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How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture works by stimulating points along channels in the body called meridians.  The acupuncture point is distinct from surrounding tissue in that it usually includes a small arteriole, vein, nerve and lymphatic tissue.  This point is stimulated by insertion of a very fine, slender, sterile, disposable needle.  This causes a gentle, though sometimes slightly achy sensation called “deQi” meaning the arrival of energy.  People may experience a slight prickly sensation on the insertion of the needle, but is usually not especially painful.

Needle therapy remains the mainstay of this practice, but ancillary methods of cupping (where multiple glass cups are placed on the skin) and scraping of the skin are sometimes used.  In addition heating some areas with an herb called “Moxa” (Artemisia Vulgaris) is sometimes used.  This is either in the form of a “Moxa” impregnated heat lamp, a spray, or a tightly rolled cigar.  Often, electrical stimulation to certain points is used.  This produces a mild, dull thumping sensation, which increases the stimulation to the more important points.  Depending on the severity of the disorder, Chinese herbal therapy is often added to the acupuncture treatment.

The number of treatments is based on the severity of the disease process and differs from patient to patient.  Usually two to four treatments per month are done.  After the first month, monthly treatments are often sufficient.  The scheduling frequency is discussed in detail with the patient prior to the first acupuncture treatment.

In America, acupuncture is most often used for pain disorders, especially pain due to arthritis.  There have been many articles published on the use of acupuncture for pain vs. the use of morphine sulfate.  In other parts of the world, and increasingly in the United States, acupuncture is being used and studied for a wide range of other ailments including:

  1. Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
  2. Osteoarthritis (particularly in back and knee area)
  3. Emotional and psychiatric disorders
  4. Amelioration of side effects of chemotherapy and Radiation therapy
  5. Gastrointestinal disorders
  6. Gynecological and Genitourinary disorders
  7. Asthma and Respiratory disorders
  8. Stress Reduction
  9. Vertigo (dizziness) and Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  10. Endocrine disorders