History of Acupuncture
Acupuncture originated in China more than 2,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest and most commonly used medical procedures in the world. It began to garner attention in the United States in 1971, when New York Times reporter James Reston experienced acupuncture firsthand and wrote an article about how the doctors in China used needles to ease his pain after surgery. In the past two decades, acupuncture has continued to grow in popularity within the US, prompting the National Institute of Health (NIH) to declare acupuncture as widely practiced by thousands of physicians, dentists, acupuncturists, and other practitioners for relief or prevention of pain and for various other health conditions.”
What is Acupuncture?
The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving the stimulation of anatomical points called acupoints on the body with hair-thin, solid, metallic needles. Acupuncture is one of the key components of the system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In the TCM system of medicine, the body is seen as a delicate balance of two opposing forces, yin and yang. One of the major assumptions in TCM is that health is achieved by maintaining the body in a balanced state, and that disease is due to an internal imbalance of yin and yang. This imbalance leads to blockage in the flow of vital energy, or qi, along pathways known as meridians. There are 14 main meridian pathways though out the body, and more than 2,000 acupoints along these meridians. Stimulation of these points with tiny acupuncture needles serves to regulate the flow of qi along these meridians.
How does Acupuncture work?
It is proposed that acupuncture produces its effects through regulation of the nervous system. Its effectiveness in treating pain may be due to the release of pain-killing biochemicals such as endorphins at specific sites in the body. Studies have also shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters that affect parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes that regulate blood pressure and blood flow.
For more information on scientific findings about acupuncture, visit the NIH web site for acupuncture and complementary medicine at www.nccam.nih.gov.
Is Acupuncture safe?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires needles to be single-use, sterile, and nontoxic.
What conditions does Acupuncture treat?
Recent studies by the NIH have shown the efficacy of acupuncture in treating many types of pain and nausea. Acupuncture has also been shown to be effective for treating other conditions such as headache, menstrual cramps, sports injuries, myofascial pain, arthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, addiction, and stroke rehabilitation. In addition to the above conditions, acupuncture is useful for the treatment of digestive disorders, skin conditions, depression, anxiety, insomnia, infertility, adjunctive cancer care, and allergies.
Who may use Acupuncture?
Licensed acupuncturists, physicians, dentists, and podiatrists may all practice acupuncture in the state of California.
What is the difference between a licensed Acupuncturist and an Acupuncture physician?
Licensed acupuncturists (L.Ac) must have a Masters degree in Oriental Medicine from an accredited university and have completed a 3000 hour program consisting of instruction and training in acupuncture, herbology, Chinese medical theory, and Western medicine. Licensed acupuncturists are required to pass a comprehensive examination upon their graduation administered by the California State Board of Acupuncture. An acupuncture physician (DABMA) is a physician, dentist, or podiatrist who has completed 300 hours of instruction in basic acupuncture techniques and passed a proficiency examination administered by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture.
For more information regarding licensing and certification please visit the California State Board of Acupuncture website at www.acupuncture.ca.gov and the American Board of Medical Acupuncture website at www.dabma.org.
What to expect on your first visit
Some aspects of your initial acupuncture treatment resemble a conventional Western visit. A full health history will be taken, along with basic vital signs. The acupuncturist may perform a physical exam. Questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health, and lifestyle. An acupuncturist will also check pulses and look at your tongue, which are two components of the TCM system of diagnosis. The 12 pulse positions on the wrist each correspond to a specific meridian and organ. The tongue is viewed as a map of the body that reflects the general health of the meridians and organs. This information is then used to create a complete and accurate assessment of both the Western diagnosis and the TCM diagnosis of where the qi has become blocked or imbalanced. Based on this diagnosis, the acupuncturist will devise a treatment plan that may include acupuncture, herbs, dietary recommendations, and specific exercises.
How should I prepare for my Acupuncture treatment?
Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes so that it is easy for the acupuncturist to locate and needle points on your arms and legs.
What does Acupuncture feel like?
Acupuncture needles are sterile, metallic, solid, and hair-thin. People experience acupuncture differently, but most feel minimal or no pain as the needles are inserted. You may experience a vague tingling, numbness, or heaviness where the acupuncture needle has been inserted. Sometimes people experience a sensation of energy spreading and moving around the needle. These reactions are a sign that the treatment is working. Generally the needles are retained for 15-30 minutes and then removed. After the treatment, you may feel energized or may experience a deep sense of relaxation and well being.