What is Acupuncture and How Does It Work

What is Acupuncture and how can it help me?

Oriental medicine, including acupuncture, works on the premise of putting back in sync how the body’s energy or Qi flows through the system. When the body’s natural flow of energy is not fluid but is disrupted by imbalance caused by any number of reasons, the body stops working the way it was meant to. In the case of acupuncture, the flow is restored with the use of thin needles along the meridians or pathways of the body where the energy is supposed to be free-flowing. Where there is any disruption, the gentle stimulation corrects the flow’s imbalance. The restored harmony brings health and well-being.

Reasons acupuncture works for so many maladies

Various diseases and conditions are diagnosed by western physicians as being the result of different system imbalances, and virtually all disease is a result of some type of a body’s system imbalance. The endocrine system, composed of glands, releases hormones into the bloodstream. When too many or too few hormones are released, there is an endocrine imbalance. This can result in a variety of disturbances, ranging from female infertility or weight issues to serious diseases like diabetes. So too, the other body systems such as the circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and nervous systems all have their need for balance in maintaining healthy control of the bodily functions over which they preside and will manifest in different illnesses when they are out of sync.

Even the concept of physical balance or a sense of equilibrium is governed by the body’s flow of energy within the nervous system. When the energy is not free-flowing, dizziness, fatigue, sight and hearing problems, concentration and memory impairment, and other disorders become manifest due to disruption of information to the brain, controlling these functions.

Acupuncture is not only for treating illness

One does not have to wait until the symptoms of illness appear to take advantage of the holistic benefits of acupuncture. It can be used effectively as a preventative measure in conjunction with other natural approaches, such as good nutrition, herbal therapy, exercise, and meditation, to maintain a healthy flow of energy, keeping it intact before it goes awry. This aggregate methodology can do wonders to strengthen the immune system, thereby decreasing susceptibility to disease and other physical and mental ailments.

Some other forms of traditional Chinese medicine used to achieve the same balance are listed below.

Though not traditional, electroacupuncture is based on the same traditional Chinese principles but uses electrical stimulation with two needles instead of hand/needle manipulation.

Other types of acupuncture

Although the Chinese were the first to employ acupuncture over 2,000 years ago, other ancient, eastern cultures also adopted the technique and philosophy behind it. Both Japan and Korea have used acupuncture since ancient times when the Chinese brought it to their cultures. They have some differences. For instance, Japanese acupuncture is always combined with moxibustion. Their method penetrates with less depth using thinner needles.

Korean acupuncture employs a four-needle method, each set of two used in opposite directions, one set to increase Qi in one organ’s system and the other set to decrease it another organ’s system, thus promoting balance in a different manner. When acupuncture is used in association with herbs, the herbs will be different from those used in Chinese acupuncture since the two climates do not cultivate the same plant life, though the herbs and their effects are similar.

When to work with an acupuncturist?

Some of the more common cases in broader categories are listed below, but the US San Diego School of Medicine’s Center for Integrative Medicine lists dozens of cases.

  • Nutrition
  • Fitness
  • Weight Loss/Gain
  • Mental and Physical Illnesses
  • Female Problems
  • Holistic Health and Disease Prevention
  • Pain Management
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Circulatory Problems
  • Diseases of the Respiratory System
  • Thyroid Conditions
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Chemo-therapy Side-Effects
  • Reducing Inflammation
  • Anxiety and Depression

What To expect in an acupuncture session?

In a first session, as with any kind of medical preliminary, there will be questions about patients’ medical histories and any drugs they are currently using. Family medical history, including mental and physical problems, will also be addressed and assessed to get the complete picture of what will constitute safe and effective methods to employ in the acupuncture treatment.

The tongue is a very telling organ to the acupuncturist because its shape and color are indicative of harmony or lack of it, so this is a part of the preliminary physical exam. Careful attention to patients’ presentations, including tone of voice and posture, will be part of the overall, comprehensive assessment. All of this can take up to an hour.

In initial and subsequent sessions, the acupuncturist will examine vital signs such as blood pressure and pulse rate before the procedure. The treatment itself, lasting between 25-30 minutes, is reported to be a relaxing one by the large majority of patients. This is partially due to the acupuncturist initially stimulating points that release endorphins, hormones that naturally numb pain with an effect similar to analgesics such as codeine and morphine.

Feelings after treatment range in a spectrum from tired to very energized. There are several reasons for this, and the acupuncturist will ask before the start of your next session how you reacted, giving further insight to more targeted, individualized treatment methods.

Length of a typical treatment series

How many sessions in a series is not always a typical number unless speaking of the same type of case being treated, and there are sometimes still differences such as in the case of weight loss. Depending on how much weight a person needs to lose, the number of sessions can vary. In many cases, though, depending on the severity of them, the typical number of sessions will be six to eight spread over a period of weeks. For serious cases such as schizophrenia, the therapy is more intense, involving 10-12 sessions a week over a period of months.

COVID-19 and precautions

During this time, when everyone is particularly concerned and aware of health due to COVID-19, acupuncture can be especially effective to support the immune system. Aside from the recommended precautions of frequent hand washing, social distancing, wearing masks, and regular disinfecting of surfaces, boosting the immune system with nutritional supplements and acupuncture treatments can further ensure that you will get through this traumatic time without incident. When selecting an acupuncturist, don’t be ashamed to ask about the policies they have in place to ensure their environment is hygienically safe.

Do I need to find a local acupuncturist?

So how important is it to find a acupuncturist near me? While a conversation may be possible remotely, a typical treatment session does require you to be physically present. Acupuncture is a hands-on experience and it’s important you visit a local acupuncturist to ensure you get quality service.

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