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Acupuncture FAQs

  1. What Is Acupuncture? 
  2. What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
  3. How Does Acupuncture Work?
  4. How Do I Choose an Acupuncturist?   

1. What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine that originated in China more than 2000 years ago. From China it spread to other nations in Asia but didn't gain popularity in the West until the mid-19 70s. Today acupuncture is becoming more respected by Western medicine. It is a widespread and well recognized form of alternative therapy. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes 47 different ailments that acupuncture is effective in curing.

There have been many studies that show a connection between acupuncture treatment and healing on many different levels. Allergies, asthma, arthritis, depression, fertility and migraine headaches are just a few of the many different conditions that have been shown in clinical settings to be helped with acupuncture treatments.

Acupuncture is actually a group of different techniques that are used to stimulate specific points on your body. These points, called acupoints, are connected to your meridians. The meridians are energy pathways that run throughout your body. The meridians facilitate the transport of Qi (or Chi), the Chinese name for the energy that powers the universe.

Meridians form a map over your body. Each point on your meridians affects a certain part of your body. There are points for motion sickness, sciatic nerve pain, anxiety and everything else one could think of. When Qi is blocked due to stress, poor diet and negativity, the blockage affects your health. By stimulating the acupoints that are related to your problems, the acupuncturist releases the blocked Qi and promotes healing.

Although there are many variations of acupuncture treatment, the most commonly known involves the use of small sterile needles. These needles are inserted by an acupuncturist in specific acupoints. They are no bigger than a hair, and are disposable for safety reasons; the procedure is completely painless and without any known side effects if delivered properly.  After inserting the needles, an acupuncturist will leave his patient to relax for 20 to 30 minutes. Then the acupuncturist will remove the needles and question the patient about the effects that he or she felt. In most cases, people report feeling a gentle tingling sensation at the insertion point, muscle relaxation and a general feeling of well-being. In addition to needle insertion, acupuncturists may also use pressure from their hands or a tool, herbal remedies and deep tissue massage to increase the flow of Qi.

Depending on your specific condition, the acupuncturist may ask you to come back several times or he will be able to alleviate your problem within just a few sessions. Acupuncture treatments are completely customized to your needs. In addition to the treatment, the acupuncturist may also suggest that you take specific blend of herbs to help increase your healing.
Acupuncture is completely safe when done by a trained practitioner. There are dozens of schools throughout the United States that offer training in traditional Chinese medicine and specifically in acupuncture. Acupuncturists must go through a rigorous certification process in order to obtain a state license to do business.
Acupuncture is perfect if you've tried other methods of treatment available in Western medicine and haven't seen any results.

2. What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

Traditional Chinese medicine (also known as TCM) includes practices like acupuncture, acupressure and herbal remedies. In contrast with Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine seeks to create balance and harmony in the body. It's a preventative form of medicine. Instead of only treating the symptoms of any given condition, a Chinese medicine practitioner will work at treating the cause to prevent future problems.

There are two important concepts in traditional Chinese medicine that sum up its approach to healing:
•    Harmony brings health, well-being and sustainability.
•    Disharmony allows for disease, illness and collapse.

There are also several theories that come together to form the basis of traditional Chinese medicine. The first is the yin-yang theory. This theory says that everything in the universe consists of either yin or yang. These aspects are opposite. Yin is up, light, left, hot, stillness and substance. Yang is down, dark, right, cold, movement and function. Everything falls into one of these two categories and they must be kept in balance. When yin and yang are out of balance, disease occurs. There are diseases and health problems that are associated with having too much yin and there are those that are associated with having too much yang. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners seek to restore a balance of yin and yang to your body.

Another important theory in traditional Chinese medicine is the five elements theory. This theory says that all things in the universe are made up of a combination of wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Consider them the building blocks of the natural world. These elements form complex connections in order to create matter. Within the realm of traditional Chinese medicine, these five elements help a practitioner understand the connections between the body and the environment. Each of the elements is connected with different ailments and parts of the body. A traditional Chinese medicine practitioner will apply treatment to balance the elements in the patient's body.

Qi (Chi), or life energy, is also a very important concept in traditional Chinese medicine. Qi runs through meridians within the body. It is constantly flowing throughout your body. When you are in balance your Qi flows freely and your health is good. But when something disrupts the flow, like stress, it can cause problems. Depending on where the Qi blockage is, it may affect your health in many different ways.

There are two basic ways that the yin-yang, Qi and elements in your body can become out of balance. The first is through deficiency. Deficiency can be categorized as receiving less of the things that your body needs in order to thrive. For example, sleep and fresh air are integral to the body maintaining its ballots. The other major contributor to unbalance is excess. Excesses are too much of the things that you shouldn't have. Toxins in your environment, smoking cigarettes and overeating are all examples of excesses that can block the flow of Qi.

Traditional Chinese medicine has many different practices like acupuncture, moxibustion, Tui Na (deep tissue massage) and cupping, which help release the blockages of Qi in your system.

3. How Does Acupuncture Work?

One of the most common questions when people are introduced to acupuncture is “How does it work?” Although acupuncture has been around for the last 3,000 years, there has only recently been scientific evidence that can verify its claims of renewed health and vitality.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body is full of meridians that act as conduits for the flow of Qi, vital life energy. When Qi is blocked at specific points throughout your body, it causes disease and disharmony. By inserting needles at points along your meridians, an acupuncturist will release blockages and improve your health.

The only problem with this explanation is that meridians don’t correspond to any actual lines discovered in Western medicine. For years, scientists in the West have been testing acupuncture to see if it works. Now that several studies have proven that acupuncture does help in a variety of situations, they are searching for an explanation.

There are five basic theories about how acupuncture works based on current scientific theory.

The first is the Neurotransmitter theory. This theory states that since acupuncture affects the higher brain areas it stimulates the secretion of beta-endorphins and enkephalins into the brain and spinal cord. The neurotransmitters are released into your system and have a direct effect on your immune system and energy level.

The Autonomic Nervous System theory states that acupuncture releases norepinephrine, acetylcholine and other types of opioids. This affects your nervous system and reduces pain throughout your body.
The Gate control theory says that acupuncture works because it activates the nociceptive receptors that prevent the transmission of signals. Once these signals are blocked, pain is reduced and the patient feels better.

The Vascular-interstitial theory concerns the electrical system of the body. Acupuncture treatment stimulates the electrical system of your body. It creates closed-circuit transport within the tissues of your body. These transport pathways carry electrical energy between normal and distressed tissue.

The Blood chemistry theory postulates that acupuncture can change the blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol and phospholipids. This means that acupuncture has the ability to affect blood components and urge the body toward homeostasis and balance.

No matter what the explanation is, the most important thing is that acupuncture does work successfully. Countless studies have proven its effectiveness in a variety of situations, from weight loss to migraines. 

4. How Do I Choose an Acupuncturist?

Choosing an acupuncturist is a weighty decision. It is not only important to locate a provider within your local area, but you need to make sure that the acupuncturist that you choose is qualified and clicks with you. Since acupuncture is such a calming and trusting therapy, it is essential that you pick someone that you feel comfortable with, and can trust.

There are two main types of acupuncturists, those who study medical acupuncture, and those who are licensed providers of traditional Chinese acupuncture medicine. Medical acupuncturists are simply doctors and chiropractors that have completed a course and 300 hours of training. On the other hand, a licensed acupuncturist has been through three years of schooling in the art of acupuncture, and has completed one year of internship.

The benefits of acupuncture can be gained from a provider that just practices medical acupuncture, but for more in-depth or professional treatments, you would need a professionally licensed acupuncturist.

When trying to find and choose an acupuncturist, it is important that you review all of your options and make an informed decision. When you take the time to find an acupuncturist that is not only qualified, but puts you at ease as well, the benefits you reap from the acupuncture therapy will be greater.  

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