Almost every website or book you come across will define acupuncture as "The insertion of fine needles into an acu-point to bring balance.."
Well, that is true, but what does that really mean?
My focus and passion with practicing Chinese medicine is to help you realize that it is easy to understand and friendly to those who are unfamiliar with it. So, I am going to step out of the normal jargon for you and tell you what acupuncture means to me. I will then list the textbook definitions below, so you can gather your own understanding of the medicine.. then I'd love for you to come talk to me about it!
Acupuncture is amazing... I am truly astonished by it's effectiveness every day! It can be very gentle, or it can be like an arrow straight into the heart of your symptoms. The point here, is that Acupuncture has the ability to be very flexible and focused for each patient.
Acupuncture to me is one of the best forms of treatment that I have found to address the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual irregularities that I may face throughout my life. It is there for me in times of stress when I need immediate relief, and I use it as a preventative measure regularly.
I love to feel the qi when I get acupuncture, and so do most of my patients. Some of them even love to have the needles inserted and feel a big qi response (see below). Where as others don't want to feel anything at all! Most people fall somewhere in between, which is why it is very important to be comfortable with your practitioner, so you can communicate what you want.
I find that it always seems to make me feel better all over, and my patients say just the same thing. After their first visit they often report feeling better within the realms of their biggest complaints, but will also admit that they slept better, had more even emotions and had more energy. Sounds good right?!
This is a tricky one to answer. The actual insertion of the needle is not painful at all. It is the patients interpretation of the qi response that is the hot debate. Most people report feeling a sort of dull and achey sensation at the sight of the needle. They also report feeling that same sensation traveling up or down from the area of insertion. They report other adjectives such as warm, a slight pressure on the skin, a weak electric feeling, a tingling sensation or a presence in the area. Or, they can just feel something different than before but have a hard time using language to describe it.
Since each person is unique and acupuncture takes such a holistic approach, this question can have many answers. Although, typically people respond in one of two ways. People whom have chronic issues (say over a year of the symptom or disease existing) tend to see smaller changes over time, and some exacerbation of symptoms at the start. The good thing though, is when you really put effort and time into your chronic issues with acupuncture, herbs and changes in your diet and lifestyle, often times you can experience a significantly less amount of symptoms overall or just no symptoms at all! I find that people only have to come in once a month or whenever they feel it is appropriate to keep their symptoms at bay.
People with acute symptoms (usually less than a year ongoing) get results a lot quicker. Typically, they have few exacerbation of symptoms and have longer standing results quicker. So you can imagine that it is better to come in sooner than later for your aches and pains!
One thing to keep in mind when considering whether or not you fall into the chronic or acute type of symptom relief is that acupuncture is very cumulative and everyone is different.. so the more frequent you come at the beginning and the more you are willing to do our homework outside of the treatments, the more likely you are to experience some very big changes toward great health. Make your time and money worth it!!
When you come in for a treatment with PDX Acupuncture there are a few things we do almost all the time, and some great modalities we pull out if we need to.
Acupuncture of course! We place the needles in the most appropriate place for you based on your syndrome differentiation.
Massage for sure! We love to massage when we are done with or before the acupuncture treatment. We can do tuina, shiatsu or just good old fashioned relaxation or deep tissue massage.
Electro-Acupuncture - This is a fun one! We have a little box with all kinds of buttons and gauges on it built around a 9 volt battery. We connect the cords that run from this box to the needles that are inserted into an acupuncture point. I admit that it sounds a bit scary, but once you are calm and relaxed the electro-stimulation feels a lot like an internal massage. It's great for musculo-skeletal disorders like pain!
Cupping My personal favorite modality to use! We put salve on the skin, and apply the glass cups via suction. It feels great! You may have seen it on some celebrities or olympic athletes recently. When the cups are removed it leaves a purplish red mark the size of the cup on your back. The color comes up when the body has an external pathogen, or some qi and or blood stagnation that needs to be moved. In western type terms it is a mild form of detoxification in the level of the skin.
MOXA We love the smell! Moxa is a dried herb called Mugwort. It comes manufactured in many forms.. a smokeless form, a raw form, a sticky cone form... all kinds! The idea behind it though, is that it utilizes the warming properties that come out during the burning of the moxa to heal the body. It feels warm and emanates a very deep and nourishing feeling as it penetrates into the acupuncture channels.
Ion Pumping Cords These cords are not like the electro, they have no battery attached. They are attached to needles that relate the "extra channels" (see below for more info on them). They are a vehicle for the negative and positive ions to travel in when attached to the needles. This almost always puts me to sleep!! Some people feel it right away, a sensation of falling deeper into the treatment, and some recall after the treatment that it went particularly deep that time.
Palpation We almost always feel along the bodies acupuncture channels to see what level of tenderness is at some acupuncture points. We may or may not needle that point in particular. We also may palpate your abdomen. This is done with deep but gentle pressure to find reactive areas. These areas help us gather information about the state of the internal body.
Observation We love to observe how your skin looks and your eyes sparkle, how you walk, speak and explain your symptoms... Don't be worried, we are not judging at all.. it is just a way for us to understand how your body works, so do your best to always be yourself.
Tongue Diagnosis We always look at your tongue when you come in. It is one of the best ways for us to gather information about the state of your internal body.
Pulse Diagnosis Same as the tongue, we always feel the pulse. It is also a great way or us to gather information and make a proper diagnosis of the patient.
Biggest Complaint - What you would like me to focus on that day.
Qi response - The feeling or you get when I insert the needle.
MOXA - Artemesia Vulagaris a species of chrysanthemum. The moxa leaf is bitter and acrid, producing warmth when used in a small amount and strong heat when used in a large amount. When it is burned it penetrates all the meridians eliminating hundreds of diseases.
Cupping - Cupping is a therapy in which a jar is attached to the skin surface to cause local congestion through the negative pressure created by introducing heat in the form of an ignited material. This method has the function of warming and promoting the free flow of qi and blood in the meridians for removing cold and dampness and diminishing swellings and pains.
Massage - Hands on the body respectfully and accurately to move the qi and body fluids in order to remove pains and aches. It helps to move areas of mild qi and blood stagnation, relax the patient and sooth the mind.
Ion Pumping Cords - These are wires with a diode in them and are attached to needles shallowly inserted in the body. They are used mostly as a form of treating the root, but can be used to treat specific symptoms as well. There are several schools of thought regarding their use.
Tongue Diagnosis - Observation of the tongue , also known as tongue diagnosis, is an important procedure in diagnosis by inspection. It provides primary information for the diagnosis to be made by the practitioner. The essential qi that the body uses to survive, is reflected on the tongue via the heart meridian which connects to the root of the tongue. That is why the observation of the tongue can help determine the pathological changes of the internal organs.
Pulse feeling - The location for feeling the pulse is at the wrist where the radial artery throbs. There are three regions, the cun (pronounced "tsoon"), guan ("gwan") and chi ("chirr") positions. These regions each reflect two organs. One organ in the deep layer of the pulse and one in the upper layer of the pulse. So in total we feel the qi of 12 organs as we feel the pulse. We look at the depth, strength, quality and rate to again, help determine the diagnosis.
Palpation - Palpation is a method of diagnosis in which the pathological condition is detected by palpating, feeling and pressing on certain areas of the body.
Observation - Observation is a method of diagnosis in which the practitioner understands and predicts the pathological changes of the internal organs by inspecting the patient's vitality, color, appearance, secretions and excretions. Any slight changes in appearance in these areas can tell pathological conditions in various parts of the body. Observation of the body, therefore is of much help to the practitioner to determine a diagnosis.
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