TOP QUESTIONS

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”.

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.

WHAT DOES THE WHO HAVE TO SAY ABOUT ACUPUNCTURE?

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  treatable conditions based on analysis of clinical studies: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/5.html

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.

IS IT SAFE?

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.

WHAT ARE CONTRAINIDCTIONS 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.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM MY FIRST SESSION?

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.

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.

CAN CHILDREN HAVE 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.