HOW IS MEDICAL ACUPUNCTURE DIFFERENT FROM ORDINARY ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is a very old medical art, and there are many approaches to learning and practicing it.
Medical Acupuncture is the term used to describe acupuncture performed by a physician who has been trained and licensed in Western medicine but who has also undergone thorough training in acupuncture.
As in traditional acupuncture, Medical Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles at relevant points on the body, in combination with manual or electrical stimulation.
The Medical Acupuncturist utilizes a biomedical adaptation of traditional Chinese acupuncture methods, basing diagnosis and treatment on current concepts of neuro-physiology, neuro-anatomy and neuro-pathophysiology. The Medical Acupuncturist then selects the relevant anatomical points for needling, based on the medical diagnosis reached through a thorough history and an appropriate medical physical examination.
However the Medical Acupuncturist may also utilize some elements of the traditional Chinese approach, or a combination of both medical and traditional approaches that have been shown to be effective, as the need demands.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy, called meridians, run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy channels is like a dam that causes flow problems. The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points - the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish regular energy flow through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals can change the experience of pain by releasing endorphins, the body's natural pain-killing hormones, which are 200 times more potent than morphine. Alternatively, needling the acupuncture point may trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones, which influence the body's own internal regulating system to elevate mood, decrease inflammation and stimulate the immune system.
Either way, the improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulation of the body's natural healing abilities to promote physical and emotional well-being.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE HURT?
Acupuncture needles are 25-50 times thinner than a hypodermic needle. They are made from stainless steel and are solid, with a smooth point (not hollow with cutting edges, like a hypodermic needle). Therefore insertion through the skin is not as painful as needles used for injections or drawing blood. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is also less than when using a hollow needle.
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Some people feel nothing at all. Others experience a brief moment of discomfort as the needle penetrates the skin, followed by a mild sensation of cramping, tingling, numbness, warmth or heaviness.
The needles are usually left in place for twenty to forty minutes. Many people find the experience extremely relaxing and uplifting and some even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.
DO I HAVE TO BELIEVE IN ACUPUNCTURE FOR IT TO WORK?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs,
horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or
believe in the process that helps them get better.
That being said, just as with traditional medical treatment, a positive attitude can reinforce the benefits and effects of the treatment; and a negative attitude may impede the beneficial effects of treatment. A neutral attitude will not block the treatment results.
IS ACUPUNCTURE COVERED BY HEALTH INSURANCE?
A few insurance companies cover acupuncture costs - most do not. Each health insurance policy must be reviewed to determine whether acupuncture benefits are included.
However acupuncture is
cost effective - in comparison with many other medical treatments,
acupuncture costs relatively little. Furthermore, preventative or early
treatment of health issues can save time and money by avoiding costly
medications, surgery and unnecessary days off work.
WHY ARE NEEDLES PLACED IN DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE BODY?
When feasible and practical, needles are usually placed locally, close to the area being treated, in order for the acupuncture to be most effective.
Secondly, the Medical Acupuncturist targets either the somatic or autonomic nerve innervation (of the organ or area being treated) at the spinal level.
Thirdly, the Medical Acupuncturist may select classical Chinese acupuncture points that are known to have a direct or reflex benefit on the condition being treated - some of these points have not yet been fully explained or understood under the Western medical model but they usually correspond to major neurovascular bundles and provide strong neurological input when stimulated with acupuncture needles.
Other points used may also provide direct or reflex effects on dysfunctional musculature, trigger points or other relevant tissues.