Korean and Chinese traditional medicine are from the same root and originated in ancient and prehistoric times and can be traced back as far as 3000 B.C. The natural health care system is used to preserve health and diagnose, treat and prevent illness. The goal is to treat the underlying cause of a health condition. Patients range from infants to senior citizens.
How it works - Acupuncture treats health conditions by stimulating points found a specific locations on the surface of the body. Very thin needles are inserted in the skin to stimulate the acu-points to produce physiological effects that balance the body. Other methods such as "cupping" can be used to stimulate the points also.
General theory - Proper physiological and health depend on the body's circulation of nutrients and energy, called "Qi", through a network of 'meridians', think of them as interconnected 'channels'. The meridians connect every organ and part of the body to regulate and balance the body's processes. The acupuncture practitioner assesses the whole body condition to design a treatment plan to improve the body's total functional harmony.
Pain and heath problems result when the flow of Qi is blocked is disrupted. This can be caused by injuries, disease, age, stress, diet, and medication. Stimulation of points on meridians help to restore the flow of Qi and balance throughout the body to improve function at the source, while also reducing pain or symptoms of the patient.
Acceptance - In 1976, the State of California was the first state in the USA to license acupuncturists and recognize them as primary health care professionals. A practitioner must pass a comprehensive State License test then renew every 2 years in California and every 1 year in Arizona after completing continuing education. The license must be posted visibly at their place of business. The National Institute of Health (NIH), Mayo Clinic, and many health insurance plans recognize the clinical value of acupuncture.
Diagnosis - Similar to a Western medicine Dr., the patient's health history, current symptoms, age, diet, weight, and more will be reviewed, followed by a physical exam, and perhaps make a referral to a physician if necessary. Unique to Oriental Medicine/Acupuncture, the practitioner will also check your pulse in 3 places, corresponding to internal organs. Also, the tongue may be inspected for color and condition. Following the assessment, the practitioner will explain the nature of your problem and recommend a treatment plan.
Treatment Procedure - Acupuncture needles are sterilized, one-use, ultra-thin stainless steel. The patient will take a comfortable laying or sitting position and needles are tapped into the surface of the skin. A slight stinging sensation may be felt in the first moments. The sensation varies by insertion location. Hands and feet may feel a bit more sensitive. Needles are left in 20-40 minutes, often with a infra-red heat lamp directed at the treatment area.
The number of treatments depends on a variety of factors including the duration and severity of the health condition. Patients with problems of short duration or recent onset, 2-5 treatments may be all the is required. Chronic conditions may require 10 or more sessions. Degenerative conditions may require treatments over a long period of time. Improvement varies by patient and the health issue being addressed. Some feel improvement hours after treatment, some after 2-3 sessions. On follow-up sessions, the practitioner will reassess the results of the treatment progress with the patient and adjust following treatments as necessary.
How effective the treatment is for the patient depends on the individual's health problem. The practitioner is trained to identify conditions that may require referral to a specialist, so it's important for you to provide detailed information about your conditions so that important medical conditions are not overlooked. It is important to keep all of your health care providers informed of your treatments - whether Western or Eastern.
Since meridians are inter connected, run through out the entire body, and work to improve the body function, many health concerns may be addressed with Oriental Medicine methods. Review the list of health conditions commonly treated and call for an appointment.
Commonly used acupuncture needles are made of stainless steel, with sizes from 26 to 40 gauge and lengths from 0.5 inch to 2.5 inches. Because of the small size, quite often people describe an acupuncture needle as a “painless needle.” The tip of an acupuncture needle is blunt, even though it is very tiny.
The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles. Common side effects include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. Single-use, disposable needles are now the practice standard, so the risk of infection is minimal. Source: Mayo Clinic.
* Some information on this page from the California Acupuncture Board Guide to Acupuncture and Asian Medicine.