Acupuncture: What Is It?
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electric stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
Is Medical Acupuncture Different From Other Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a very old medical art, and there are many approaches to learning and practicing it. Medical acupuncture is the term used to describe acupuncture performed by a doctor trained and licensed in Western medicine who has also had thorough training in acupuncture as a specialty practice.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others.
The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; needles unblock the obstructions at the dams and re-establish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s natural internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by the acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Do Acupuncture Needles Hurt?
People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling. The risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle.
Because your doctor carefully sterilizes the needles using the same techniques as for surgical instruments, or uses disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or longstanding conditions, one or two treatments per week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually few visits are required. Health maintenance may involve only four sessions per year.
Is Accupunture Covered By Health Insurance?
Some insurance companies currently cover acupuncture costs, other companies do not yet recognize the value of acupuncture. Each health policy must be reviewed to determine acupuncture benefits. More and more insurance companies are recognizing the value of providing coverage for medical acupuncture services. You will need to contact your insurance company to determine whether acupuncture is covered under your policy.