Quick-Start Guide to Acupuncture

A Quick-Start guide to Acupuncture

The principle behind acupuncture is using very, very thin needles to adjust the body to function optimally at a mental, physical and emotional level.  Both ancient Chinese and modern Western practitioners have used this technique to relieve many sufferers of chronic disease. Needling is a very safe and a beneficial treatment strategy that can be used to reduce pain, improve healing, and increase general well-being. But exactly how is this procedure done and what sort of benefits can be obtained?

Procedures for Acupuncture

There are two broad categories of acupuncture practice today, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and medical acupuncture. Both have their merits, so the choice is individual. The decision for most people hinges upon which philosophy appeals more to them and which technique holds the least apprehension.

Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioners attend 4 years of graduate school, completing close to 4000 hours of classroom, lab and internship hours,   Practitioners sit for comprehensive yearly exams and take a National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine, Herbology, Acupuncture Points, and BioMedicine.  Along with Western Medicine courses like Anatomy, Orthopedic Neuro-Evaluation, Psychology, and BioChemistry, practitioners studies include in-depth, rigorous coursework focusing on Eastern Medicine. 

Dry Needling

In medical acupuncture, the practitioners are graduates of western medical schools. Their application of needles is not based on the traditional acupuncture points, but on anatomic data. These practitioners most commonly use shorter needles and the insertions are shallower. Some practitioners have as few as 100 hours of training and are given a "certificate" in acupuncture.  Dry needling is a modern term for what the Chinese call "hit medicine" or trauma medicine and is only a very small part of understanding the art of Oriental Medicine. 

The type of practitioner you choose for your care is certainly up to you. Many of the practitioners that hold a certificate in acupuncture(DCs, PTs, MDs, DOs) can most definitely learn to be skillful in the art of dry needling.  True competency comes from a thorough education and years of daily practice, not just occasional use.  

Take charge of your health by asking questions and checking credentials when selecting a practitioner for your care.

Conditions for Acupuncture Application

There is a broad and extensive list of ailments which can be treated with acupuncture. The conditions run the gamut from asthma to constipation, anxiety to weight loss. Most TCM practitioners believe that any health condition results from an imbalance in Qi flow, therefore amenable to needle therapy. Western acupuncturists tend to have a more limited list of indications, the most common of which is undoubtedly control of pain.

Control of pain is the most well researched of all of the indications for acupuncture. There is a definite beneficial effect for a majority of patients using this method. Migraines, premenstrual syndrome, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and neuralgias are but a few examples. The theory behind its effectiveness is also medically accepted and well researched, called the gate-control theory of pain. It states that the needles can stimulate nerves so that they block the impulses from pain triggers. 

Expected Acupuncture Session Result

A course of acupuncture therapy will last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. This depends upon the complexity of the particular medical condition. Results also vary, so it is important to have a frank discussion with the acupuncturist regarding expected results and their time frame. In general, the patient will begin to feel beneficial effects after three or four sessions. Certain specific conditions will actually get a little worse before improving, so keeping informed is key.

In modern medicine, the use of traditional techniques with proven results has become a widely accepted practice. Acupuncture has proven its worth time and again. Modern practice guidelines make it effective, reproducible, and safe. It is a gift of healing form ancient sages that has the potential to bring relief to millions of people.