Spasm of the esophagus and cardia
• Acute and chronic gastritis
• Gastric hyperacidity
• Chronic duodenal ulcer
• Acute and chronic colitis
• Acute bacterial dysentery
• Paralytic ileus
• Trigeminal neuralgia
• Facial paralysis
• Paralysis after apoplectic fit
• Peripheral neuropathy
• Paralysis caused by poliomyelitis
• Meniere's syndrome
• Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
• Nocturnal enuresis
• Intercostal neuralgia