Acupuncture is a modality of Chinese Traditional medicine that has been for the treatment and management for a number of health ailments for thousands of years. Today it is widely accepted by the Western world as well and a number of insurance providers recognise it, giving patients more treatment options. Today we will explore what treatment entails, how it works and how it can benefit you.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The primary purpose of acupuncture is to improve bodily functions and encourage self-healing. This happens through the stimulation of pressure points or acupoints in the body. You have probably seen this process before – when a practitioner inserts sterile needles into certain points in the skin. This is actually only one aspect – it is possible for acupuncturists to use moxibustion, massage techniques, cupping or heat therapy to achieve the same end.
What Can You Expect During A Session?
Your first session could last anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes, but a portion of that time will be spent in discussion with your healthcare practitioner.
At your first consultation your healthcare practitioner will consider you holistically and will ask you some detail about yourself and your medical history.
He or she will perform a physical assessment, which may include
- Inspecting the colour, shape and size of your tongue
- Noting your pulse
- Checking your eyes
Once your healthcare practitioner is satisfied with your feedback he or she will make treatment recommendations and suggest a treatment plan for you to follow.
Your session will begin with you laying flat on a treatment table. Your acupuncturist will then stimulate the specific pressure points on your body that correlate with the symptoms you have described. These pressure points are also called meridians and they are the channels along which energy flows in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
When energy can flow freely through the body we can experience good health. However, when these meridians become blocked it can result in illness, pain or loss of function.
Acupuncture therapy releases these blockages, stimulates the body and encourages self healing.
The needles that are used are very fine and are not meant to hurt when they are inserted. It is considered a minimally invasive procedure and even though the needle insertion results in a “mini injury”, it is the body’s response to it that can encourage and stimulate healing.
Most patients retain the needles for between five and 30 minutes before they are tweaked or removed.
Patients report feelings of relaxation and wellbeing during and after their session. Some practitioners play relaxing music or chat to their patients while they are waiting for the needles to take effect.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The points that acu-needles are inserted into are sites that allow muscles, nerves and connective tissue to be stimulated. By stimulating and increasing blood flow to these areas, the body’s natural pain management strategies can be deployed. To compare the effects to Western medicine, it is also believed that acupuncture therapy helps to reduce inflammatory markers, which has an impact on pain.
How Many Treatments Will You Need?
The answer to this question is person- and condition-dependant, and something you can ask your acupuncturist about prior to treatment. Some patients find relief during their first session while others may need to have two or three before feeling the benefit.
If you have a chronic or long-standing condition, you can expect to have a session or two every week for a few months.
Typically acute problems can be managed with fewer sessions. Your acupuncturist will make recommendations on your treatment plan.
What Are The Benefits Of Acupuncture?
Recent research indicates that acupuncture’s benefits are multi-fold and may encompass positive effects on the cardiovascular system, digestive system, immune system and nervous system. Through the stimulation of the various systems, it can help patients with pain management, sleeping habits, general wellbeing and digestive discomforts.
Furthermore acupuncture therapy has been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of muscular-skeletal problems, anxiety and depression, migraines, insomnia, fertility issues and nausea. Conditions such as lower back pain, dental pain, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, tennis elbow, sprains, hypertension and dysmenorrhoea have also responded positively to it.
Promising results have also been experienced by couples who are having fertility treatments. Patients who experience chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting have reported an improvement of symptoms.
When compared with more invasive, Western medicines, it also offers some diverse benefits including
- Being a safe procedure when performed correctly
- The ability to combine it with other treatments
- Pain management
- Being an alternative for patients who cannot take certain kinds of medication
It is also an alternative option for patients who have tried different treatment options but who have not been satisfied with their results or healing.
What Are The Risks?
Like anything in life acupuncture does carry some degree of risk but choosing an experienced and registered acupuncturist can help manage the risk. Some of the risks may include
- It is not recommended for patients with blood disorders or those taking blood thinning medication
- Some discomfort (tenderness, bruising, bleeding) may occur at the site
- A broken needle can cause damage to internal organs
Working with a registered practitioner, ensuring clean, sterile needles are used and seeking a second opinion can help lower your risk of complication.
Still have questions about the treatment or specific conditions? Want to know more about how does acupuncture work? We understand and would love to assist you. Please contact us for an appointment: (02) 9159 6903.