You may have heard of acupuncture, a healing technique that involves inserting sterile, fine-tipped needles into the skin at specific places and depths. But many people wonder how it actually works, what benefits it brings, whether it’s painful, and how it helps you heal.
How acupuncture works
Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a practice that dates back more than 3,000 years. TCM is rooted in the theory that good health comes from the balance of two opposing forces: yin and yang.
“We use specific acupuncture points to balance the body and promote the movement of life-force energy, which we call qi,” says licensed acupuncturist Amy Gonzalez with the Chambers Center for Well-Being.
That energy travels along pathways that acupuncture practitioners call meridians. “In the same way a traffic accident can block a highway, negative energy can block the meridians inside your body,” says licensed acupuncturist Bernard Chan with the Chambers Center. “Acupuncture helps restore the flow of energy along those meridians.”
What benefits does acupuncture bring?
Acupuncture is designed to stimulate the natural healing response that lives inside the body. Studies from the National Institutes of Health show that acupuncture is effective when practiced alone or together with conventional medicine to treat many health conditions, including:
- Migraines and headaches
- Anxiety and depression
- Musculoskeletal pain (back, neck, hip, shoulder or knee pain)
- Seasonal allergies
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Menstrual cramps
- Tennis elbow
- High blood pressure
- Facial or dental pain
- Stroke rehabilitation
Is acupuncture painful?
While people may feel a brief sting when needles are placed on acupuncture points, the treatment is relatively painless. “At the Chambers Center, we have a spa-like environment designed for calmness and Zen,” Gonzalez says. “Many people enter a very relaxing state or even fall asleep during their treatment.”
“We use very thin needles that only go a few millimeters into the skin, and we don’t go into areas where the pain is,” Chan says. For example, someone receiving acupuncture to relieve neck pain may benefit from acupuncture needles inserted at points in their hands or feet.
What should I expect at my first acupuncture appointment?At your initial one-hour appointment, a licensed acupuncture professional will sit down with you assess your overall health and well-being using a “pulse and tongue” diagnosis that incorporates the four pillars of TCM:
- - This includes a visual inspection of skin complexion, eyes, ears and gait. It also includes an evaluation of the shape, texture and moisture level of the tongue.
- “We can tell a lot by the sound of someone’s voice and the way they express themselves, such as knowing whether someone is very perky or very lethargic,” Gonazlez says.
- – Called palpation, this involves the acupuncturist feeling various pulse points along your body. Palpation helps determine the strength of your pulse and allows practitioners to find any swollen, tender, hot or cold areas of the body.
- – Practitioners will ask questions to learn more about your health.
After the exam, you will receive your first acupuncture treatment for anywhere between 20 to 40 minutes. The results of your exam determine the type of treatment you’ll receive.
Like physical therapy, most people need several acupuncture treatments to receive its full benefits. “I encourage people to start seeing us twice a week,” Chan says. “After two to three weeks, they’ll know whether or not acupuncture is helpful for them.”
Acupuncture is generally safe for almost anyone, although you should tell your practitioner if you have any skin rashes or if you are pregnant.
Acupuncture at the Chambers Center can be purchased in individual sessions or in a six-pack. View our full menu of services >