What is Acupuncture?

Nov 9, 2021

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese method used to treat illness, relieve pain, prevent disease and improve well-being.  It encourages the body to promote natural healing and improve function by facilitating the natural balance of the body and correcting the root cause of sickness.  An acupuncturist inserts very thin (sterile and single-use, disposable) steel needles into the patient’s skin at several of the more than 500 acupuncture points to stimulate Qi.  The idea is that by stimulating Qi and helping it to move more freely, acupuncture can help the body function at its best.  Acupuncture works on the entire body, including the musculoskeletal, endocrine, reproductive, digestive, nervous and circulatory systems.  

The World Health Organization (W.H.O) recommends more than 40 types of diseases or conditions for acupuncture treatment.  Some of the conditions Acupuncture can treat are:

• Low back pain • Neck pain • Sciatica • Tennis elbow • Knee pain • Frozen Shoulder • Sprains/ strains • Facial pain • TMJ • Headache • Dental pain • Acute and chronic gastritis • Acute epigastralgia • Peptic ulcer • Rheumatoid arthritis • Induction of labor • Breech birth presentation • Morning sickness • Primary dysmenorrhea • Nausea and vomiting • Postoperative pain • Stroke • Essential hypertension • Primary hypotension • Radiation/chemo reactions • Allergic rhinitis • Hay fever

One of the main concerns about acupuncture is the fear that it will hurt.  The truth is that the needles are so tiny that they don’t feel like needles used for blood tests or injections.  Some people can barely feel the acupuncture needles at all.  However, the needles can cause some discomfort or sensitivity, especially in more sensitive areas of the body.  More commonly, though, people describe a mild tingling sensation when the needle is inserted to the appropriate depth.

What happens on your first visit:

After a thorough evaluation at your first appointment including medical history, inquiry into many areas of your health, sleep, stress, work situation, family life, diet and emotions, the acupuncturist will check your tongue and pulse to be better able to understand your whole presentation.  The acupuncturist will then sanitize your skin where acupuncture will be performed, using 70% isopropyl alcohol.  The needles that will be used are in sterile packaging which are only opened at the time of use.  After the therapist has finished the points prescription, you will be allowed to rest for 30-35min.  Once the treatment is ended the needles are removed and disposed of in biohazard waste container.  It is after the assessment and first treatment your therapist will discuss future care plans with you.

What is Qi?

In English, Qi (pronounced “chee”) is usually translated as “vital life force,” but Qi is so much more than that.  According to Classical Chinese Philosophy, Qi is the force that makes up and binds together all things in the universe.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the concept of Qi has two main branches: There is the physical or nourishing portion of Qi that makes up the air, water, and food that we take in. The other branch of Qi is more insubstantial. It is the vital fluids and the energy itself that flows through our bodies.

 Functions of Qi:

• Actuating: Qi is responsible for maintaining the vital life energy that is necessary for the body to grow and develop properly. This includes all the body’s functions, such as the Zang-fu (organs), meridians, and Xue (Blood). If there is a Qi deficiency, then the functional entities and vital substances will be negatively impacted, which can cause illness.

• Warming: Qi helps produce heat and regulates body temperature for normal functions to occur. A deficiency in Qi can result in a lowered body temperature, cold limbs, and a disposition to hot drinks, as means to combat this.

• Defending: Qi defends the body against external elements, such as pathogens and environmental factors that can cause illness.

• Containing: Qi is responsible for ensuring that the body’s organs and fluids kept in their proper places. In the case of Xue, Qi is responsible for regulating blood flow within the vessels and ensuring that they don’t leak out. Qi also regulates Jinye (body fluids-sweat, saliva, tears etc.) and makes sure that only the proper amount is allowed to leave the body. Qi deficiency can result in symptoms related to body fluids and organ problems.

• Transforming: Qi is also responsible for transforming nutrition and air into different subsets of Qi, such as blood.

What you need to know Before Your first visit:

• Have a snack first. Going on an empty stomach can cause you to become lightheaded or dizzy.

• Coffee drinkers take note: It’s best to abstain from your cup of joe—or any caffeine for that matter —for 12 hours before your acupuncture treatment. Even low doses of caffeine may hinder acupuncture’s pain-fighting power.

• Wear loose-fitting clothes. Your acupuncturist may have you roll up your sleeves or pant legs to access the acupuncture points.

• Hydrate— make sure you have a bottle of water to drink after your session.

• This will be more than a one-time thing. Expect your acupuncturist to recommend repeat visits. The effects of acupuncture build over time, even if you feel relief after the first visit.

Your acupuncture session is aimed at returning your body to a state of balance by removing stagnations and blockages. The moment that an acupuncturist corrects your blockages, countless bodily functions and activities are affected; the flow of blood begins to improve, and your body begins to renew and rebuild itself.

How You Might Respond After Acupuncture:

Peace and Relaxation

You may experience feelings of deepening peace and relaxation after your session.   This relaxed feeling may last for the rest of the day or week and may lead to a deeper, more refreshing sleep.  Others have experienced a soothing feeling of warmth flowing to various parts of their body.  Some feel very energetic and do all their chores or business that day with a light, happy feeling.

Relief of Symptoms

Some may find the symptoms they were experiencing prior to their first visit have lessened.  However, there are also cases where others may not notice a difference after their session.  This does not mean that they are not benefiting from their acupuncture session; it only means that they are not feeling any external responses.

Acupuncture Responses:

Usually, a small minority of people may feel discomfort, muscle soreness or even some pain.  They may also experience headaches or some other uncomfortable feelings.

What Causes Acupuncture Responses?

You may be experiencing detoxification or cleansing of your body after acupuncture.  When toxins leave the system, you may experience headaches, sniffles, a slight fever, extreme drowsiness, lethargy or similar reactions.

Your tissues are realigning after the session.  Usually, these tissues are in a weakened state because they have not been used properly for a long period of time.  This condition is temporary and once the tissues have strengthened themselves the symptoms will disappear.

Improved blood circulation may send a burst of healing energy through the body and can result in feeling euphoric or “high”.  This may also occur as you experience a sudden release from long-standing stress fixations in your body.

People in good health may feel no different, while others may feel no different for opposing reasons; their health is so poor that they have lost sensitivity in their body.  Fortunately, even those experiencing such first- time responses to the acupuncture later enjoy the feeling of well-being after a short period of time.

The Most Important Benefits:

Often the benefits of acupuncture are found beyond levels of consciousness.  It is when the blood flows to the heart, lungs, joints, sexual organs, skin, eyes, ears, and the brain that the true benefits of acupuncture are experienced. The true benefits of acupuncture care are the preventative benefits: better night’s sleep, more energy, and better whole-body functioning.

You can benefit from healthy blood flow no matter what disease or condition you have. Much like proper nutrition, free flow of circulation is extremely important for your overall healing.

Naheed Atcha, R. Ac. is now accepting new patients. For more about Naheed, link to our Live Well and Thrive Blog post HERE.

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