What is Acupuncture?
Originating in China, acupuncture has been employed as a health care modality for thousands of years. It is a system of comprehensive and complementary medicine that involves pricking the skin and tissues with hair-thin, stainless steel, single use needles. It is used to alleviate pain and to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions. It's based on the theory that energy, called Qi ("chee"), flows through and around the body along pathways called meridians. Acupuncturists believe that illness occurs when something (trauma, stress, unbalanced diet, poor sleeping habits, etc.) blocks or unbalances your Qi. Acupuncture is used as a way to unblock or influence Qi and help it flow back into balance through the application of needles at specific points on the body. Sometimes heat, manipulation, or mild electrical stimulation is used along with the needles. Through the use of needles and manipulation at specific points on the body, acupuncturists are able to return the body to its natural balance (homeostasis) and promote the body's ability to heal itself. Other complimentary modalities may be used during a treatment such as cupping, moxa, or tui na.
How does Acupuncture work?
Western scientists have found evidence that acupuncture points are strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals. Stimulating points along these pathways through acupuncture enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at a greater rate than under normal conditions. These signals may start the flow of pain-killing biochemicals, such as endorphins, and of immune system cells to specific sites in the body that are injured or vulnerable to disease. Research has found that several types of opioids may be released into the central nervous system during acupuncture treatment, thereby reducing pain. Opioids are naturally occurring chemicals in the brain that have an analgesic effect. The release of these opioids plays a significant role in the reduction of pain. In addition, studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Stimulation of acupuncture points by needles affects the body on a biochemical and physiological level through sensory receptors. The stimulation of sensory receptors, produced with acupuncture, stimulate nerves that transmit signals to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain, thereby altering the secretion of their chemicals (neurotransmitters, neurohormones & endorphins). These particular chemicals play a direct role in the sensation of pain, as well as, the activity of an organ(s).
What does it feel like?
Many first-time patients are concerned that acupuncture needles will feel like hypodermic injections at the doctor's office. That is not the case! Acupuncture uses hair-thin flexible needles. A gentle stimulation of the needles may produce a unique sensation that Chinese Medicine calls de qi. Patients often describe de qi as a heavy, achy pressure, or spreading, traveling feeling. You may also feel an "electrical" sensation moving down the meridian pathways, though this is less common. Most patients find acupuncture to be deeply satisfying and leave the treatment feeling relaxed both mentally and physically.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
No. Our skin is the most sensitive area, as all of our nerve endings are there for the sense of touch, so most people feel the initial prick as the thin flexible needle touches the skin. Once the needle has reached its desired depth, most people feel nothing to varying sensations of a quick electrical impulse, a deep ache, or a heavy sensation. Some people are more sensitive than others and everyone experiences acupuncture differently. If at any time you are experiencing pain during your treatment, please communicate what you are feeling with your acupuncturist as they can either adjust or remove the needle causing discomfort.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Yes. Acupuncturists are required to undergo extensive education and training, including Clean Needle Technique. In the state of Illinois, acupuncturists are required to pass board examinations administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). As required by law, pre-sterilized, disposable, single-use needles are used to ensure your complete safety.