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Get the Point — The Benefits of Acupuncture

So you have a migraine again. Most likely, you’ll go to the cabinet to get medication for relief. You’ll probably not think to go to the doctor to have needles placed in your skin. But acupuncture is actually a viable option for pain relief (among many other applications), and is increasingly chosen as a complement to conventional medicine.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture originated in China. However, over the past 2 decades it has grown in popularity in the United States. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles or the application of heat or electrical stimulation at acupuncture points to encourage the body to heal itself and to improve functioning. These acupuncture points are located along channels of energy, called meridians, which run in regular patterns through the body.

How does acupuncture work?

The classical Chinese explanation behind acupuncture is that the flow of energy, Qi (pronounced “Chee”), must flow freely through the meridians for the body to function properly.  Acupuncture can treat an obstruction in the movement of Qi. The acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments help to correct imbalances in the function of internal organs in the body.

Modern science provides a different scientific explanation of acupuncture. According to modern medicine, the acupuncture points stimulate the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain that change the experience of pain and trigger the release of hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.

What is medical acupuncture?

Increasingly, acupuncture is being used in conjunction with more Western medical treatment, such as to control pain after surgery or the curb nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy. Conveniently, specially trained physicians can perform this service for patients.

Medical acupuncture is the term used to describe acupuncture performed by a doctor trained and licensed in Western medicine who also has specialty training in acupuncture. Such a doctor can use acupuncture as a single approach to illness, use traditional medical treatment, or they can use a combination of both to treat illness.

Medical acupuncture can be used for promotion of health and wellbeing, prevention of illness and disease, and treatment of various medical conditions. Acupuncture is often associated with pain control, but it can have a much broader application.

Acupuncture may be used in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:

  • Digestive disorders: gastritis and hyperacidity, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea.

  • Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections.

  • Neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendinitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis.

  • Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems.

  • Physical problems related to stress and emotional conditions.

What can you expect during a session?

Generally during an acupuncture visit, the doctor will perform an exam and assessment of your current condition. They will then insert the needles either with you face down, face up, or on your side, depending on the placement of needles. The doctor will use single-use sterile packages needles. Once these are placed at certain depths in your skin, they will be kept in place for 5 to 20 minutes.

How many acupuncture treatments do you need?

The number of treatments you’ll need is very individualized. It differs from person to person. For acute problems, often a few treatments may be sufficient.  However, for complex or chronic problems, frequent visits over the course of months may be necessary.

What are the side effects of acupuncture?

Occasionally, the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may occur. These indicate that the acupuncture is starting to work. It is common to feel deep relaxation immediately following the treatment.

Most patients feel minimal or no pain as the needles are inserted; Once the needles are in place, there is no pain felt. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel. The point is not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic. Thus, the risk of bruising and skin irritation is less than when using a hollow needle. Because your doctor uses disposable needles, there is no risk of infection from the treatments.

If you are considering acupuncture, make sure to choose a certified and well-recommended provider. Make sure to discuss if this is an appropriate solution for your condition. Find out whether the expensive is covered by your insurance.

Community Care Physicians provide acupuncture services at Albany Family Practice Group, 2 Clara Barton Drive, Albany. Click here for more information on Albany Family Practice Group or to schedule an appointment.

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