Acupuncture points are located in all areas of the body. Sometimes the appropriate points are far removed from the area of your pain. Your acupuncture practitioner will tell you the general location of the planned treatment and if articles of clothing need to be removed. If appropriate, a gown, towel or sheet will be provided to preserve your modesty. After you lie down on a padded table, the treatment begins.
Needle insertion: Acupuncture needles are very thin, so insertion usually causes very little discomfort. Between five and 20 needles are used in a typical treatment. You may feel a deep, aching sensation when a needle reaches the correct depth.
Needle manipulation: Your practitioner may gently move or twirl the needles after they've been placed. Another option is to apply heat or mild electrical pulses to the needles.
Needle removal: In most cases, the needles will remain in place for 10 to 20 minutes while you lie still and relax. There is usually no sensation of discomfort when the needles are removed.
Electro-Acupuncture: In 1958 news came from China that they had done major surgeries with patients being awake and having been made pain free only with the use of electro-acupuncture. In other words no chemical anesthesia was used or else very little was needed to make patients comfortable. Professor Ji-Sheng Han from the Beijing Medical University observed that only electrical stimulation was powerful enough to produce the pain relief that was necessary to allow general surgery. Dr. Han conducted systematic experiments to study the phenomenon of electro-acupuncture. One of the experiments involved two rabbits where the donor rabbit was anesthetized with electro-acupuncture. Spinal fluid was taken and transferred into a recipient rabbit that had not been further treated. This second rabbit was now rendered pain free to the point where surgery could be performed without pain. Other researchers such as Dr. Pomeranz found that the brain released endorphins in response to electro-acupuncture, powerful morphine-like substances. It was the endorphins that were responsible for making the recipient rabbit of Dr. Han’s experiment pain free.
He was able to explain that traditional Chinese acupuncture points were merely spots on the body where electric currents are picked up easier and transmitted up to the spinal cord and into the brain. They are then switched over in the brain and spinal cord to nerves that go to other areas of the body. This explains how electrical impulses can travel from conducting polymer pads applied over acupuncture points, release neuropeptides in the brain and help the body to heal. Functional MRI studies have confirmed that the brain is stimulated by certain frequencies through or traditional Chinese acupuncture to give pain relief. These types of studies have also shown that electro-acupuncture produces stronger signals in the brain than traditional Chinese acupuncture.
Beside pain relief many other applications exist for electro-acupuncture. Addiction medicine makes use of electro-acupuncture in weaning people from morphine or heroine etc. It can be used to treat psychiatric illness, particularly depression. It is useful in relieving nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy with cancer treatments or associated with pregnancy without affecting the pregnancy.
Benefits of Using Electrical Stimulation
1. It substitutes for prolonged manipulation by hand. This helps in the provision of adequate stimulation, because the practitioner may otherwise need to pause due to fatigue. Electro-acupuncture may also help reduce total stimulation time by providing a continued stimulus. During electro-acupuncture, the practitioner can attend to more than one subject.
2. It can produce a stronger stimulation, if desired, without causing tissue damage associated with twirling, lifting and thrusting the needle. Strong stimulation may be needed for difficult circumstances.
3. It is easier to control the frequency of the stimulus and the amount of stimulus than with manual manipulation of the needles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is Acupuncture?
Answer: Acupuncture is a five thousand year old system of therapeutics developed by the Chinese. Legend tells us that soldiers returning from battle with arrow wounds would often report relief of longstanding symptoms in distant parts of the body as their wounds healed. Chinese physicians spent centuries mapping out these points on the body and experimenting with various methods of stimulation. It was soon discovered that the depth and size of the wound was not as important as the exact location on the body. Today there are over 400 acupuncture points and fourteen meridians.
Question: What are acupuncture points and meridians?
Answer: When you look at an acupuncture chart or model you will notice a series of lines running vertically up and down the length of the body. These are known as meridians or channels. The ancient Chinese described these meridians as "Rivers of Energy" which carried life giving force known as Qi throughout the body. Along these meridians are various points which can either stimulate or inhibit the flow of Qi. Qi is actually a form of bio-electric energy present in all living tissue. These points along the meridian act like circuit breakers and can inhibit or stimulate the flow of energy thereby regulating symptoms throughout the body. For example, if a person had an acute spasm, or inflammation, an inhibitory point would probably be most helpful, on the other hand, if a patient had chronic fatigue, poor circulation, numbness, or restricted joint movement , a stimulatory point would be chosen.
Question: Is there any scientific evidence supporting acupuncture?
Answer: New and exciting studies are being conducted daily throughout the world. Recent studies using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging "fMRI" have demonstrated significant changes in the Thalamus of the brain (the pain interpreting centers) in migraine headache patients while undergoing acupuncture stimulating the single acupuncture point LI-4, an area on the web between the thumb and forefinger. Studies also indicate increased endorphin production after acupuncture stimulation. Endorphins are natural pain killers hundreds of times more potent than morphine. These neuro-chemicals are produced and stored in specialized cells throughout the nervous system. Only a few molecules are necessary to produce dramatic results. Many other studies are underway mapping the neurological and circulatory effects of acupuncture.
Question: Is acupuncture safe?
Answer: Acupuncture is remarkably safe and side effects are extremely rare. The most common side effect is occasional bruising around an acupuncture treatment site. The Federal Food & Drug Administration took acupuncture needles off of the Investigational/Experimental list in 1998.
Question: Do the needles hurt?
Answer: Acupuncture needles are solid, not hollow, and five acupuncture needles will generally fit into a typical hypodermic needle. Acupuncture needle technology is so advanced most needles are barely larger than the diameter of a human hair. I have never had a patient discontinue treatment because of pain from the needles. Acupuncture is essentially painless. Although some people may experience a slight pressure as the needle is inserted, many feel nothing at all. Once inserted, the needles remain in place for approximately 10-20 minutes. Because modern acupuncture needles are disposable and used only once, there is no risk of transmitting infections from one person to another.