Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese method used to relieve some health conditions and symptoms, such as pain. An acupuncturist inserts very thin steel needles into the patient’s skin at multiple “acupoints.” The needles rebalance the body’s energy, or qi, and prompt the body to release natural chemicals to fight the illness or symptom.
Acupuncture can treat many types of health issues. Most often, people use it to relieve chronic (long-term) pain, such as arthritis, back pain, neck pain, headaches, joint pain, menstrual cramps and sports injuries. It can also help with other conditions like immune system problems, IBS, menopause, pregnancy discomfort and cancer side effects.
Chinese medicine calls the energy that flows through the body qi. Chinese medicine practitioners believe qi disruptions create imbalances in the body’s energy that lead to illness.
Some forms of acupuncture aim to rebalance qi with needles that touch acupuncture points (acupoints) throughout the body. There are hundreds of acupoints in the body along 14 major meridians, also called energy-carrying channels.
The needles stimulate the body’s existing systems to:
- React to an illness or symptom.
- Rebalance the body.
- Release natural chemicals, such as endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and neurotransmitters, chemicals that control nerve impulses.
During the first appointment, Dr. Means will talk to you about your condition. Then examine your body for areas that will react to acupuncture. She will tap the needles into points into your skin throughout the body. The needles are sterile, disposable and as thin as a human hair. She will leave them in for a few minutes or as long as 30 minutes.
Acupuncture has a calming effect, so you may want to get a ride home from your appointments — especially the first one. If that’s not possible, try to rest for five to 10 minutes before you drive. Dr. Means may suggest that you take it easy for a day or two after each session.
The number of treatments depends on your condition, its severity and how your body responds. Most patients have an appointment once a week. Others get treatment more or less often, depending on how long the effects last. Dr. Means will recommend a schedule that is right for you.
You may not get the full benefits of acupuncture on the first or second treatment. If you decide to try acupuncture, you should give it at least five treatments.