When some people hear the work acupuncture, they think of the tubular syringe needles used by doctors. How are the tiny acupuncture needles different? Is acupuncture a safe technique? What is the acupuncture procedure like? Here are some answers to your questions.
1. Are the needles clean?
Yes. In the USA, all regular needles are required to be sterilized and disposable. In order to ensure that the procedure of insertion is not contaminated by any sources, the certified acupuncturists are required to study a certain number of hours in “clean needle techniques” which include such areas as the proper insertion and disposal of needles as well as disease transmission and proper hand washing requirements and local skin sterilization before the needle is applied. The infection rate of acupuncture is very low.
2. Is it safe? Does it harm nerves and vessels?
The acupuncture is very safe. In fact, the needle the acupuncturists are using is completely different from syringes that doctors or nurses are using. It is a very fine, solid needle (diameter, Ø 0.22mm-0.26mm). It is rare that it will touch the tiny or fine branch nerves(less than 1 millimeter). In extremely rare occasions when the needle touches the nerve, you may have a strong uncomfortable feeling and the practitioner will withdraw it immediately. The affected tissue will recover very soon. If it breeches a blood vessel, it may cause bleeding. But, the bleeding will stop very soon after the needle is pulled out and a momentary pressure is applied to the spot of bleeding (for veins it takes one half to two minutes; for arteries it takes two to five minutes). The practitioner will always try to avoid any visible artery or vein vessel before the needle is inserted into the skin.
Is it damaging to the pleural membrane and cause pneumothorax?
Some persons worry about injury to lung or pleural membranes, and other internal organs when they take acupuncture treatment. But, the fact is that the procedure is administrated by an experienced practitioner who knows the anatomy well. The points used over the chest and upper back are limited to a shallow depth and with some specific directions/angle (especially for upper chest and back); for the head, face and neck, insertions are limited to shallow procedures. Insertion is often oblique or almost parallel to the skin to avoid hurting the skull and important organs. Obviously, some areas are prohibited such as the eyes and belly. There is no reason to worry so much about injury to important internal organs because of their location and depth.
3. Does it cause pain?
Most nerve endings including mechanoceptors and pain receptors (nociceptors) are distributed at the surface of the skin. When the practitioner is inserting the very fine needle, the velocity is very high with tubing guidance. In most cases, the patients do not feel anything at the time when the needle is inserted through the skin into the deep tissues of the human body. Sometimes, the patient will have a slight pricking or tingling sensation. After the needle is pushed further into deeper tissue (muscles or connective tissues), it produces some hot, heavy or other different senses, except pain. It doesn't go in so deeply as to touch the bone. When the needle touches a blood vessel, it triggers a slight sensation of pain. So the visible vessels and tendons are always avoided. Any areas of scarring, infection or tumors will not be treated.
4. What is its effect as a health therapy?
Acupuncture is a natural treatment which adjusts the human body’s self-healing abilities to reach a balance of physical and mental conditioning. It is not just for removal of symptoms. It may relieve pain and reduce inflammation, increase the movement range of joints , increase circulation of the affected areas and adjust endocrinal or mental conditions. The effect of acupuncture is obvious for treating some diseases, such as low back pain, arthritis, nausea, stress, migraines, allergy, insomnia and so on, when acupuncture is administrated, even though its mechanism is not clear and remains to be studied. The WHO has recognized oriental medicine including acupuncture as effective for over 43 common ailments and has set up a special group to promote the application as a useful alternative method.
5. How does it work?
It is believed that when the needles are slightly inserted into the skin this stimulates the body's natural chemicals of healing to concentrate on that part of the body. For example, neuroscientists have found that neurotransmitters and opioid peptides perform acupuncture analgesic functions. However, this is one of many western medical explanations of acupuncture, which often fail to explain all of acupuncture's effects. A traditional explanation of "how acupuncture works" includes an understanding of meridian theory: meridians are energy pathways that connect internal organs and the surface of the body, to form a complex network. When the energy (“Qi” and “Blood”) in the meridians is not moving properly, it can, in turn, affect the proper functioning of the organs and cause physical and mental imbalances throughout the body. Insertion at certain specific acupoints can remove the blockage of meridians and make the “Qi” and “Blood” run smoothly through the body. Selection and location of these acupoints is based upon a variety of affected systems of the body and also on the experience and style of the acupuncturist. By stimulating specific points on the body along these meridians, the functioning of the body, including internal organs, the endocrine and nervous systems, as well as emotions can be altered or adjusted to optimal conditions.
Since there is no physically verifiable anatomical or histological basis for the existence of acupuncture points or meridians, some scientists think that acupuncture treatment is not based on any reliable scientific principles, but is confined to the spiritual realm or primarily a placebo treatment.
6. How long does it take for the whole treatment of the disease? How often would I need to come in for treatment?
It depends on the patient’s condition. We offer free walk-in consultations.
7. Are there other techniques without needles in the clinic?
Yes. There are some non-needle techniques we are using: Cupping, Ear-point acupressure, Electrical Stimulation, Infrared light, Infrared wrap, Nutrition, and Diet treatment.
(1). Cupping is a healing practice known as Fire Cupping, Body Vacuuming, or simply Cupping. It is a safe and non-invasive technique. After the practitioner evacuates glass or plastic cups, the cup is applied to intact or scarified skin and produces a negative air pressure vacuum inside the cups for suctioning and pressuring the tissues of correspondent areas and drawing blood toward or through the surface of the skin. It is often used to treat muscle, soft tissues and joint pain and spasms, particularly in the back and leg. Cupping therapy is thought to stimulate blood circulation, release rigid muscles and relieve the pain. There are several types of cups: glass, plastic and wood cups. The glass cups and plastic cups are most commonly used.
(2). Auricular acupressure involves the fingers’ stimulation of the acupoints located on the ear with tiny seeds or pellets. Different acupoints on each ear represent the anatomical parts and functions of the human body. These points are distributed on the ear in the image of an inverted fetus. The diameter of the seeds or pellets is about 1mm and they do not pierce the skin. Auricular acupressure is gentle, safe, painless and effective when the seed is affixed to the ear for a variety of conditions. The client may leave these seeds in for 2 to 4 days and re-stimulate the points by massaging the ear acupoints several times each day. This therapy is most often used for weight loss, smoking cessation and addiction. Acupressure is also ideal for children and the elderly suffering from conditions including vision problems, arthritis, mobility problems, constipation, and poor circulation. It may work through stimulating special points associated with the cranial nerves on the auricle of the ear.
(3). Nutrition and food choice is a very important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Many foods are both sources of energy and are also an herbal medicine which can prevent or treat some diseases. The advantage of this approach lies in its ability to customize to every individual’s needs. Chinese nutrition takes into consideration such factors as method of preparation, body type, season, and one’s geographical location in determining the appropriate diet. Currently the fast paced lifestyle often gives nutritious eating a low priority. With modern eating habits in the USA, the percentage of the population with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, etc is increasing. We should change these habits in order to gain a balanced nutrition. Many diseases and symptoms can be treated with dietary changes alone; however it often takes longer and requires the utmost compliance and dedication on the patient’s part.
(4). Impulse electrical stimulation is a technique that uses electrical currents to activate local muscles and nerves innervating extremities affected by acute or chronic injury, or neurological disorders. It can relieve pain and spasms, improve circulation, relax muscles and promote metabolism.
(5). Infrared mineral lamp The mineral plate on the head of the Infrared Mineral Lamp is activated by a built-in electric heating element which emits an infrared spectrum specific to the mineral plate, it emits a special band of electromagnetic waves ranging from 2 to 25 (microns) in wavelength and 28 to 34 mw/sq. cm in intensity that coincide with the wavelength and intensity of the electromagnetic waves released by the human body. The released electromagnetic waves are subsequently absorbed by the body. It has a remarkable effect for pain relief and release of muscle and joint stiffness, muscle spasms, sprains and strains and promotion of local circulation.
(6). Massage (including full body and foot reflexology) is a classic treatment and practice of soft tissue manipulation with physical and functional purposes and goals. See “Massage / Information”.
(7). Infrared body wrap is one treatment for Overweight, Whole body pain (such as Fibromyalgia), Stress or Insomnia.