Acupuncture FAQ

1. What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture, in the narrow sense, refers to the insertion and manipulation of needles into the body, usually at set locations known popularly as “points”.  In the broad sense, it refers to a collection of procedures related to needling. The word itself comes from the latin acus meaning “needle” and pungere meaning “to puncture” and it involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles. These needles are then manipulated by hand or by electrical stimulation. Needles can be placed on sites of local pain or on pre-defined acupuncture points that lie on pathways of Qi known as “meridians” or “channels”.

2. How Does it Work?

The classical Chinese explanation is that acupuncture works by regulating the flow of Qi and Blood through defined pathways called “channels” or “meridians”.  The acupoints are thought to serve as dams and gates controlling the flow of Qi and Blood.  Such manipulations of these points are said to produce effects such as clearing blockages, promoting more flow, and the like.

It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulating the nervous system, thus aiding the activity of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins and immune system cells at specific sites in the body. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and, thus, affecting the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate a person’s blood pressure, blood flow, and body temperature.

3.  What does the World Health Organization have to say?

The World Health Organization has published a manuscript entitled Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials in 2003. In this document, it lists the following as treatable conditions based on analysis of clinical studies.

1. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment:

Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
Biliary colic
Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
Dysentery, acute bacillary
Dysmenorrhoea, primary
Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
Headache
Hypertension, essential
Hypotension, primary
Induction of labour
Knee pain
Leukopenia
Low back pain
Malposition of fetus, correction of
Morning sickness
Nausea and vomiting
Neck pain
Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
Periarthritis of shoulder
Postoperative pain
Renal colic
Rheumatoid arthritis
Sciatica
Sprain
Stroke
Tennis elbow

2. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed:

Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
Acne vulgaris
Alcohol dependence and detoxification
Bell’s palsy
Bronchial asthma
Cancer pain
Cardiac neurosis
Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
Cholelithiasis
Competition stress syndrome
Craniocerebral injury, closed
Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
Earache
Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
Female infertility
Facial spasm
Female urethral syndrome
Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
Gastrokinetic disturbance
Gouty arthritis
Hepatitis B virus carrier status
Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
Hyperlipaemia
Hypo-ovarianism
Insomnia
Labour pain
Lactation, deficiency
Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
Ménière disease
Neuralgia, post-herpetic
Neurodermatitis
Obesity
Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
Osteoarthritis
Pain due to endoscopic examination
Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
Postextubation in children
Postoperative convalescence
Premenstrual syndrome
Prostatitis, chronic
Pruritus
Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
Raynaud syndrome, primary
Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
Retention of urine, traumatic
Schizophrenia
Sialism, drug-induced
Sjögren syndrome
Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
Spine pain, acute
Stiff neck
Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
Tietze syndrome
Tobacco dependence
Tourette syndrome
Ulcerative colitis, chronic
Urolithiasis
Vascular dementia
Whooping cough (pertussis)

3. Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult:

Chloasma
Choroidopathy, central serous
Colour blindness
Deafness
Hypophrenia
Irritable colon syndrome
Neuropathic bladder in spinal cord injury
Pulmonary heart disease, chronic
Small airway obstruction

original link: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/5.html

4. What are indications for Acupuncture?

(adapted from acufinder.com)

Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat Disorders

  • Sinusitis
  • Sore Throat
  • Hay Fever
  • Earache
  • Nerve Deafness
  • Ringing in the Ears
  • Dizziness
  • Poor Eyesight

Circulatory Disorders

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Angina Pectoris
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Anemia

Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Spastic colon
  • Colitis
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Food Allergies
  • Ulcers
  • Gastritis
  • Abdominal Bloating
  • Hemorrhoids

Gynecological / Genitourinary Disorders

  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Irregular, Heavy or Painful Menstruation
  • Endometriosis
  • Menopause
  • Fibroids
  • Chronic Bladder Infection
  • Complications in Pregnancy
  • Morning Sickness
  • Kidney Stones
  • Impotence
  • Infertility in Men and Women
  • Sexual Dysfunction

Respiratory Disorders

  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Colds and Flus

Immune Disorders

  • Candida
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Epstein Barr Virus
  • Allergies
  • Lupus
  • MS
  • Hepatitis

Addiction

  • Smoking Cessation
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol

Emotional and Psychological Disorders

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Stress

Musculoskeletal and Neurological Disorders

  • Arthritis
  • Neuralgia
  • Sciatica
  • Back Pain
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Stiff Neck
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Polio
  • Sprains
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Shingles

Acupuncture Also Treats

  • Chemotherapy/Radiation Side Effects
  • Diabetes
  • Dermatological Disorders
  • Weight Control

5. Does it hurt?

When patients ask this question, they usually refer to pain on insertion.  Usually there is little if any pain on insertion of the needle.

Patients do feel a sensation described as heavy or tingling after the needle is inserted and manipulated.  This is normal and is essential in Chinese Acupuncture.

6.  Is Acupuncture safe?  What about the risks of infectious diseases?

In the hands of a properly trained practitioner, acupuncture is generally safe.  Sterile, single use needles are standard, and are immediately disposed of in accordance with Clean Needle Technique.  If the needles are never shared and used only once, the risk of transmission of diseases such as hepatitis or HIV are practically zero.

7.  Are there contraindications for Acupuncture?

Generally, Acupuncture is discouraged for people who are hungry or who have just had a heavy meal.   Hemophiliacs are also discouraged from undergoing acupuncture.

Patients on blood thinners are not forbidden from undergoing acupuncture.

8. What can I expect in a consultation?

One can expect the acupuncturist to use the four methods of diagnosis.  These are asking questions, looking at the patient including the tongue, listening and smelling, and touching the patient including feeling the pulse.  Afterwards, depending on the assessment, the patient may be asked to undergo acupuncture, be advised on a herbal prescription to take, or both.

9. How long is an Acupuncture session?

A typical acupuncture session length can vary according to the practitioner’s style.  Typically it can last from 30 minutes to an hour.

10. Can children undergo acupuncture?

An informal rule is that a child must be able to accept instruction to keep still.  Children can be treated and have had good success with acupuncture.

 

Dr. Philip Nino Tan-Gatue

Dr. Philip Nino Tan-Gatue MD, CAc, CMA,is one of the leading experts in Traditional Medicine and Chinese Medicine in the Philippines. Currently, he is a Clinical Associate Professor in the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and is Director of Acupuncture Services at The Medical City.
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