Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as chi or qi (chee) — believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. By inserting needles into specific points along these meridians, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.
In contrast, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. Some believe that this stimulation boosts your body’s natural painkillers.
Acupuncture is used mainly to relieve discomfort associated with a variety of diseases and conditions, including chemotherapy – induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting, dental pain, headaches and migraines, labor pain, low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, menstrual cramnps, allergic rhinits.
During the procedure
Each person who performs acupuncture has a unique style, often blending aspects of Eastern and Western approaches to medicine. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle.
Acupuncture points are situated in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your acupuncture practitioner will tell you the general site of the planned treatment.
Needle insertion: Acupuncture needles are inserted to various depths at strategic points on your body. The needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes little discomfort. People often don’t feel them inserted at all. Between five and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. You may feel a mild aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth.
Needle manipulation: Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after placement or apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles.
Needle removal: In most cases, the needles remain in place for 10 to 20 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no discomfort when the needles are removed.
After the procedure
Some people feel relaxed and others feel energized after an acupuncture treatment. But not everyone responds to acupuncture. If your symptoms don’t begin to improve within a few weeks, acupuncture may not be right for you.
The benefits of acupuncture are sometimes difficult to measure, but many people find it helpful as a means to control a variety of painful conditions. Several studies, however, indicate that some types of simulated acupuncture appear to work just as well as real acupuncture. There’s also evidence that acupuncture works best in people who expect it to work.