FAQ’s on Acupuncture

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a millennia old procedure originating in ancient China and a mainstay in traditional Chinese medicine (Biological values of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine: impact on the life science.2014). It is a procedure in which a small needle is inserted into the skin at locations throughout the body that are called meridians. This is to help correct the flow of qi (pronounced chee), which is believed to be an energy that flows through the body, the patient’s life force. The ultrafine needles can simply be placed in the skin at the location to provide this stimulation, but may also be used in conjunction with electrical stimulation or heat. The heat is provided by burning a small piece of incense placed at the exposed end of the needle.

What are expectations when a patient gets treatment?

As with any form of treatment or medication, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. But if acupuncture is successful for you then you can expect to find some level of relief with the treatments. Acupuncture has been shown to provide relief from pain due to arthritis as well as other 50 conditions, as acknowledged by the (WHO) World Health Organization. Acupuncture has been used by the US Air force for battlefield wounds, stress, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) (Acupuncture for surgical conditions: an overview of systematic reviews.2014).

How is the procedure/treatment performed?

The acupuncture practitioner will have you lie on a table face up or face down, depending on what areas are to be treated. Disposable, stainless steel needles specifically designed for acupuncture are used. These needles are long and thin, (about the diameter of a human hair), and are inside of a plastic tube. The tube acts as a guide that prevents the needle from going in too deep and insures it goes in straight. The tube is sealed with a stopper that keeps the needle inside sterile until it is ready for use.

The acupuncture practitioner removes the stopper then places the plastic tube against the skin on the area the needle is to be placed and then taps the end of the needle causing it to enter the skin to a precise depth.

Electric stimulation is sometimes used and other times the practitioner may manipulate the needles by hand, gently turning them (Efficacy of low-level laser therapy applied at acupuncture points in knee osteoarthritis: a randomised double-blind comparative trial.2013). Other times the needle may be left still and sometime the practitioner may burn incense on the protruding needle to induce gentle heat into the area being treated. Several forms of acupuncture do not use needles but use a weak laser instead. Another variant is acupressure, where pressure is applied to the trigger point rather than inserting a needle, this is often used with massage.

How long will the treatment last?

Your first visit will be longer than subsequent visits as there will be many questions in order to determine the best course of action for treatment. Also any questions you may have will be answered while a treatment plan is formed. The actual procedure can last from one half hour to an hour (Mechanisms of acupuncture-electroacupuncture on persistent pain.2013).

What risk or side effects are there from acupuncture?

There really are no major risks or adverse side effects as long as the procedure is performed by a qualified acupuncture practitioner with a minimum of 4,000 certification hours. There can be risks involved however, if the practitioner is unskilled or not qualified. If they re-use needles it can spread infectious diseases or if they use non-sterile needles it can cause infections. There have been incidences of injury wherein an unskilled/unqualified practitioner has inserted needles too deeply and caused injury to organs and nerves.

Some medical disorders may have issues or additional risks when acupuncture is used, such as patients with a bleeding disorder or a pacemaker. It is best to consult with your physician prior to treatment.

How successful is acupuncture for the relief of pain?

The success of acupuncture for the relief of pain varies from patient to patient and as with any treatment the success can vary depending on the severity of the patient’s symptoms and pain.