The Acupuncture Newbie Guide.
Most of these questions and answers are taken from the book, ‘Why Did You Put That Needle There?’ by Andy Wegman of Manchester Acupuncture Studio. Andy has graciously given us permission to share some of its content here, and you can also download it for free or buy a copy from Amazon. The book is also available in our reception area to read while you wait. It is a great primer for people who are new to acupuncture.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most common and dependable medical therapies used in the world. It is by nature simple, safe and effective health care.
Acupuncturists use thin, sterile disposable needles inserted superficially into specific areas of the body in order to help the body’s ability to heal itself. Over the three decades or so in which acupuncture has developed in the U.S., it has been proven to be not only exceptionally safe when performed by licensed acupuncturists, but statistically effective in an increasing body of scientific studies.
People get acupuncture for many different reasons.
Here are a few responses to a question that may have hundreds of answers…
- to help you relax
- to help you feel more energized
- to help you avoid illness/injury
- to help alleviate physical pain
- to help you think more clearly
- to help you stop thinking (especially around bedtime)
- to help with digestive issues (including GERD and IBS)
- to use alongside many conventional therapies/medications for the purpose of augmenting their effect and lowering doses
- to add legitimate choices for your health care assistance.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized acupuncture as a valuable healing modality for over 40 specific health conditions, including:
- Anxiety & stress
- Allergies & Asthma
- Coughs & colds (including sinus congestions, sore throat, fever, body aches)
- Digestive issues (including constipation, bloating, gas, diarrhea, heartburn)
- Headaches or migraines
- High blood pressure
- Lower back pain
- Menopausal symptoms (including hot flashes, night sweats)
- Menstrual problems (including PMS, painful / heavy periods, absence of periods)
- Morning sickness
- Muscle or joint pain
- Side-effects of medications (e.g. chemotherapy)
Most acupuncture treatments in the United States take place on a table in a room by oneself. This is not traditional in Asia, where acupuncture usually occurs in a community setting. We all know the value of ‘power in numbers’, right? Would you prefer to eat in an empty restaurant, or one that is full of people and bustling? Or how about an empty movie theater? Us too!
Our clinic uses recliners, clustered in groups, in a quiet, soothing space. A healthy group setting creates a dynamic that can be used for all of our benefit in an acupuncture clinic. Receiving treatment in a community setting has other tangible benefits, as well: it’s easier for friends and family members to come in for treatment together and many patients find it comforting to be surrounded by others rather then left alone during their treatment and a collective healing environment occurs.
In addition, the community setting allows patients to decide how long their treatment will take, as the ‘right’ amount of time resting with needles varies from person to person, visit to visit. This can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. You can stay as long as you feel comfortable doing so – or until an hour is up! When you are feeling as though you are ready to end your visit, or need to get our attention, just give us a wink, nod or smile, and we will remove your needles or be available otherwise. If you need to leave by a certain time, please let us know in case we need to wake you up.
Lastly, our clinic employs a sliding scale fee schedule to help make acupuncture available to the whole community.
Not really much at all. However, getting an acupuncture treatment isn’t always painless. More than anything a treatment should be a deeply relaxing and sleepy slice of time for you.
Here’s what we’d like our patients to know: You may feel a bit of a pinch when the needles are tapped in, but this should ease right away. If you continue to feel a pinching or a burning sensation at the needle site any longer than this, let us know. It means we haven’t placed that needle real well. If on the other hand you are feeling a slight ache or heavy feeling near the needle, this is usually a good sign – a clue that the body is reacting in a productive way.
The bottom line is that as long as the feelings around the needled areas don’t keep you from closing your eyes and napping for a little while, we say let them be.
For more information about what acupuncture can feel like, click here.
When people ask this, we think there may be an assumption that we are re-using needles. This is not the case at all. For the last 15-20 years, acupuncturists have used one-time use, sterilized, disposable needles as the industry standard. So, there is no re-using of needles. Even from one part of the body to another.
Sterile package opened, needle in, needle out and put into a bio-hazard box to dispose of responsibly and that’s it.
To be honest, we’re not sure. There have been many attempts at explaining why this happens and why acupuncture works in general. Our sense is the presence of the needles causes our central nervous system to move into a clear pattern of rest (parasympathetic), allowing for our quickest healing and recovery to take place. Not unlike when we sleep at night.
This may explain why acupuncture is so effective at helping people overcome the many troubles associated with high stress levels- a state we find ourselves in which is characterized by our nervous systems staying in a ‘fight or flight mode’ (sympathetic) for extended periods of time.
Remaining in this state for long periods of time can keep us from recovering in an ideal way, leading to nagging injuries, sleeplessness or illness.
We can tell you, helping people into a sleepy state is one of the most predictable and best effects acupuncture has to offer.
Nothing. And we couldn’t if we tried. Needles that acupuncturists use are a filiform type, which means they are solid, not hollow like the type of needles ‘shots’ are given through (hypodermic syringe).
In fact, a standard-sized hypodermic syringe can hold about a dozen averaged-sized acupuncture needles inside of it.
You’ll need to fill out forms, which can take a few minutes to finish, so please come 10-15 minutes early to complete them. Or, you can download these forms here and have them filled out as best you can for your visit ahead of time. This helps support us, since it reduces the amount of paper shuffling on our end. The forms are in PDF format.
There is a $10 one-time consultation fee due at your first visit.
After paperwork is done, you’ll then consult with your acupuncturist to discuss your health concern(s) after which time a treatment plan will be recommended for you. Your acupuncture treatment comes next.
Please wear loose, comfortable clothing. You’ll just have to roll your sleeves and pant legs up, in order to get ready for your treatment, as we use a distal style of acupuncture which allows us to select points primarily on the arms and legs. We will also ask you to remove your socks and shoes. From here on out, your job is to kick back and enjoy a good rest.
After paying for the visit and scheduling future visits (if needed) our patients will bring themselves into the treatment room on their own and make themselves comfortable in a recliner of their choice. After a brief conversation in whispers between patient and practitioner, pulses are taken, and we look at your tongue. Depending on a variety of factors, a specific point prescription is selected. Typically after this time people feel very sleepy and will nap or rest for a while.
This is the million-dollar question. The answer is – there is most likely not one answer. Whether seen as a result of particular chemical/hormonal processes, movement of bio-electricity, vascular excitement, regulation of the central nervous system, connective tissue communication, ‘placebo’ effect, positive thinking or the manifestation of qi (energy), acupuncture works.
You aren’t missing out on anything. No matter what style of acupuncture you receive or with whom, there will be excellent and effective points used, and good points that are not chosen. No one kind of acupuncture is able to use all of the acupuncture points at once – nor should they…that would be a heckuva lot of needles!
We think your best bet is to leave the point selections to your acupuncturist, while giving them feedback about how treatments are helping to change patterns of illness or injury for you.
In general, you can expect to feel relaxed for several hours following an acupuncture treatment. You may feel sleepy, or you make have more energy than when you came in. Some people get immediate relief (in varying degrees) while others find their symptoms recede gradually over a few days or more. Everyone responds to acupuncture differently.
For information on how to take care of yourself after an acupuncture treatment, click here.
For information about infrequent but possible side effects of acupuncture, please click here. None are life-threatening and all typically are fleeting. Still, they are good to be aware of so that if you do experience them, you know they’re normal and nothing to be too concerned about!
For acupuncture to have lasting results, you need to have it frequently enough to result in progressive improvement. One or two sessions will feel good due to acupuncture’s relaxing effect, but will not usually resolve a health problem. Once or twice weekly for several weeks is often required to make progress on most kinds of health problems, though for some conditions we may want to see you more frequently, or over a longer period of time.
Click here to read more about treatment planning.
This depends on what you want to be addressed, how long it’s been present and your general state of health. Typically, short-term (acute) problems will respond within just a few treatments, while longer-term (chronic) problems may take up to twelve or more treatments before you’re likely to see consistent changes. (read more…)
This is a question that should be addressed with your acupuncturist during your first or second visit.
For short-term issues, a handful of acupuncture treatments should do the job. For chronic or long-standing issues, a maintenance schedule of some sort would be in order to keep systems running smoothly and steadily after the initial period of relief and change.
For example, patient Melissa comes in for help with pain and swelling from a new ankle sprain less than 24 hours old. This type of injury responds best with acupuncture treatments two out of three days, which would probably be plenty to help Melissa’s body sort out her injury.
On the other hand, David gets acupuncture treatments to work toward better management of long-term anxiety and insomnia that he’s struggled with for five years. Chances are good he’ll start to see clear changes in the pattern and intensity of his symptoms with steady treatments over four weeks or so. After this time, his acupuncturist will likely recommend regular but less frequent treatments for another stretch of time to help make sure the process of change continues moving forward. Once David finds himself in a place where he’s consistently happy with his sleep and anxiety levels, he’ll know it’s time to dial back the frequency of his treatments even further. The aim here is to provide as few acupuncture treatments as possible while maintaining gains made.
Because we treat lots of people. What’s most important to a community acupuncturist is simply to give many people the chance to receive treatments. Likewise, the business needs to see many people to make ends meet.
Plainly said, we want acupuncture to be readily available as a means to help take care of the health of our neighbors and communities.
Many of our patients appreciate being able to make same-day appointments. We get it- you don’t always know ahead of time when you will want acupuncture, and if you suddenly get a free hour, you might want to fill it with a treatment! But we also really hate to turn anybody away. So, in order for us to accommodate same-day requests, we ask that you please make an appointment, by scheduling yourself online or calling ahead to make sure there’s room in the schedule before you leave your house. If you show up without calling, you are taking the chance that we might be 100% booked for the next few hours or even the whole day (or closed as schedule changes do occur) – it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. If you walk in without an appointment, we need to treat the people who have appointments before we treat you, so you might have to wait a lot longer than we’d like.
We really want to make getting acupuncture as convenient as possible for you, but we do ask that you help us out by calling ahead or scheduling yourself online.
*Please give us a call if the schedule is full online, we may be able to squeeze you in!
A few housekeeping details: Bring whatever you need to make yourself comfortable, such as earplugs or headphones with music as a certain amount of noise in the clinic is inevitable; we have eye pillows and blankets, but if you prefer your own, you can bring those too. Take all personal belongings with you into the treatment room, and keep your shoes on until you sit down in your chosen recliner. Coat hooks are available by the bathroom or blanket basket. There are bins next to each chair where you can store your shoes and any loose items (this helps keep them out of the way so we don’t trip over them while treating you!).
Remember that our community works best when everyone is reasonably flexible. One of the things we love best about our clinic is how many different kinds of people enjoy coming here for acupuncture – but some of them do snore, it’s true.
Absolutely not. Occasionally, we may need to have access to areas just above the knee or up to the shoulder joint, in which case we’d ask you to wear shorts or a tee shirt.
But by and large all it takes to get ready for treatment is to roll up pant legs and shirt sleeves, as points on the lower arms and legs are the most commonly used in community clinics. No need to take any other clothes off.
Yes! In fact, there are many reasons why an expecting Mom would benefit from a string of treatments. Here are a few we’ve seen here in clinic: Managing gestational diabetes and thyroid changes during pregnancy, nausea, heartburn, low back pain and sciatica, wrist pain, insomnia, stress and anxiety, urinary tract infections, threatened miscarriage and breech position of the baby. Many ‘overdue’ Moms use acupuncture to help induce labor when faced with the prospect of chemical induction.
In addition, after the baby’s birth acupuncture can assist new Moms to recover strength and build back reserves while helping to manage common post-partum problems like: depression, insufficient lactation, mastitis, night sweats, fatigue, and persistent uterine bleeding.
Acupuncture is an effective treatment that has helped many people to overcome addiction, in general.
While acupuncture is not a quick fix, meaning it will not make you quit smoking, it can help minimize cravings and help take the edge off of withdrawal. Because of its proven effectiveness, the National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA) has developed a simple acupuncture protocol to assist in the detoxification from addiction, including quitting smoking. This protocol is widely used in detox clinics and withdrawal management centers. (read more…)
Acupuncture is a useful tool, but it is only useful to the extent you use it. For smoking cessation, frequent treatments are recommended (i.e. 3 or more times per week for at least 3 weeks). Patients typically start off coming every day for 1 week and then gradually reduce the frequency as withdrawal symptoms subside. It is important to be committed to quitting smoking when you start your smoking cessation program, as this will increase your chances of success.
At your first visit your practitioner will discuss with you frequency recommendations and payment options.
Yes, and it can be especially so at the beginning of a course of treatment for illness or an injury that’s been around for a long while. It’s not always the case that pain will fade away smoothly. Instead it can move around to different locations or change its nature (sharp to dull, dull to stiff) and then return again as it was before the treatment. This is all fairly common and ultimately a good sign. What we’re all looking for to begin, is a change in the pattern of pain or illness. Even if the change only lasts for a short time initially, this is usually a great sign for more consistent and lasting relief to come. Remember a course of treatment is a cumulative process with the effects of each visit adding on to the last.
Absolutely not. You only have to believe enough to show up a few times in order to give yourself the chance to see positive changes.