What you can expect
Each practitioner who performs acupuncture has a unique style. To determine the type of acupuncture treatment that will help you the most, your practitioner may ask you about your symptoms, behaviors and lifestyle. He or she may also perform an physical examination. It may take up to 60 minutes for initial visit and a half-hour for subseqent visit. A common treatment plan for a single complaint would typically involve two to three treatments a week. Number of treatments will depend on the condition being treated and its severity, but five to twelve treatments are common.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain.
Traditional Chinese medicine explains acupuncture as a technique for balancing the flow of energy or life force — known as qi or chi (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 and increases blood flow.
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 and if you need to remove any clothing. If appropriate, a gown, towel or sheet will be provided to preserve your modesty. You lie on a padded table for the treatment, which involves:
Needle insertion. Acupuncture needles are very thin. Therefore, insertion usually causes little or no discomfort. Between five and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment.
Needle manipulation. Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles or apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles after placement.
Needle removal. In most cases, the needles remain in place for 15 to 30 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no discomfort when the needles are removed.
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.
Since acupuncture has few side effects, it may be worth a try if you're having trouble controlling pain with more-conventional methods.
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.
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