Qi is loosely translated to mean the "lifeforce" of the body. It travels throughout the body energizing every cell and body system. We get qi in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. It is in everything in the universe. Qi is responsible for the movement and dynamic flow of energy. It invigorates our blood and digests the food we eat. It warms our bodies and makes our muscles move.
Acupuncture is a system of medicine developed in China over 5000 years ago that uses hair-thin needles inserted in specific locations on the body to affect overall changes in the body. Acupuncturists use acupuncture needles to regulate the flow of Qi (which is pronounced chee) throughout the body. It has been shown to affect the circulatory system, neurological system, immune system and lymph system.
Acupuncture is known to release endorphins into the body. Endorphins are opiates produced by the body to reduce pain. This is why acupuncture is known in the “West” for helping relieve pain and stress and promoting relaxation. What has now been shown is that acupuncture also produces a healing response in the body. By inserting needles in Acupuncture points on the body, a healing cascade is stimulated which bathes the body in its own natural healing chemicals.
Chinese medicine and acupuncture are wonderful ways to treat a host of conditions. Acupuncture has been used to treat everything from the common cold to fibromyalgia. It is used very successfully to treat pain. It even treats many forms of addiction and helps people who are ready to quit, finally kick the tobacco habit.
In the West, acupuncture is primarily used to treat pain conditions both acute and chronic. The U.S. Military has even begun using acupuncture to treat concussions and pain in active duty service personnel.
In my practice, I treat a wide variety of conditions including acute or chronic pain, upper respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, flu, headaches,insomnia, fertility issues and neurological or psychological conditions, including stress, depression, anxiety and PTSD.
Generally speaking no, acupuncture does not hurt. You will sometimes feel the needle as it goes into the skin, but after that, there should be no discomfort. A normal sensation during an acupuncture treatment is a dull ache or heaviness around an acupuncture point. You may feel a "zinger" or burst of energy at a location, but again it should calm down quickly and remain comfortable. A typical acupuncture treatment should be relaxing and restful. It is not unusual for patients to fall asleep during an acupuncture treatment! So if anything is uncomfortable during a treatment, just let your acupuncturist know and it can be adjusted.
Generally speaking acupuncture should be performed weekly to start. As your condition improves we will begin to back off treatment frequency. This is something we decide together as part of your treatment plan.
A study conducted by Helene Langevin, MD at the University of Vermont in Burlington shows acupuncture continues to work for days after the treatment. She discovered that an acupuncture treatment will continue to be affect the body up to six days after the acupuncture treatment was given. This discovery offers one explanation of how acupuncture “works.” It also indicates that weekly treatments, in most cases, are all that is necessary for optimal results.
There are some instances when I may want to see a person several times in a week. These would be in the case of someone who has multiple, complicated conditions concurrently or someone who is having a severe acute condition. This is something I would discuss with every patient on an individual basis.
Initially, I ask patients to give me 4 - 6 weekly treatments. In most situations we will know whether acupuncture is having an effect within this time frame. Acupuncture is a cumulative process. This means that as you receive more acupuncture you begin to have better results that last longer. Everyone responds to acupuncture differently so it is difficult to know exactly how you will respond. I have seen conditions improve significantly after only 1 or 2 treatments and others take much longer to show much improvement. As your symptoms improve, we will begin to back off and spread treatments out.
I have some patients who have decided that for them, continuing weekly treatments makes sense. I have many more that have found their own formula that works best for them. Sometimes it is every three weeks, sometimes monthly. More often, after their initial treatments, I see patients just a few times a year. For them, this is what works best to keep chronic conditions at bay. If a new condition starts, we address that as needed.