How does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture works by helping the body get more out of its own natural healing resources. Beyond that, I don’t know exactly how to explain how it works in Western terms. Western science has ideas about how and why it works, and the more that we learn about embryology and the fascial system, the closer we are to answering that question. Acupuncture as I learned it is based in Chinese medicine, which has an entirely different language.
I think the more important question is: does it work? The answer is: Yes. It has been tested on many billions of people across more than 5 millennia. Practices don’t last that long if people aren’t receiving benefit.
Acupuncture works on the theory that the body has an innate intelligence and strives to be “in balance”. In other words, when we are sick or injured, the body has the tools it needs to correct the problem. The way that I understand it, acupuncture serves as a communication service to help the body to make corrections – by improving the quality of the blood, by “sending troops to the front” (in the case of a virus or some external assault), by helping to re-set the nervous system, by helping to make corrections to the “internal thermostat”, by regulating hormones / menstrual cycle, etc. Acupuncture doesn’t add anything to the body, it simply helps the function of what is already there.
Is Acupunture Safe?
Acupuncture is safe when practitioners follow clean needle technique, requiring that FDA approved, single use, sterile, nontoxic needles be used for each patient, and acupuncture points be swabbed with alcohol prior to needle insertion. Needles must be labeled for single use and acupuncture treatment should be performed only by licensed practitioners.
Is Acupunture painful?
No, but you will likely feel something. The sensations elicited by needle insertion are often like nothing you have previously experienced. Acupuncture feels “weird”. The descriptions I hear the most frequently are: mild tingling, slight numbness, throbbing or aching, a distending feeling around the point of insertion, or electrical pulsations in areas distant from the site of insertion.
How many treatments will I need?
There is no definitive answer to this question. The number of treatments greatly depends on the conditions being treated, your age and health, and how you respond to acupuncture. Acupuncture is a natural medicine that is assisting your body to gradually make changes.
Generally, acute problems are relatively quickly resolved. For example, an acute sprain may require only one or two treatments, whereas more chronic or severe ailments may require several treatments before marked improvements are visible.
A typical course of treatment is 4-6 appointments (3 appts within 10 days is optimal to begin treatment), but 8-10 treatments (or more) may be necessary to resolve chronic or stubborn cases.
Will my insurance cover acupuncture treatments?
Insurance coverage for acupuncture treatment varies from policy to policy. Although we do not accept insurance as payment for acupuncture treatment at this time, we will work with you to provide the itemized paperwork necessary to submit to your insurance for reimbursement. You may wish to contact your insurance company to find out what your policy’s coverage is for acupuncture. Some questions to ask might include:
- Will my policy cover acupuncture?
- If so, how many visits are covered per calender year?
- Do I need a referral?
- Do I have a deductible?
- Does the acupuncturist have to be in-network in order for me to receive acupuncture benefits?
- Does acupuncture coverage only apply for certain conditions? If so, what conditions are covered?
What should I do to prepare for my first acupuncture treatment?
Wear comfortable and loose fitting clothes.
Eat at least one hour before appointment.
Do not brush your tongue that day.
Allow 75-90 minutes for first appt and 45-60 for all subsequent.
What is the difference between getting acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) or from a medical doctor or chiropractor with an acupuncture certification?
In the state of Illinois, licensed acupuncturists are required to complete a minimum of 3 academic years of study, which includes over 2000 hours of classroom and clinical training. In addition, in order to become licensed, candidates must pass a rigorous national board examination given by the National Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). In contrast, in most states, medical doctors can practice acupuncture with little or no training, and chiropractors can practice it with as little as 300 hours of training.
Acupuncture should only be administered by a practitioner who has specific education in this field due to risk of improper needling, inadequate understanding of Oriental medical diagnostic procedures, transmission of disease, or ethical violations.