These are frequently asked questions about Acupuncture.
What is the difference between Sports Medicine Acupuncture and regular Acupuncture?
Sports Medicine Acupuncture integrates concepts and treatment techniques from Western Sports Medicine with concepts and treatment techniques from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In addition to using acupuncture, moxibustion, chinese herbs, chinese dietary therapy, cupping and gua sha, we also incorporate postural assessment, manual muscle testing, myofascial release, motor points and corrective exercises into our treatments. Our unique, integrated understanding of the body allows our diagnoses to be more specific and individualized, which results in quicker and more effective results for our patients. All three of our partners are currently in the process of becoming certified in Sports Medicine Acupuncture, which involves 238 hours of training.
Keep in mind that Chinese Medicine is based on the movements of nature, and in nature things are seldom black and white. The key is to help your body to heal itself, to function as nature intended.
How many treatments are usually necessary?
Response time depends on the severity of the imbalance, how long the patient has suffered, and so on. Occasionally one hears of a “miracle cure” by way of acupuncture, whereby a chronic condition is completely cleared in a very short time. While it is helpful to be open to such a possibility, understand that such a response is relatively uncommon. When an illness is deeply entrenched it will take time to rectify it. Younger patients often respond more quickly to treatment because usually the disharmony has not had long to take root. Be patient with your treatment and with yourself.
How frequent are treatments?
This also varies. A course of treatment is about 6 -8 treatments and then we reassess your progress. If the condition is chronic or relatively serious then you’ll get much better results when you receive treatments twice a week. If the condition is not that serious then treatment once a week will do. As you improve visits will be reduced. Many patients come only for “seasonal tune-ups” (4 – 5 times yearly). In the early stages of treatment, consistency is essential since treatment effect is cumulative. That is, each treatment builds upon the last and you experience longer lasting relief.
Will the benefits of treatment last, and if so, for how long?
Every patient is different and is treated for different reasons. In the very beginning the benefits may last a week or so. After a few visits you can “hold” the treatments longer. If you are living sensibly, paying attention to the signals your body is sending you and are able to limit unnecessary stress, treatments will be needed less frequently.
How quickly can you hope to feel improvement?
This varies depending on the situation, but you can typically expect to feel some significant change within between four to ten treatments, sometimes sooner. Keep in mind that some of these initial changes may be very subtle at first—remain observant and open to recognizing them. You will probably notice other conditions getting better as well, such as fewer headaches or colds, better sleep, feeling more calm, better mood, etc.
Do the needles hurt?
Occasionally there may be some very mild discomfort, but this is usually short-lived (a few seconds). After the needles are in most patients don’t notice them at all. We practice a technique that results in very mild sensation during the treatment.
What other effects might be commonly seen?
You may feel extremely energized or very relaxed after a treatment. There is a real benefit to moderation of activity for a few hours after a treatment. A brief rest can be great as it allows the treatment to “settle”. You may experience a heightening of the senses; a greater awareness of old memories; an unfamiliar burst of emotion; a strong sense of relaxation, or a feeling of intense mental clarity. It is not too common, but the treatment may also result in a moderate change in bodily functions—all signs that the body is ridding itself of toxins. These would be brief in duration. Do not be too concerned. These are indications that you are striving for balance, as some aspect of your system is waking up or other systems previously overworking are beginning to relax.
Should I stop taking prescribed medications?
No, definitely not. As treatment progresses there may be reason to discuss with your physician the possibility of decreasing the dosage of your medications but don’t ever make any changes regarding your medications without contacting your prescribing physician. And please, when adding new medications or new modalities, remember to bring them to our attention.
Why are the needles sometimes placed in areas other than where my pain is located?
Sometimes the most effective way to treat your condition is with points on a different part of your body than where your symptoms are. For example, in the case of a drought we might want to open a dam far upstream. Like the rivers that flow through the land, your qi (pronounced chee) flows through your body along certain channels that connect different areas of our bodies. So there are many connections that we can use to treat your condition. Another example is to imagine your pain is like a light bulb. Sometimes the switch to turn it off is right by the bulb. But other times the switch is further away, like on the wall across the room.
What is Qi?
This is the one concept that westerners have trouble understanding. Qi is simply that what makes us alive. Ours is born when we’re conceived and it leaves us when we die.
When Qi is flowing freely and strongly we’re healthy. When it becomes stagnant or weak or constrained, we get sick.
The Chinese character for qi is rice cooking in a pot with steam rising up. They viewed it as the product of what nourishes and sustains us. (Rice being the staple of the ancient Chinese.) It is invisible and always moving, like the steam. This is reflected in many of our experiences, such as all our metabolic processes as well as our emotions.
Do I have to believe in it to work?
Not at all. We also treat domestic animals and they generally respond very well to acupuncture. And anyone who ever owned a cat can tell you, there is no convincing a cat of anything.
Is there any chance of harmful side effects from acupuncture?
No. When practiced by a qualified, competent practitioner, there are no harmful side effects. Very rarely there may be a little bruise or a tiny drop of blood at the site of the treatment.
Is there anything else I should know?
The history of Oriental Medicine is so vast, we couldn’t begin to put it all on paper—remember acupuncture has been around for at least 5,000 years, probably longer. Life is a continuously changing process, so as you move along in treatment we will explain more and your understanding will deepen. We encourage your questions. After all, this is your treatment. There is one other thing you can do to aid your treatments—every four to six weeks take a moment to read these questions again. Thank you.