Acupuncture is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical techniques, originating in China more than 2,500 years ago. It began with the discovery that stimulating specific areas on the body affects wellbeing. Acupuncture has evolved into a scientifically studied, world-renowned system of holistic medicine that helps to restore and maintain health, while improving quality of life.
What is Oriental Medicine (OM) - also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Traditional Chinese medicine is a large practice composed of many aspects. There is acupuncture (the use of small needles to free and aid one’s qi), qi gong (a self healing art that combines meditation and movement), massage therapy, herbs, dietary principles and various manners of meditation. Each practice has ailments that it can aid, and some may overlap in their benefits. Many IAAOM practitioners are skilled at several different aspects of TCM as a part of their education. Acupuncture is the most famous aspect of TCM, but you can ask your practitioner what modalities they utilize if you are interested in other aspect of Chinese Medicine.
What is the education level of acupuncturists / IAAOM members?
For over 10 years, the Indiana Medical Board has been licensing acupuncturists. At present, one is allowed to practice only after successfully completing four years of training at an approved college of Oriental Medicine, and passing a rigorous written and practical exam given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The title “Licensed Acupuncturist” or “L.Ac.” means that these criteria have been met. Always look for a copy of the license and NCCAOM certification, which should be clearly displayed in the practitioner’s office.
How does acupuncture work?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up in others.
Being stimulated at acupuncture points can influence the meridians. Acupuncture unblocks the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body’s muscular system to relax and reduce pain, the internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
The modern scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.
The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.
Are there side effects to acupuncture?
When performed by a properly trained and licensed practitioner, acupuncture is safe and effective, virtually free from adverse or addictive side effects. Quite often, a sense of relaxation and well-being occurs during and after treatments. While undergoing therapy for one ailment, other problems may resolve concurrently. This is a common side benefit that again demonstrates the value of acupuncture on the whole body/mind system.
Does it hurt?
Most people who have had acupuncture would describe it as virtually painless or far less painful than plucking out a hair. The sensations that follow activating acupuncture point range from nothing at all, to mild tingling, to slight numbness or small aching at the point. All these sensations are positive signs of one’s body responding to acupuncture in a positive way. Chinese culture calls this “getting the chi”. These sensations subside once the needles are removed or moments later. The needles used for acupuncture are much smaller that the standard hypodermic needles most people of us have been exposed to. Instead they are hair thin and made of very high quality. It is helpful to remember that for thousands of years acupuncture has been successful at relieving pain, not creating it.
How quickly will I feel benefits?
Every patient responds at a subtle different rate to acupuncture. Usually patients leave in less discomfort and are more functional than when they walked in. Sometimes the effects are too subtle to perceive right away, while other health issues in ones life may start to “balance out”. Sleep and energy may be better, and other aches and pains may start to work themselves out. Yet after 4 to 12 treatments the improvements in ones chief complaint become more and more apparent. In general acute (short term) problems tend to clear up quickly, while chronic (long term) problems should expect a more treatments to produce maximum effect.
How do I choose an Acupuncturist?
We recommend IAAOM member acupuncturists due to their National Certification (NCCAOM) status and dedication to improving health care in Indiana. All IAAOM members have had extensive training (usually 4 year graduate programs or 6 year doctorates; 3,000-4,500 hours of study & experience) in the Traditional Science of Chinese Medicine. This requires understanding the unique and time-tested philosophy of Oriental Medicine. This is the same method utilized in modern China and which has been so effective for thousands of years. Please be aware that some Western Physicians practice acupuncture with minimal training. We also recommend asking what type of experience they have had with your specific condition. Some practitioners specialize in certain conditions, most are general practitioners.