Acupuncture: Alternative Treatment for Pain
Are there different styles of acupuncture?
Yes. Acupuncture can be traced back 4,000 years to the Chinese and since then has migrated around the world. There are a number of different styles of treatment. Most practitioners in the U.S. use the Traditional Chinese Medicine style that uses bigger needles. Japanese style needles are much smaller and finer.
How does acupuncture work?
Modern Western medicine cannot explain exactly how acupuncture works. Traditional acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy) that circulate in channels called meridians. Symptoms of various illnesses are often seen as disrupted or unbalanced Qi movement through these channels. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to relieve these imbalances by adjusting the flow of Qi in the body using a variety of acupuncture techniques.
What are some common issues that can be treated with acupuncture?
One of the most common issues is chronic pain such as pain in the back, hip, knee, or elbow. Acupuncture can also be used for treating patients who have emotional problems such as stress, depression, and anxiety brought on as a result of physical issues. Other common issues include infertility, insomnia, incontinence, pelvic pain, and addictions. It has also been shown that cancer patients receiving chemotherapy can benefit from acupuncture, which can offer a higher quality of life and longer disease-free intervals. Many primary care providers recommend acupuncture because they understand the benefits of this alternative method of treatment and healing.
How long are the treatment sessions and how many treatments are needed?
The standard acupuncture treatment is an hour. As far as the number of treatments, it depends on the duration and nature of your issue. Typically, initial treatment is usually 4 to 6 weekly visits. Many patients either continue or space out frequency to once a month or less.
Is acupuncture painful and are there risks involved?
Most people don’t feel anything or a small pricking sensation. The needles we use are the diameter of a hair and are sterilized stainless steel. They are also disposable. If a spot is tender, the needle is moved to a different location. The depth of the needle penetration is typically 1/4 inch. Risks are extraordinarily rare, but you can experience a small bruise. A patient may feel tired afterward and should get some extra rest. Patients can also feel energized after a session, so we encourage them to pace themselves.
What kind of results could I expect from acupuncture treatment?
Some patients experience total or partial relief of pain or other symptoms. This relief may last or some pain may return. In some cases, there may be no immediate relief, only to experience the pain diminish over the next couple of days. Generally, you should expect to feel better. The goal with each treatment is to get substantial, longer relief and to get patients in the best condition they can be in at that point in their life. We have treated patients where the results have been miraculous.
By Lars Nielson, MD
Dr. Lars Nielson is an OB/GYN specialist and medical acupuncturist at Weeks Medical Center. For more information or for an appointment, please call 603-788-5095.