Do acupuncture needles hurt?
Most people barely feel a thing when needles are inserted. Some people feel a slight pinch, and others ask “Is it in yet?” The reason acupuncture needles don’t give the painful sensation you might expect is because they’re very, very thin in comparison to the hypodermic needles used to give injections. Hypodermic needles are necessarily hollow so that the shot can be injected. They also have a very blunt point (actually a wedge shape) in comparison to an acupuncture needle. Forty acupuncture needles can fit into the tip of one standard 18 gauge hypodermic needle. (And if you are absolutely afraid of needles, we have other modalities that can be nearly as effective.) Most people are a little nervous the first session, so you are not alone in thinking this. But most patients leave the treatment with a sense of tranquility and can’t wait for their next session.
There are certain sensations associated with the therapeutic effects of acupuncture, which are known as de qi (pronounced “day-chee”). These may include slight cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling or electric sensation traveling along a meridian. If any discomfort is experienced, it is usually mild and dissipates quickly.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is very safe.
The average liability coverage for an acupuncturist is about $600 per year, while primary care physicians pay an average of $12,000 per year. That’s a 20:1 difference. While this may not translate into exactly a 20 to 1 difference in safety, a visit to an acupuncturist is at least as safe as a visit to your doctor, if not safer.
Acupuncture needles are extremely safe, because they are pre-sterilized, individually packaged, and disposable. Every practitioner gets extensive training in anatomy so as to avoid accidentally inserting a needle in a place that can cause damage.
Do I have to believe in it for it to work? Does acupuncture always work?
Acupuncture and herbs work whether you believe in them or not. Good results are seen in the majority of cases. When all other treatment methods have failed, this indicates a systematic imbalance – exactly what acupuncture and herbs excel at treating.
What Should I Expect On My First Visit?
During your first office visit, we spend a lot of time getting a complete picture of your health and lifestyle. We examine the condition of your tongue (is it cracked, coated, excessively pink? etc.), and check your pulse on both wrists (the quality of your pulse gives information about possible imbalances). We’ll also ask questions about your emotional state, and specific symptoms you may have.
This is done because unlike Western medicine, we treat the whole person instead of focusing on the symptoms of your condition. The first visit can last from an hour to an hour and a half, and end with an acupuncture treatment lasting another 30-60 minutes.
Your subsequent visits will be much faster – usually an hour long. We’ll make a short review of your progress followed by an acupuncture treatment.
How often would I need to come in for treatment?
Typically acupuncture treatments are given once a week. If the condition is acute and painful, treatments may be given 2-3 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.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind, if your condition is acute you probably need just a few sessions. If you have a chronic issue, you may to see us for awhile to get your system re-balanced.
How does acupuncture work?
In Chinese medical theory, acupuncture works by balancing the body’s Qi. Qi can be described as a form of bioenergy that runs along 12 major meridians. If Qi is blocked, it shows up as an imbalance or illness. Basically, if you have a health condition, some part of your body’s system is out of whack. Chinese medical theory allows us to diagnose the imbalance… and balance it.
In Western medical theory, acupuncture appears to work by stimulating parts of the brain. It also stimulates the body to release natural biomolecules such as neurotransmitters, vasodilators, and hormones. The exact mechanisms which brings this about are unknown, but the effects are measurable.
How does Acupuncture work, here are a few prevailing theories.
1. Acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels. This is called the “Augmentation of Immunity” Theory.
2. The “Endorphin” Theory states that Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the brain and body (specifically Enkaphalins).
3. The “Neurotransmitter” Theory states that certain neurotransmitter levels (Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by Acupuncture and Acupressure.
4. “Circulatory” Theory: this states that Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels in a regulating bi-phasic manner. This may be caused by the body’s release of Vasodilaters (such as Histamine), in response to Acupuncture.
5. One of the more popular theories is the “Gate Control” Theory. The perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous system which regulates the impulse, which will later be interpreted as pain. This part of the nervous system is called the “Gate.” If the gate is hit with too many impulses, it becomes overwhelmed, and it closes. This prevents some of the impulses from getting through. The first gates to close would be the ones that are the smallest. The nerve fibers that carry the impulses of pain are rather small nerve fibers called “C” fibers. These are the gates that close during Acupuncture.
In the related “Motor Gate” Theory, some forms of paralysis can be overcome by Acupuncture. This is done by reopening a “stuck” gate, which is connected to an Anterior Horn cell. The gate, when closed by a disease, stops motor impulses from reaching muscles. This theory was first stated by Professor Jayasuriya in 1977. In it he goes on to say:
“…one of the factors contributing to motor recovery is almost certainly the activation of spindle cells. They are stimulated by Gamma motor neurons. If Acupuncture stimulates the Gamma motor neurons, the discharge causes the contraction of Intrafusal Muscle fibers. This activates the Spindle cells, in the same way as muscle stretching. This will bring about muscle contraction.”
Let’s not forget about the nervous system and the sympathetic/para-sympathetic response “fight or flight.”
Or maybe it is the induction of micro-trauma that facilitates a healing response of the body.
There is also hormonal changes that come with acupuncture and the needling.
Or what about the therapeutic relationship of the patient and practitioner?
As you can see there are many explanations, so it is easy for us to put it under the umbrella of the “Qi” effect.
Does insurance cover acupuncture?
HSA and Flex money can be used toward your acupuncture care. We are also in HealthPartners and MNBCBS network, they treat specific conditions, so we will have to verify your coverage. We provide an opportunity for you to get well and stay healthy, insurance companies treat “problems”—we treat patients. We will provide a “superbill” that provides all the information you need to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement. It is a standardized form which insurers expect.
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