What is acupuncture

Acupuncture is a health care system based on the stimulation of special points (meridians) near the surface of the skin.  Its purpose is to help restore health and wellbeing by adjusting and balancing the energy flow (chi) and functions of the body’s system.

Acupuncture is a Chinese therapy that uses, amongst other things, needles for treating diseases.  For centuries now Acupuncture has been the most important part of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (T.C.M.) system used in the China, Japan and Korea. The reason is that Eastern thinking traditions, philosophy and Acupuncture have evolved together.  In the Western world, where Acupuncture is of growing importance in medicine, the concept that mind, body and environment interact very closely is now widely accepted.

Acupuncture is based on the concept of energy.  Energy in nature regulates (plant) growth, climates, seasons, day and night etc. In man, it takes care of all the processes that make people living creatures: seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling, digestion of food, breathing, sleeping, emotions, reproduction, etc., to make a long story short: everything.

In a natural, healthy situation, all forms of energy between an organism and its environment are in balance with each other.  Disease, however, to put it simply, is a disorder of the natural balance. In cases in which the body is not capable of restoring the balance again by itself, Acupuncture can offer help.


Q: Does it hurt?

A: In Chinese, acupuncture is bu tong, painless.  However, if the correct stimulus of the needle has been obtained, the patient should feel some cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling, or electric sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected energy pathway or meridian.  In English, these sensations may be categorized by some people as types of pain, which they are not in Chinese.  In any case, if there is any discomfort, it is usually mild.

Q: How deep do the needles go?

A: That depends upon the nature of the problem, the underlying anatomy of the points selected, the patient’s size, age, and constitution, and upon the acupuncturist’s style or school.  In general, needles are inserted from 1/4 to 1″ in depth in areas of teh body that are thick (buttocks).

Q: Are the needles clean?

A: Most acupuncturists in America today use pre-sterilized, individually packaged, disposable needles thus absolutely assuring that there is no transmission of communicable disease from patient to patient due to contaminated needles.  The National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists does include a Clean Needle Test as part of every national board exam for acupuncturists in America.

Q: Do acupuncturists only insert needles?

A: No.  As an integral part of what in English is called acupuncture, most practitioners are also trained to use a number of adjunctive therapies.  These typically include moxibustion, which is the burning of the herb Artemisia vulgaris sinesis over the affected area to warm it, cupping, electronic stimulation, magnetotherapy, and various types of massage, such as acupressure, Shiatsu, Jin Shin Jyutsu, and/or Tuina Chinese remedial massage.

Q: How does acupuncture work?

A: That’s a big question. Traditionally, acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy_ and Xue (Blood) through discrete channels or meridians which traverse the body similar but not identical to the nervous and blood circulatory systems.  According to this theory, acupuncture regulates this flow of Qi shunting it to those areas where is it Deficient and draining it from where it is Excess.  Thus acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious energetic balance of the body.  In Chinese there is a famous dictum, “There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow.”  Essentially acupuncture promotes the free and balanced flow of Qi and Blood.

Q: Are there different styles of acupuncture?

A: Yes, there are.  Acupuncture originated in China but has spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, the British Isles, and America.  In different countries, different styles have developed based on differing opinions as to theory and technique.  Patients should query potential practitioners as to their particular style and orientation and should ascertain if that style is appropriate for the treatment of their individual ailment.

Q: What criteria should one use in choosing an acupuncturist?

A: Acupuncture is a licensed and regulated healthcare profession in approximately half the states in the Union.  In those where it is licensed, patients should first of all ensure themselves that the potential practitioner is licensed.  In those states which do not currently require licensing, patients should seek practitioners who are national board certified by he National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists.  Acupuncturist having passed this exam usually append Dipl. AC. (NCCA) after their names.  In addition, patients should inquire about where the practitioner was trained, how long the training was, how long he or she has been in practice, and what experience the practitioner has had in treating the patient’s specific ailment.  And, beyond intelligently checking a practitioner’s professional credentials, the best assurance is word of mouth from satisfied patients.

Q: How many treatments will I need?

A: That depends upon the duration, severity, and nature of each individual’s complaint.  Generally from five to fifteen treatments are adequate for the majority of chronic ailments.  Many acute conditions may only require a single treatment and some degenerative conditions may require scores of treatments.  However, the patient has the right to expect that their major complaint will be addressed and treated in a direct and timely manner.

Q: Is there anything I need to do before receiving an acupuncture treatment?

A: Yes, the following suggestions will help you get the maximum benefits from your treatment.

  1. Maintain good personal hygiene to reduce the possibility of bacterial infection.
  2. In order to prevent loss, do not wear jewelry.
  3. Wear loose clothing.  Women should not wear one-piece dresses. Avoid wearing tight stockings.
  4. Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, hungry, full, emotionally upset, or shortly after sex.

Q: Is there anything I need to do while receiving acupuncture?

A: Yes, again.

  1. There’s no need to be frightened. RELAX. Relaxation is something that cannot be overemphasized.
  2. If you experience dizziness, nausea, cold sweat, shortness of breath, or faintness during treatment this is known as needle shock.  Immediately inform your practitioner and they will withdraw the needles.  Needle shock is primarily due to anxiety in first-time patients.  It rarely happen if the patient is treated lying down.
  3. Feel free to let your practitioner know of any pain or burning sensations experienced diuring acupuncture or moxibustion.  If you find acupuncture or electro-acupuncture unbearable at any point during treatment, be sure to speak up so that the proper adjustments can be made.
  4. Do not change your position or move suddenly.

Q: What can I expect after treatment?

A: One may experience an immediate total or partial relief of their pain or other symptoms.  This relief may last or some of the pain may return.  In a few cases, the pain may seem even worse.  This is called the rebound effect.  By the next day, the pain can be expected to gradually  improve.  Often the mot dramatic results are experienced in the first treatment.  However, one should see further incremental improvement after each subsequent treatment.  In a few cases, there may be no immediate relief only to experience the pain diminish over the next couple of days.

Most patients will have more questions than these, such as: Should I continue taking my present medication?  What should I eat?  Is there anything I can do for myself at home?  What signs of success should I look for first and after how long?  All these are valid and valuable questions and can be answered in person by the practitioner.  In the meantime, remember Acupuncture works!

When you should see an acupuncturist:

Common diseases treatable by acupuncture:



Pain after tooth extraction


Acute or chronic otitis


Nasal catarrh

Acute tonsillitis

Ringing in the ears
Poor eyesight
Allergic complaints
Hay fever
Chronic common cold
Sore throat

Respiratory Disorders

Bronchial asthma

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Esophageal and cardio spasm



Acute or chronic gastritis

Sour stomach

Chronic duodenal ulcers

Acute or chronic colonitis

Acute bacillary dysentery



Paralytic ileus

Eye Disorders

Acute conjunctivitis

Central retinitis

Nearsightedness (in children)

Cataracts without complications

Neurological and Muscular Disorders



Trigeminal neualgia

Facial paralysis (within the first 3-6 months)

Post-stroke paresis

Peripheral neuritis

Neurological bladder dysfunction

Bed wetting

Intercostal neuralgia

Cervical syndrome

Frozen shoulder

Tennis elbow


Low back pain


Genitourinary and Reproductive
Menopause-related complaints
Menstruation-related complaints
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Morning sickness