- What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of complementary therapy that involves inserting very thin needles at strategic points on the body. Needles are inserted at different locations and depths to treat different health issues. The needles rebalance the body’s energy, or qi, and prompt the body to release natural chemicals to fight the illness or symptom. Acupuncture has roots in Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and is now a common complementary treatment worldwide.
- How does acupuncture work?
One major hypothesis is that acupuncture works through neurohormonal pathways. Acupuncture activates the biochemical responses in the human body via the nerves. By inserting the needle into through specific points in the body it stimulates the nerve. The nerve sends signals to the brain, and the brain releases neural hormones such as endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-relieving neurotransmitter chemicals. Acupuncture affects the functioning of the hormonal system, promotes a decrease in inflammation, increased circulation, and relief from pain. So, acupuncture itself doesn’t directly release feel-good chemicals that can aid in inflammation, stress, and so forth, but it works higher up the chain such as affecting the pituitary gland to produce the extra hormones. A good example of this is the use of acupuncture to induce labor. One of the first things that acupuncture students learn is that there are a few points that are absolutely forbidden to use with pregnant women. These points cause the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone that naturally induces labor.
- What conditions can be helped with acupuncture?
Acupuncture is used to treat a vast number of painful conditions such as sciatica, low back pain, sprains and strains, whiplash, headaches, as well as neurological, and other medical conditions or problems. Recent studies have shown that acupuncture provides pain relief and improves function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee and is an effective complement to standard care.
Acupuncture increases endorphins that provide an emotional boost, improve mood, and lowers cortisol to alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety. Stress, insomnia, headaches and migraines, including those caused by tension and sinuses responds well to acupuncture treatment.
If you experience conditions like poor adrenal function, PCOS, irregular menstrual cycles, and hyper- or hypothyroidism, you may benefit from acupuncture for hormonal balance. Acupuncture supports the gut and digestive system and helps with acid reflux, nausea, bloating, IBS, diarrhea or constipation.
- Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture is usually a comfortable treatment. Needles are very fine, metallic and as thin as a hair, making them quite painless upon insertion. Everyone experiences acupuncture differently, but most feel no pain or very minimal pain as the needles are inserted. You may experience a mild aching sensation or warmth around the needle site.
- How often would I need to come in for treatment?
Your specific care plan will be tailored for you depending on your health concern and goals. The number of treatments depends on your condition, its severity and how your body responds. Most patients have an appointment once a week. Others get treatment more or less often, depending on how long the effects last. If the condition is acute and painful, treatments may be given 2 times per week until the condition starts to come under control. The exact duration of treatment depends on the condition, your basic level of health, and how well you respond to acupuncture.
- Is acupuncture safe?
When a qualified professional performs acupuncture, it has very few complications or side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates acupuncture needles. It is required that all needles be steel, solid, sterile, nontoxic and properly labeled. Only qualified professionals may use acupuncture needles. After one use, practitioners throw the needles away. Receiving acupuncture from unqualified practitioners can be harmful. An untrained provider or one who uses nonsterile needles can cause infections, organ punctures and central nervous system injuries.
- Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
Many insurance plans offer coverage for acupuncture treatment. To find out if your plan covers it and any limits to the number of treatments covered, you should contact your insurance company directly. Acupuncture may also be covered if you sustained a workplace injury or were injured in a motor vehicle accident.