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How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture achieves results by stimulating certain points on the surface of the skin. These points (acupoints) are believed to have the ability to affect biochemical and physiological processes in the body. The ancient premise of Oriental Medicine is that good health is achieved when the body’s life energy (Qi) flows in a smooth and balanced way through the networks of energy channels (meridians), connecting to all major organs. When Qi is disturbed or becomes unbalanced, it results in the illness. An acupuncturist restores the Qi balance by inserting fine, sterilised needles into the energy channels and activates the body’s natural healing mechanisms.

 

A WESTERN MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE:

Since acupuncture has grown exponentially in the West, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the  National Institute of Health (USA) have performed multiple clinical studies to test the effectiveness of acupuncture. Listed below are just five of many known ways how acupuncture works, according to modern science. These findings are based on tests performed before and after acupuncture treatments, using blood samples to measure biochemical changes in the body:

1. The Gate Control Theory. 

 

Acupuncture interrupts the transmission of pain by overloading certain “nerve gates” in the central nervous system, thus preventing the transmission of the pain signal.

2. Immunity augmentation. 

 

Acupuncture has been shown to raise the levels of white blood cells (WBCs), prostaglandins, gamma globulins, hormones, and overall antibody levels. Raising WBCs can help every patient; more and more diseases are being linked with a weak immune system. Whether or not you are immune-compromised, you will want your immune system to be as strong as possible; this is a positive result of every acupuncture treatment.

3. Endorphin release. 

 

Acupuncture helps release endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers. Endorphins are ten times stronger than morphine and the strongest pharmaceutical pain killer available.

4. Increase in Neurotransmitters. 

Acupuncture affects certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Serotonin is a well-known contributor to the feeling of well-being. Low levels of serotonin are associated with insomnia, addictions, depression, sugar cravings, obesity, and OCD. Acupuncture can help raise serotonin levels and thus be an effective treatment for these conditions. 

5. Improved Circulation. 

 

Acupuncture has been shown to increase circulation in the body, especially to areas adjacent to the points being needled. Histamine and other vasodilators are released by the body in response to acupuncture; this is useful in healing injuries and minimising scar tissue.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Often, patients feel a mild sensation for a brief second when the needle touches their Qi (life energy). Acupuncture is not like going to the doctor’s office for a shot or even to get your finger pricked; acupuncture needles are ultra-thin and are 25-50 times thinner than hypodermic needles. Some people don’t even feel the needle as it enters the skin. Some patients sometimes have a strong release of their qi, accompanied by a feeling of deep relief. The needles are usually left in place for 15 to 25 minutes. Most people find the experience relaxing, and some even fall asleep during the sessions.

Are  the needles sterile?

Yes. Needles are used only once and are safely disposed of after use.

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 of an inch to a few inches deep. The depth of the 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.

Are there risks or side effects to acupuncture?

While acupuncture is a highly safe form of physical medicine, such side effects as bruising, fainting, muscle spasms, bleeding can occur in rare cases.

How many treatments will I need?

This is unique to each individual. For most conditions, after 5-7 treatments you will know if acupuncture is going to help your condition.  Some people notice an immediate improvement in their health, while for others, acupuncture tends to have accumulative effect over several visits.

Do I need to do anything to prepare for an appointment?

For your first appointment, please bring along a list of prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and any herbs and supplements you are taking. It is recommend to not have any heavy meals 2 hour prior to the treatment.  Please wear comfortable clothing that can easily be rolled up past elbows and knees. Please don’t wear heavily scented products.

How does typical TCM session looks like?

During your first visit, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire stating personal information, medical history and the details of your health complaints. The session begins with a physical examination, e.g. examination of your tongue and pulse. Getting to know you and understanding your concerns/ goals is our main focus. 

You will receive a full acupuncture treatment with sterile, disposable acupuncture needles. The needles are fine, flexible and no wider than a human hair. The needles are usually retained for 15 to 25 minutes while you rest. Needles are used only once and disposed of properly after removal. Additional techniques may be performed such as, cupping, gua sha, moxa, and/or eastern therapeutic massage (Tui Na).

The first visit is typically 45 to 55 minutes in length, subsequent treatments usually last 50 minutes. New patients please allow 10 minutes prior to your scheduled time to fill out a few forms before your treatment. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that will allow access to areas below the elbows and knees.

How will I feel after acupuncture?

Patients normally feel relaxed and calm. You may feel tired or drowsy for a few hours if the experience is particularly strong. You may also experience a short-term flair up of symptoms in the healing process. After a session, it is a good idea to sit quietly and relax. A gentle walk or very mild exercise can also be helpful. Avoid big meals, vigorous exercise, alcohol, and stressful situations.

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