You have questions. wE have answers.
We treat the underlying cause of your disorder, not just the symptoms.
Acupuncture works and it works for a laundry list of conditions. The reason acupuncture works on such a wide variety of conditions- pain, inflammatory conditions, gastrointestinal conditions, allergies, high blood pressure, headaches, neuropathy, etc., is because the acupuncture needle can stimulate any of these diseased tissues in the body to create a healing response or homeostatic effect. This physically brings the body back into balance (for details on the science of acupuncture check out our video and post “How does Acupuncture work?”).
Shoulder pain for example is very treatable with acupuncture if the origin of the shoulder pain comes from a tear, comes from inflammation and damage to the muscle, tendon, ligament, nerve, and/or bone. If you can reach the damaged area, you can fix it. The local chemical effects of acupuncture create an immediate healing response in the region that’s quick, effective, and safe with only the risk of mild temporary bruising. In this instance we target reducing inflammation by secreting prostaglandin, killing pain by secreting cytokines, reducing inflammation along the nerve pathway and regenerating the nerve that was damaged by releasing nerve growth factor, and activating the production of stem cells for any damaged tissue. All of these get spread throughout the body via our circulatory system (veins and arteries). If the tissue that’s damaged has a healthy and steady blood supply, it can be treated. This is why Acupuncture works.
The number of sessions needed to fix different conditions vary. In general, after three sessions it becomes apparent the total treatment length, duration, intensity, and focus. For acute conditions, by three sessions and sometimes even less, the condition could already be treated fully. For chronic conditions by three sessions in, we are able to gauge what system to focus on and how to best leverage that system. For example, patients come in with shoulder pain radiating down the arm that affects sleep, mobility, range of motion, and grip strength. We need to decipher what muscle, tendon, ligament, and nerve are affected, and which combination of these will best treat and fix the origin of the pain and radiculopathy.
Acupuncture is a very physical medicine and for that reason can have sensations but you shouldn’t feel like someone’s repeatedly stabbing you over and over again- which seems to be a popular association in our culture. The sensations are more dull and much less intense than getting blood taken. The different sensations our patients feel are intended and represent skilled needle technique. The most common sensations our patients feel are soreness, numbness, vibrations, heaviness, achiness, and warmth. Each of these are due to stimulation of their associated nerve fibers (parts of the nerve that sense different things). If we want to stimulate a patient’s torn muscle they can expect to feel heaviness around those needles because muscle pain can be greatly decreased by stimulating A-delta nerve fibers, II and III muscle fibers- all which feel heavy when stimulated.
To sum it up, if you don’t feel anything during acupuncture, it won’t be very effective. There is a popular idea in our culture that acupuncture should be relaxing and sensationless, but the sensations are keys to success if acupuncture treatments. The sensations only last a few seconds while the needles go in, and none of them outweigh the results.
Acupuncture is extremely safe but can come with one minor negative side effect of mild bruising from the side of the needle insertion. It’s not common for every point that gets stimulated to be bruised but there are regions in the body that have smaller blood vessels like capillaries and they tend to bruise easier. Other than that, a well trained acupuncturist has no other means of damaging or creating an unsafe treatment in an environment for their patients which makes acupuncture very high reward with very low risk.
A lot of people ask why acupuncture didn’t work for them or someone that they knew. The answer is threefold- there’s three main reasons why it wouldn’t work on the condition that they came in for. First reason why acupuncture wasn’t effective is that the practitioner didn’t understand the disease being treated and addressed it incorrectly. This happens in all medical fields and extends to acupuncture as well. Another reason why acupuncture didn’t work was that the wrong dosage was applied. Acupuncture can be “dosed”- number of needles used in each session, how many sessions were prescribed, the time period in between sessions, the length and gauge of the needles used in sessions, etc. If a condition requires 10 sessions, with sessions spaced out 3 to 5 days apart, and the patient only came in for two or three sessions each a week apart, would cause the acupuncture to not be very effective. The last reason why acupuncture might not have helped would be the scenario where the treatment was done correctly and in the right dose, but there was an underlying condition that wasn’t measurable or known, that wasn’t treated or couldn’t be treated. For example, someone comes in with neuropathy to both of their feet, but doesn’t know that their symptoms are aggravated by neurotoxins found in processed foods and soft drinks. If the acupuncturist who was treating them didn’t inquire about diet and allergies they can do 100 acupuncture treatments and never get results.
Acupuncture works for a plethora of disorders, hence its ability to last for thousands of years and stand up to modern medicines and drugs, but it can’t treat everything. It would be a disservice to your health to not consider acupuncture and see if it can help you, there’s a very good probability it will be life changing for you and your loved ones. I stand behind that 110%.