Jane Sipe, L. Ac.
News & Articles
Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Herbal Services
I invite you to call or email with any questions you may have about whether the practices of TCM might be useful for whatever imbalances you are experiencing. Of course, if you are already familiar with acupuncture and all the other modalities we have to work with in this medicine, you are also most welcome to contact me to set up appointments. I look forward to hearing from you.
Acupuncture: What is it? How does it work?
What is it? Acupuncture is perhaps the best-known aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is the use of very fine needles inserted into specific points along the 12 regular meridians and 6 extraordinary meridians of the body. The stimulation of these acupuncture points (some 400 of them) gently encourages the body’s own healing mechanisms to work to restore or maintain a state of balance and health.
That sounds a bit woo-woo, but in fact modern scientific technology has been able to track the movement substances injected into acupuncture points, and we can see that those substances actually move out from the point of injection along “invisible” channels: the meridians. I say “invisible” because so far we are not able to find an identifiable anatomical structure that we can label as a meridian.
Meridians are pathways for the movement of energy (Qi) in the body. When there is pain, TCM says that there is obstruction in the flow of Qi in the meridian, and we use needles to encourage the flow to resume and thereby reduce or eliminate the pain.
Traditional Chinese Medicine also treats internal disorders using acupuncture as well as herbal formulations. When there is heat, we use cooling herbs; when there is dampness, we use herbs to drain that. There are herbs to resolve phlegm, tonify, sedate, calm, invigorate, regulate and harmonize. Certain specific herbs are used to guide the rest of the formula to the affected organ or system.
Other modalities used by TCM include moxabustion (the burning of the herb mugwort above the skin to apply heat to the acupoints or along the meridians), cupping, electric stimulation, and Chinese medical massage (Tui Na).
How does it work? Someday Western science will figure out how this ancient Eastern healing system actually works, but for now we have a less-than-complete picture. The meridians travel alongside, and are intertwined with, the blood vessels and nerve pathways.
When we insert an acupuncture needle, it creates a very small wound which causes the body to initiate a self-healing biochemical response in the bloodstream. The immune system is stimulated and endorphins are released (hence the “high” that many people feel after an acupuncture session).
Additionally the needles work to stimulate the neurological system: initiating signals to the brain where the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus signal the release of all the hormones in the body.
Does it hurt? Most people find that acupuncture is fairly painless. During a treatment, different sensations may be felt such as warmth, tingling, heaviness, a dull achy sensation or pressure. All of these signal that the needle is in contact with the Qi of the body. Most people leave a treatment feeling deeply relaxed.
How many treatments would I need? The number of treatments needed to restore balance depends on the severity and duration of the illness as well as other factors such as overall fitness. For an ordinary acute injury, we would expect to see improvement within 1 – 3 treatments and complete resolution within 6 sessions. Internal medicine issues or pain that is long-standing can take 3 to 6 months or even more to resolve, again depending on a host of factors. For example, gynecological issues should show significant improvement in 3 months.
What is the patient’s role in the healing process? It is important when you receive acupuncture, that you arrive as well-rested as possible and with having had some nourishment. During your session, simply relax and allow the treatment to do its work to restore balance in your being. Always feel free to ask questions or voice any concerns which might arise. Trust that all information is held in strictest confidentiality.
The treatment does not end when the needles are removed. Acupuncture has initiated a change within your body which will continue to evolve more effectively if you are able to take some time to relax immediately following the session. The acupuncturist may suggest changes in your nutrition, recommend exercises or stress reduction techniques. You are encouraged to take an active role in assessing and implementing changes in your lifestyle; people who do get better faster.
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