these are just some of the questions I hear the most in the clinic:

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most common and dependable medical treatments in the world. It’s safe, simple and drug free. It doesn’t add anything to the body, but instead helps your body heal itself. From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, it does this by stimulating specific points on the body –  when stimulated, these points help the body’s energy, or qi (pronounced Chee), to flow smoothly. Qi travels though channels in the body like water flowing through a  river. Acupuncture points are located on the channels, each having a precise healing action. Patients sometimes describe feeling the pathway of an acupuncture channel after the acupuncture points are stimulated. It’s basically like getting the debris or a dam out of the river so the water can flow through. There is a saying in Chinese medicine “where there is pain, there is no free flow. Where there is free flow, there is no pain”.

And if that makes no sense to you…

Modern acupuncture research is beginning to show how the treatment works with the body’s own healing mechanisms. Using a type of brain scan called an fMRI, scientists have shown that acupuncture works with the nervous system to reset the brain when it is stuck in an unhealthy pattern of pain and illness. This is a way of reteaching the body to be healthy. Healing also occurs at the place where the needle is inserted. Some of the physiological effects observed throughout the body include increased circulation, decreased inflammation, relief from pain, relief of muscle spasms and increased T-cell count which stimulates the immune system.

A common follow up question to this is “Doesn’t it just work by placebo effect?” Of course it will help anyone to have a positive attitude towards their health and healing, but acupuncture works great on pets too. So while western science may not have figured out the exact method that acupuncture works, I don’t think that animals experience the placebo effect.

Is Acupuncture Safe?
Yes. Acupuncture is very safe when done by a Licensed Acupuncturist. Only solid, single use, disposable needles are used so there is little risk of contamination. Acupuncture has a very low risk of side effects. There is no medicine in or on the needles, so nothing is added to the body that can cause harm.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Acupuncture needles are much thinner than a doctor’s hypodermic needle, more like a pin than a needle really. Upon insertion there may be a slight prick like an insect bite, but many patients don’t feel the needles at all.

I have literally had patients so nervous about getting acupuncture, I remember one in particular – when I asked “how are you doing?” after putting in a couple of points in his aching shoulder, he said in tense voice “okay, I’m ready”.  I laughed and told him he already had acupuncture needles in!

I promise you, that your anticipation of how the needles will feel is much bigger than the reality. I have a lot of experience in treating needle phobic patients and can keep my treatments pretty simple.

After the needle is in, there’s a feeling of warmth and tingling or a dull heavy sensation which lasts briefly. Believe it or not, people usually find that acupuncture treatments are very relaxing and even fall asleep.

Does Acupuncture treat anything besides pain?

Acupuncture is well known in the U.S. for pain relief, but it also effectively treats a wide variety of problems. It is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical procedures in the world. It has been endorsed by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health. These organizations have declared acupuncture to be effective for over 40 different conditions.

Conditions commonly treated with acupuncture and Chinese Medicine include:

What is cupping therapy?

Cupping therapy is used to alleviate pain and increase blood flow. It’s done by creating a vacuum inside a glass cup that is then placed on the skin.

Another healing aspect of cupping therapy is through the release of toxins in your body.  The suction from the cups can penetrate deep into your tissues causing the tissues to release harmful toxins.  It triggers the lymphatic system, clears the blood vessels, and stretches and activates the skin.

Cupping therapy has been found in ancient records dating back 3500 years and it is still used today by many alternative medicine practictioners. I thought that it was specific to Chinese medicine until I was in practice and met patients who told me otherwise – one patient who was Greek told me “my grandmother used to do this, and she wasn’t a doctor.”  (Well, that’s okay, neither am I!) So, it’s a very safe and widely used therapy.

But what you really want to know is – what is it like to get cupping? Again, the surprise answer, like with acupuncture, is that it is often very relaxing. Moving cupping – which just like it sounds – is moving the cups over an area of pain or stagnation – feels like an intense deep tissue massage. Just like acupuncture, your cupping treatment will be tailored to your needs and comfort level.

Basically -Patients feel a pulling sensation while the cup is on, and look like they got in a fight with an octopus when the cups come off.  Or like they have pepperoni stuck all over them.

But the good news is – they feel much better than they did before they got cupping!