What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture, simply stated, is a health science that is used to successfully treat both pain and dysfunction in the body. The National Institutes of Health states: "The data in support of acupuncture is as strong as those for many accepted Western medical therapies."

Acupuncture has its roots deeply planted in China. In fact, authorities agree the science is between 5,000 and 7,000 years old. Its use spread throughout ancient Egypt, the Middle East, and the Roman Empire and later into Western Europe as merchants and missionaries to China told of the amazing discoveries the people of the Orient had developed. Acupuncture did not become known on a national level in the U.S. until 1971 when diplomatic relations between China and America were relaxed.

At first glimpse, acupuncture appears strange, as its primary notoriety is the utilization of needles placed in the skin at various locations to relieve pain or affect a body part.

Early Chinese physicians discovered there is an energy network traversing just below the surface of the skin which communicates from the exterior to the internal organs and structures at over 1,000 "Acupoints" on the body. This energy works in harmony with the body's circulatory, nervous, muscular, digestive, genitourinary and all other systems of the body. When this vital energy becomes blocked or weakened, an effect in a body system or anatomic location becomes evident. Stimulation of one or a combination of key "Acupoints" on the body may restore harmony to the affected area.

Historians have stated, "More people have benefited from acupuncture over the course of fifty centuries than the combined total of all other healing sciences, both ancient and modern."

Acupuncture uses specially placed thin (single-use disposable) needles to enhance the natural healing ability of the body. Acupuncture needles are about half the size of the smallest sized needles used for injection. In contrast to a needle used for injection, which is hollow with a cutting tip, an acupuncture needle is solid and smooth.

In other countries, acupuncture has been practiced for centuries, with many different techniques developing. Methods include "Traditional Chinese," "Five Element", "Eight ExtraVessel", "Six Energy", dermatomal, ear, hand, and scalp acupuncture, and others. No single method is superior, though different styles may better suit different patients or different problems.

Who Is Qualified To Perform Acupuncture?

Practitioners from a number of different backgrounds may offer acupuncture. A physician/chiropractic-acupuncturist has studied the techniques of acupuncture in addition to obtaining training and licensure in Western medicine. Non-physician acupuncturists are graduates either of schools of acupuncture or of oriental medicine. Acupuncture is routinely taught in medical schools in China.

What Conditions Can Acupuncture Treat?

Acupuncture is often useful in musculoskeletal pain management. It may be effective as the only treatment against pain, or as part of a program involving other approaches as well. Types of pain that seem to respond especially well to acupuncture include back, neck, facial, muscular, and shoulder pain, sciatica, some types of arthritis, and headaches. Some forms of abdominal pain, pelvic and menstrual pain, nerve pain, and scar pain, may also respond.

In an official report; Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the WHO (World Health Organization) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:

low back pain, neck pain, sciatica, tennis elbow, knee pain, periarthritis of the shoulder, sprains
facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders), headache, dental pain, tempromandibular (TMJ) dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, morning sickness, nausea and vomiting, postoperative pain, stroke, adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy, allergic rhinitis, including hay fever, depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke), primary dysmenorrhea, acute and chronic gastritis as well as hundreds of other clinical concerns.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

There are probably several mechanisms of action of acupuncture. Three basic concepts are commonly used today to explain acupuncture's benefits:

Acupuncture alters body chemicals, including stimulating natural painkillers. Acupuncture sensations affect nerves and cause beneficial reflex responses. Acupuncture affects the body's natural electromagnetic fields. Acupuncture is NOT a placebo. You need not "believe in" acupuncture for it to work, although a positive attitude during any type of therapy is probably beneficial.

In general, it would seem that the body wants to be healthy, and acupuncture may provide the nudge the body requires to do so.

What Are The Chances That Acupuncture Can Help Me? How Can I Expect To Feel?

Acupuncture has helped many people who have not responded to conventional medical or surgical management, but there is a tremendous difference in the response to acupuncture from patient to patient.

Some people notice an immediate improvement; some notice a change a day or two after treatment. Some people are not helped at all. Some people, who initially think they had no response, notice a delayed improvement several weeks after treatment.

Occasionally, pain is worse following a treatment. This is not cause for alarm or discouragement. Worsening of pain may be followed by an improvement. Increased pain after treatment also shows that acupuncture can affect your pain and that further treatment has a good chance of decreasing your pain.

Everyone needs to be considered on an individual basis and sometimes patience is required as different acupuncture approaches are tried and the body takes its time to respond.

At the Holland Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic, we cannot promise that your pain or specific complaint will be eliminated with acupuncture or any other of our many natural methods, but we do promise to try our best.

How Many Treatments Are Given? How Often?

Both the number of treatments needed, and the frequency, varies from person to person. In general, complex or long standing conditions, such as pain of many years, will require one to two treatments a week for several months. Treatments may be given in series of 4 to 15 treatments, with a rest period between. Acute problems, such as sprains, usually require fewer visits. Some people find 4 treatments per year, for health maintenance, to be valuable.

Specific recommendations for number and frequency of treatments are made on an individual basis.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

People experience acupuncture differently. Most feel only minimal discomfort as needles are placed; others feel no discomfort whatsoever. Once the needles are in position, they should not be painful. If a needle is causing pain, ask that the needle be checked for repositioning.

After needles are placed you may feel tingling, warmth, dull ache, numbness, or heaviness, either locally or in a part of the body distant from the needle. Needles are sometimes connected to an electrical stimulator, which should cause a comfortable tapping or buzzing sensation. Some people notice a generalized feeling of relaxation or well being, and find themselves either sleeping or smiling, or both.

Acupuncture is not like getting a shot; which is what we all usually equate with needles. Much of the discomfort felt from a shot is due to the injection of a liquid substance into the body. Acupuncture needles are as fine as a hair (less than ¼ the thickness of a hypodermic needle). Comparing an acupuncture needle with a hypodermic is like comparing a thread to a rope.

What Are The Possible Side Effects Or Complications Of Acupuncture?

Acupuncture can activate chemical, hormonal, and other changes. As mentioned above, there may be a transient worsening of symptoms or change in emotions, sleep patterns, appetite, bowel, or urinary habits. These changes are normal and indicate that your body is responding to treatment.

People often feel deep relaxation or mild disorientation following treatments, especially after the first one or two. This passes within a short time. We recommend that you rest in the waiting area after treatment, until you feel ready to leave. Since these effects are often strongest after the first treatment, you may wish to have someone escort you from the office after your first visit, although this is not usually necessary.

People occasionally feel faint during acupuncture, especially at the start of the first treatment. We suggest that to help avoid faintness, you arrive a few minutes before your scheduled appointment time in order to relax before treatment, and that you not be hungry at the time of treatment.

Any time a needle is placed in the body, there is a risk of bleeding or infection. Usually you cannot see a mark where the needle was placed but occasionally, a small vessel under the skin may be pricked, resulting in a black and blue mark. Various infections have occurred following acupuncture, however in all cases; they were traceable to the use of non-sterile needles. Today, sterile, single use needles are widely available and are used exclusively at the Holland Clinic.

Alert Dr. Holland if you have a bleeding tendency, pacemaker, metal sensitivity, or are pregnant. Special considerations may need to be discussed if you have abnormal heart valves, silicone implants, a seizure disorder, or are taking narcotics or steroids.

Are There Any Special Instructions I Should Follow On The Day Of Treatment?

Yes. Following the suggestions below will enhance the effects of treatment; Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after treatment. Avoid over exercise, sexual activity, and alcoholic beverages within six hours before or after treatment. Plan some rest, or at least avoid having to work at top performance, after treatment, especially after the first few visits. Continue to take your prescription medications as directed by your family doctor. Substance abuse and smoking will seriously interfere with acupuncture's effectiveness. Observe and keep track of your response to treatment, so that we can better work with you to optimize your therapy.

How Much Does Acupuncture Cost?

The cost of an acupuncture therapy session varies from provider to provider. However, the price is usually dependent on what service(s) the acupuncturist or physician acupuncturist is performing. The cost of a typical acupuncture therapy session at the Holland Chiropractic & Acupuncture Clinic for our established patients, in addition to whatever chiropractic service(s) are provided, is $45.00 plus a $5.00 infection control fee ($50.00). If acupuncture is provided as a single procedure (i.e., without additional chiropractic care), the cost will be $55.00 plus the $5.00 infection control fee ($60.00). For the New Patient to our office receiving acupuncture services only, our initial fee is $99.00. Additional acupuncture visits are as noted above, $55.00 plus the $5.00 infection control fee ($60.00).

Does Health Insurance Cover Acupuncture?

Policies differ among insurance companies. You will be provided with receipts that you may submit to make a claim. At times, physician visits, discussion, and general management of your condition is covered. The financial responsibility for professional services is yours.

If you have other questions concerning acupuncture and/or how acupuncture might help your particular health complaint(s), please do not hesitate to ask. We will do our best to answer all your questions.

Want More Information?

For more information about acupuncture research sponsored by different parts of NIH contact the respective Information Office or Clearinghouse. Call the NIH operator for assistance at 301-490-4000.

For more information about research on acupuncture, contact the NIH National Library of Medicine (NLM), which has published a bibliography of more than 2,000 citations to studies conducted on acupuncture. The bibliography is available on the Internet at...

or by writing the NLM, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda. MD 20894. The NLM also has a toll-free telephone number: 1-888-346-3056.

For a database of research on complementary and alternative medicine, specifically acupuncture information, review the NCCAM Web site at...

and lastly, a report from the WHO (World Health Organization) regarding the conditions treated by acupuncture is available at...

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