Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Acupuncture is a medical treatment developed thousands of years ago in early China. The earliest written information we have about the foundations of Chinese medicine and acupuncture dates back as far as 475 BC, as you can see, it predates modern medicine by a few millennia.
Because of today’s standards of health and safety, acupuncture has become a regulated and licensed profession (in every state in the nation) that requires either a medical degree or completion of a 3+ year Master’s Degree in the field. In the states, we are slowly seeing integration into the mainstream medicine field as a credible resource for pain relief, mental health, digestive and nervous and respiratory issues as well as general health and well-being.
Acupuncture is a drug-free treatment that uses tiny needles so thin they can pierce a balloon without popping it (trust me, I’ve actually done this). These micro-thin needles are placed in specific points on the body. The needles are sterile, single use and disposed of after each treatment. There is nothing in the needles, they are very simply using the body’s own natural ability to heal itself by activating the self-repair mechanisms that naturally fend off illness.
Based on what you are seeking treatment for, your acupuncturist will recommend a series of treatments. Much like you are prescribed a series of medication from your doctor, acupuncture works in the same way. As one of my mentors used to say, “It’s not a one walk dog”. The treatments work cumulatively and consecutive treatments will build and solidify your progress. Chronic pain takes longer to treat. Acute pain can be resolved or significantly eased in 6 treatments or less. Many acupuncturists will advise on dietary and lifestyle changes that you can incorporate into your treatment plan that will increase your likelihood of a successful and lasting outcome.
Besides acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist may use other treatment modalities to facilitate your healing such as cupping. Cupping releases lactic acid and stagnation that’s deep in the muscle tissue. It increases circulation and brings fresh blood to the area to relax the area and promote healing. Some of the more common treatment additions include: gua sha (a scraping treatment done with a rounded edge tool that also improves circulation and blood flow), e-stim (a low level electrical current runs through the needle deep into the muscle tissues), and herbs. Please note that acupuncturists prescribing herbs have undergone another level of educational and licensing – not all acupuncturists are licensed herbalists and vice versa.
There are also different styles of acupuncture. Done in a group setting, acupuncture can be very calming and powerful as it taps into that group vibe of everyone being in the same place with a common goal. Private session, one-on-one acupuncture is more suitable for those who need extra care and attention or those that would like to discuss sensitive issues or symptoms not appropriate for a group atmosphere. Whatever style works for you, consider acupuncture before falling down the rabbit hole of pain management or elective surgeries with low success rates. There is every likelihood you will find the relief you’ve been looking for all along.