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Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles on the body's surface, in order to influence physiological functioning of the body. Needles are placed on specific points or "acupuncture points" which are spread out throughout the body. Acupuncture is an ancient form of medicine that developed over the course of thousands of years in China.

What is it like?

In a typical acupuncture treatment, you will be asked to partially undress and wear a gown, and lie on a table for the treatment either face down or face up depending on the points the acupuncturists is going to treat. Treatment may last between 30-60 minutes depending on the acupuncturist and your condition. Acupuncture needles will be placed in different areas of the body and left in place for a period of time. some acupuncturists rotate the needles while in place while other do not. Some acupuncturists will finish the treatment by applying a few minutes of massage (also called "tui na").

Acupuncture can also be used in conjunction with heat produced by burning specific herbs, which is called Moxibustion, or by adding a gentle electrical current to the needles, which is called "electro-acupuncture," Another form of stimulating acupuncture points is by the use of pressure from fingertips on the points, which is called Acupressure.

How to choose

In many states acupuncturists hold a master's degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from accredited schools. You should choose an acupuncturist who holds an active license to provide acupuncture services.

Things to tell your acupuncturist

If you have a bleeding problem, abnormal blood count (low platelet count) or if you are taking blood thinners or anticoagulants, you may want to make your acupuncturist aware of these issues. Although bleeding after acupuncture needling is rare, patients who are receiving anti-coagulant therapy should be closely monitored while receiving acupuncture treatment. Patients with platelet counts less than 20,000 per microliter should not receive acupuncture unless under strict medical supervision.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture is considered a highly safe intervention in the hands of well-trained and licensed practitioners. Serious side effects from acupuncture are extremely rare. Minor side effects may include bruising in the needling area that usually disappears within 24 hours.

Are needles safe?

In the USA, acupuncture needles are considered FDA approved medical instruments and therefore their quality is regulated by the government. All credentialed acupuncturists use disposable needles, making acupuncture a safe practice even for those whose immune system in highly compromised.

What if I am afraid of needles?

Some patients may be apprehensive of having needles inserted around the body. If you are apprehensive about needles, you may want to find an acupuncturist who uses gentle needling techniques or who uses other point stimulation methods. In some cases, needle insertion may be replaced by other techniques, such as massaging the acupuncture points with fingers (acupressure) or applying heat on them (moxibustion).

Some acupuncturists are also trained in a technique that uses the vibration of tuning forks instead of needled applied to acupuncture points. Different acupuncturists may use a variety of techniques depending on the patient or the school they have been trained. Some techniques may vary in how deep the needles are inserted as well as the thickness of the needles used.

Can I have acupuncture if I am receiving chemotherapy or radiation?

Yes, acupuncture is safe while receiving chemo or radiation, but you should always tell the acupuncturist if you have a bleeding problem, abnormal blood count (low platelet count) or if you are taking blood thinners or anticoagulants. Although bleeding after acupuncture needling is rare, patients who are receiving anti-coagulant therapy should be closely monitored while receiving acupuncture treatment. Patients with platelet counts less than 20,000 per microliter should not receive acupuncture unless under strict medical supervision.

How many sessions before I see results?

A typical course of acupuncture therapy is 10-12 treatments sometimes daily, sometimes once a week. In Asia often acupuncture treatments are given daily for 2-4 weeks.

You may not notice a clear change in the symptom for which you are seeking therapy after one treatment. In general you should try three to seven treatments before making up your mind about whether the treatment is effective for you.

Acupuncture can also be used in conjunction with heat produced by burning specific herbs, which is called moxibustion, or by adding a gentle electrical current to the needles, which is called "electro-acupuncture," Another form of stimulating acupuncture points is by the use of pressure from fingertips on the points, which is called Acupressure.