A patient receives a treatment with needles and electrical stimulation on their back.
A patient stands with their back facing the camera, demonstrating a recent cupping / ventosas treatment.
Is acupuncture painful?
Any insertion of a needle through the epidermis into the dermis, or inner skin layer, is likely to induce some pain. However, most people experience very mild sensations of discomfort and many times it is only momentary while the needle is being inserted. This often painless response is largely because acupuncture uses super fine, thin needles.
Are acupuncture needles used more than once, and is it safe?
All needles used in acupuncture treatments are disposable and are for one-time use. Acupuncture sessions are generally considered very safe.
Most reported side effects are local, very mild and not concerning. These side effects can include numbness or tingling, hematoma or bruising, bleeding, burning or electrical sensations, and / or post-treatment pain at the site of needle insertion/s.
Some more rare, systemic side effects that have been reported related to acupuncture treatments include dizziness or vertigo during and / or post-treatment; leg muscle weakness; muscle / tendon cramping or spasms; and abdominal discomfort, bloating or distention.
In even more rare cases, syncope or fainting can also occur. In addition, more caution must be taken if a patient has a bleeding disorder, if a patient is pregnant, as well as with those who have a pacemaker (specifically and especially when acupuncture is done with electrical stimulation).
What is expected for my acupuncture treatments?
It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit nervous or unclear about what to expect before and during an acupuncture session, and then afterwards-especially if you have never experienced acupuncture before. If all goes well, that possible nervousness should go away completely during the treatment, and once the treatment has started, you should feel completely relaxed.
People may feel different sensations once a needle is inserted into acupuncture points. These reactions can include the following: dull pain, numbness, achiness, pressure, fullness, heaviness, warmth, coolness and tingling.
After a treatment, generally people feel better in many ways. Most people report better energy levels and notice a deeper sense of relaxation. They may also experience improvements with their sleep and / or with their digestive system. In addition, a person can also expect that whatever issue they came in to address will most likely be improved as well.
However, signs and symptoms may flare up or worsen in some cases, in what’s often considered a “cathartic” or “healing” crisis or “cathartic healing” period that can usually last a couple days or less and then dissipate.
How can I prepare ahead for my acupuncture treatment?
It is recommended that one eats plenty the day of and prior to treatment. Also, it’s also important to stay hydrated. Treatments work best if one comes dressed in loose, comfortable clothing. That way the acupuncturist is able to needle numerous places on a patient’s body without the need to have the patient undress unnecessarily.
What conditions or issues can acupuncture treat or help with?
There may be too many conditions, issues and problems to list all of them here.
However, below is a good start to a comprehensive list that acupuncture can help with or has been shown to be beneficial for:
Energy problems like low energy, tiredness, somnolence, fatigue, chronic fatigue disorder, adrenal fatigue syndrome
Pain issues including headaches, migraines, teeth or dental pain, TMJ, labor pain, neck, shoulder, back, hip, leg, knee, foot and / or other joint pain, arthritis (both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis), menstrual cramping, emotional pain
Musculoskeletal and / or tendon issues such as soreness, tightness, achiness, knots, range of motion problems, limited flexibility, decrease or loss in muscle strength, function or tissue
Cardiovascular issues such as hypertension and hypotension, peripheral neuropathy, arrhythmias or other rhythm disorders, post-stroke problems
Metabolic issues such as diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2)
Neurological issues and disorders such as neuropathy, numbness, tingling, nerve or electrical or burning sensations, throbbing, pulsations in specific areas of the body or in certain limbs or digits, Bell’s Palsy, peripheral neuropathy
Digestive problems such as constipation (including opioid-related constipation), diarrhea, loose stools, abdominal or epigastric pain, cramping, achiness, bloating and / or distention
Respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, decreased or weakened lung function or capability
Emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, chronic or high stress management, chronic frustration, irritability or anger issues
Immune disorders and problems such as allergic rhinitis (including hay fever), Hashimoto’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, as well as alleviation with complications and / or side effects from cancer treatments such as radiation and / or chemotherapy
Other things like colds; viruses (latent or active), such as herpes simplex and herpes zoster outbreaks and activations like shingles
How many treatments do I need to get rid of my problem or issue/s?
It’s difficult to give a clear answer to this question, largely because every person has a different constitution (the physical, genetic and lifestyle markers that make up each one of us).
There are also many other factors to be considered. These factors could include sex, gender, race, ethnicity, many genetic factors, exercise, work and other activities, nutrition and metabolism.
Finally, other things to consider are the severity, duration and frequency of your symptoms. The time of day, the day of the work, the moon and sun’s cycles and positions, as well as the seasons can all play into what is done in treatments and considered in treatment plans.
Most acupuncturists will ask a patient to initially agree to three to five treatments, with the frequency of their visits once or twice a week usually. This way the practitioner can consider what the overall treatment plan will need to be. It is dependent on how a patient’s body responds to the initial treatments.
Many patients will not need to come in for many treatments to experience somewhat to complete symptom relief. This can especially be the case if a person is in relatively great health, is younger in age, has a strong constitution and Qi, or if they have not had their symptoms for a long duration. Someone with these factors can be described as having a “fortuitous prognosis”.
Where do the needles go on the body, and why?
Acupuncture needles are inserted into specific points on channels or meridians found on the body. The selection of points is usually determined by the acupuncturist treating the patient and can be dependent on many factors.
These factors include signs and symptoms experienced by the patient before or during the time of their visit, in addition to the diagnosis and treatment pattern identified by the practitioner.
Many acupuncture points have multiple functions or uses. Some are considered “master points” of certain areas of the body, while others are used in specific combinations to treat more uncommon conditions.
Thus it is very likely that you can go see different acupuncture practitioners for the same issue and will be needled using different points. Still with this being the case, most patients will get great relief for their issues.
What is cupping or Cupping Therapy (CT), or ventosas?
Cupping or Cupping Therapy (CT) is an ancient therapy that uses different materials (nowadays usually glass) like cups, bowls, jars or any other closed, cylindrical objects, that are then placed on the skin on various areas of the body with a suction action of differing levels, dependent on the condition and issue/s being treated.
Often indistinguishable from CT or cupping therapy are “ventosas”. Ventosas is the name for cups and cupping therapy in many Spanish-speaking parts of the world. Another interesting fact to note is the Greek word for cupping is “ventouzas” which is very much like the word ventosas.
Ventosas and CT are both used to increase blood and qi circulation in the body; decrease muscle pain, achiness, tension, fatigue and weakness; improve digestive systems and dislodge blockages in the gastrointestinal system; lessen nerve damage or other neurological disorders such as facial paralysis (and very often helps to regenerate neurological dysfunctions); purge and release cold and virus signs and symptoms; treat acne and / or other dermatological issues; as well as strengthen a person’s constitution and wellbeing - this often includes and is not limited to improving a person’s immune system function.
This is done either in the “dry” or “wet” form. The dry form, even when using liquid substances applied on the skin such as oils or liniments, is considered dry cupping if only the patient’s skin is going to be suctioned into the cupping vessel. The wet form involves the deliberate inducing of bloodletting or bleeding, usually with techniques of incising a small part of the skin either with a blade, a thicker needle or a lancet, in order to “bring or lift up” stagnant, poorly circulating or “old” blood as in previous injuries.
Because cupping therapy has been around so long-it has been argued also that it is thousands of years old, close to the age of acupuncture-it is worth noting that previous to glass being the main material used to make cups, other material found in nature was used just as commonly to make them. These materials often included plant / fruit gourds, animal horns, bones, bamboo and / or other plant- or wood-based materials.
How do you define Qi?
Qi, Chi, or “Ki” as it’s also known as in Japan, is defined by many as the vital energy or energetic force that is essential in making us who we are as human beings.
The concept of qi can be seen in a simple way as in our body’s general energy level/s; or in more complex manners as in various types of qi that can all combine or work together to create our body systems’ complex way of staying healthy and strong.
A patient gets needled by a skilled acupuncturist.
An acupuncture model, used to demonstrate where all the meridians and points are located, stands in front of a loose herbal pharmacy.