Although the actual starting date is unknown, acupuncture has been in practice for over 5,000 years. The oldest book about acupuncture is called the Huang Di Nei Jing. It is believed to have been written some where between 305-204 B.C. It became more well know in the United States when James Reston, a journalist, underwent emergency surgery in Chine for acute appendicitis in 1971. The doctors used acupuncture on him after the surgery to lessen his post-operative pain.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture works by inserting very thin needles at particular points on the body for pain relief or for other therapeutic purposes. Inserting and manipulating the needles stimulates the body's Qi (see next paragraph for more Qi information). Through this process the body is able to rebalance itself and begin the healing process. If you would like more information please contact me. You can also read about acupuncture; I recommend using The Web That Has No Weaver by Ted Kaptchuck or Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield.
What is Qi?
Pronounced as Chee, QI has many definitions. It is roughly translated as your body's “life force”. Qi flows through your body using meridians which act as highways for the Qi. The Qi is used in acupuncture to regulate your body. For example, an acupuncturist can tonify/strengthen the Qi in order to do things like invigorate/move the blood is cases where the patient might be having pain due to blood not circulation at a certain place in the body.
Does acupuncture hurt?
There is an initial sensation of the needle penetrating the skin, but an acupuncturist will know how to minimize any discomfort. Some people say they don't feel the needles, even on insertion! Let the acupuncturist know when the needles are in place if you don't feel comfortable. The acupuncturist will either adjust or remove the needle in this case.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is extremely safe when done by a professional. There are some acupuncture points where the needles need to be inserted a certain way. A certified and licensed acupuncturist will know the correct way to do this.
What will the treatment be like?
The beginning of the treatment starts with talking and asking questions. Then the acupuncturist will record vitals and check the patients pulse and look at their tongue. The acupuncturist will use all this information to form an eastern medical diagnosis and treatment plan. After telling the patient the plan the acupuncture will start. After all the needles are in place you will be left to relax and will be checked on regularly. Once removed there maybe talk of herbal supplements or other helpful medical advise.
What are the needles like?
The needles, mostly made of stainless steel, are solid and not much thicker than a strand of hair. They vary in length, but the most common is ½ to 1 inch long. The longer ones are used in areas like the stomach where there is more body fat. The needles are one-use only and are disposed of in special sharp containers. They come wrapped individually and pre-sterilized (usually by ethylene oxide).
Do I have to take off my clothes?
No. The patient, knowing their comfort level, will decide how much clothing to remove and to what level they are exposed. Depending on the treatment plan and what problem the patient is having, they may be asked to wear a gown so that the acupuncturist can get to the proper acupuncture points. There will be towels and/or sheets to cover up if certain areas need to be exposed. As the patient, you determine how far you want to go.
How many treatments will I need?
It varies greatly on the problem the patient is having and what's causing it. Acupuncture is a type of therapy that is very individualized and works differently person to person. Usually the more chronic the problem the more treatments are needed to get the wanted results. For example, if you've experienced knee pain for over 10 years it may require a few months of acupuncture before seeing results. On the other hand, if you have the beginning stages of a small bout of the common cold you may only need one acupuncture treatment to make the cold go away.
What are some other treatment methods?
Acupressure (pressure using fingers on acupuncture points), oil, heat, electric stimulation (using acupuncture needles), herbal therapy, and moxibustion (see herbs/moxibustion page).