Medical acupuncture is acupuncture performed by a doctor trained and licensed in Western medicine as well as thoroughly trained in acupuncture as a specialty practice.
During acupuncture the skilled practitioner uses special needles to stimulate the nervous system, to either change the experience of pain, or to trigger the release of chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture can result in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, as well as promote a patient’s physical and emotional well-being.
The insertion of an acupuncture needle is generally not a painful experience. Patients sometimes sit with eyes closed and teeth clenched asking, ‘When are you going to put the needles in?’, and are often surprised to learn that the needles are in place before they have finished asking the question. It would be wrong to suppose that the insertion of an acupuncture needle is devoid of any sensation, but those who experience acupuncture do not usually describe it as a painful sensation.
The needles used are smaller than injection needles; in fact an acupuncture needle fits into the central hole of a normal injection needle. Acupuncture needles have a doweled end, not a cutting end like most hypodermic needles, and therefore are far less likely to cause pain, tissue damage or bruising when inserted.
The sensation experienced by the patient will vary. Needling sensation is generally not painful but it is a dull, bursting or numb sensation around the site of the inserted needle. The sensation may also travel up or down the area being treated. Areas of tense muscle or areas that are sensitive to touch for the individual, may carry a heightened sensation when the needle is inserted, compared to more normal/less sensitive areas.
It is also important to note that some medical acupuncturists use an electrical stimulator to excite acupuncture points. This is a technique commonly utilize by our clinic. Electro-acupuncture causes a tingling sensation over the acupuncture points that are being stimulated. This is done by adjusting up the stimulation to the patient comfort and tolerance level.
Treatment responses do vary. Almost all feel a positive effect during the treatment. Most will Have this positive response last a few days to several weeks depending on how chronic the problem may be. Sometimes a patient may experience a temporary worsening of symptoms due to acupuncture; this is a rare response to treatment but is still a good sign. Such ‘reactions’ to treatment only last for a short time, perhaps a day or two, and are usually followed by improvement. A ‘reaction usually means that the patient is very sensitive to acupuncture. If such a ‘reaction’ occurs, the patient should notify the medical acupuncturist so that the patient can be stimulated less at the next treatment session, this means giving a shorter and less aggressive treatment. An even rarer response is where the improvement may be very delayed and the condition may not be perceived as improve until the treatment has ceased.
Occasionally, one treatment is all that is required, while others may need a number of treatments to gain the same result for the same disease. In general, between four and eight treatment sessions may be required in order to obtain the best results from acupuncture. It is also common that for chronic conditions, relief may be temporary, lasting anywhere from 3 months to up to a year. After which periodic/ yearly maintenance treatments may be needed.
No medical treatment works all the time, and acupuncture is no exception to this rule. Here in the US, the condition that is most commonly treated by acupuncture is pain and in general, acupuncture has a significant effect in about seventy percent of painful diseases.