What to Expect From Acupuncture Treatment


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice developed in China; it was introduced to the Western world in the early 1970s. The treatment is most commonly used to reduce pain and stress levels. The technique is performed by an experienced and licensed professional and involves the insertion of fine, thin needles into the skin at specific points of the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is described as a method to balance the flow of energy (chi or qi) via pathways through the body. In the Western world, it is considered an alternative treatment. Acupuncture practitioners believe that the strategic placement of the needles stimulates muscles, nerves and connective tissues. Many alternative medical professionals believe this stimulation increases natural pain-fighting chemicals and boosts blood flow in the body.

What conditions does acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture therapy is used to ease the pain and discomfort that accompany an array of chronic pain conditions: neck pain, low back pain, headaches (including migraine headaches and tension headaches), osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and various other chronic pain conditions. It is also used to ease chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea, labor pain, menstrual cramps, dental pain and numerous other medical conditions.

Initial evaluation

Acupuncture practitioners often combine the Eastern and Western approaches to treatment. During the first visit, an evaluation is usually conducted to establish what form of acupuncture therapy will be most beneficial. The practitioner will usually ask questions regarding lifestyle, behaviors and symptoms in order to tailor the best treatment approach. The acupuncture specialist may also observe:

  • The areas of the body that are tender or aching
  • The color, shape and coating of the tongue
  • The facial complexion
  • The rhythm, strength and quality of the heartbeat

The initial evaluation usually takes approximately one hour.

Acupuncture treatment

Depending on the treatment area, an individual may need to remove their clothing and use a provided towel, gown or sheet to maintain privacy. Acupuncture is performed while the individual is lying down on a padded table. The treatment involves the following:

  • Needle insertion — During a typical treatment, approximately five to 20 needles are inserted into the skin at different points and depths. Because the needles are so thin, most people cannot even feel them being inserted.
  • Needle manipulation — During treatment, the needles may be mildly manipulated, and heat or gentle electrical pulses may be applied to the needles.
  • Needle removal — Needles are usually removed after approximately 10 to 20 minutes. People usually do not feel the needles being removed.

Post acupuncture treatment

Following acupuncture treatment, some people feel energized; whereas, other people feel relaxed. It is important to give acupuncture time to work. If no improvement in symptoms is acquired within several weeks, acupuncture may not be the right treatment for the individual.