Acupuncture is the insertion of fine, hair-thin needles into very specific points on the body. There are several methods of choosing points for disease, including classic point location which is essentially a catalogue of points that have been selected over trial and error over thousands of years. The Chinese developed their own language and system of point selection which included careful mapping of the body with a system known as meridians, or channels. Modern acupuncturists know this system well and employ it in their practice. It is an important aspect of the system of traditional Chinese medicine, mainly because it never seeks to collect isolated aspects of the whole, but always and consistently considers the entire system of the body. Most people who seek acupuncture treatment desire this whole-system, whole-person approach and this is what we strive to give them.
Other methods of point selection include a more modern anatomical framework and language which include careful insertion strictly based on the anatomy of the muscles, nerves and bones in the body. These methods are used mainly for musculoskeletal problems. This is myofascially based acupuncture and is sometimes called Trigger Point Therapy, or Myofascial Trigger Point Release.
Is acupuncture safe?
Licensed acupuncturists have spent thousands of hours understanding the anatomy of the body and how to carefully and safely select the points that are appropriate for each individual. A licensed acupuncturists knows the anatomy not only of the traditional channels, but precisely where the nerves, blood vessels and arteries are located. The use of needles are done with thorough awareness of appropriate placement and depth based on this knowledge.
How are the needles sterilized? How do I know they are safe?
Acupuncture needles are all sterilized and individually packaged in blister packs. The needles are sterilized most often via gamma ray or ethylene oxide gas. After the individual needle is used, it is thrown away using appropriate biohazard containers.
What does acupuncture feel like? Is it painful?
The insertion of an acupuncture needle can elicit a sensation of slight achiness or pressure. Sometimes, there is a very faint sensation that can actually feel quite interesting. The initial insertion of a needle should never be painful, but at times there may be a brief sensation of sharpness or slight discomfort. It is important to let your acupuncturist know if you are uncomfortable at any time. The acupuncturist can always take out, reinsert or adjust the needle to make you more comfortable.
The bottom line is, if you are nervous about needles there is always the option of using minimal or zero needles during your treatment. We can always ease you into the treatments, and as you get used to needle insertion, you will probably start looking forward to the moment the needles come out. It will not signify fear, but relaxation and health. Also, you are never strictly confined to the use of needles. Acupuncturists have other tools in their therapeutic box, including moxa (warming the points with herbs), cupping (using suction to stimulate blood flow), and massage techniques.