Q. Which conditions can acupuncture help?
A. Acupuncture can be helpful in a variety of chronic or periodic painful conditions, such as low back pain, neuralgia, headaches, premenstrual and peri-menopausal syndromes, and the pain resulting from arthritis and rheumatism. Various syndromes that are difficult to treat using Western medicine, such as the various fibromyalgia syndromes, may also respond well to acupuncture.
Acupuncture is used as an adjunct in the treatment of asthma, allergies, and sinus problems, as well as in the acute symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections. When treated at an early stage, cold or flu symptoms may be completely eliminated. Acupuncture is also finding increasing use in various chronic viral illnesses which cause a variety of symptoms and fatigue.
Other conditions responsive to acupuncture include repetitive motion injuries such as those suffered by typists and musicians, and muscular aches and pains from overwork or strained muscles. Pain that persists after surgery can also be treated.
In addition, those suffering from Bell's palsy, chronic disorders of diarrhea or constipation, and some inflammatory disorders of the digestive system can be relieved.
Acupuncture is now widely recognized as a treatment for painful conditions such as the pain and swelling of acute joint sprains and bruises. If treatment can be given within 48 hours of an injury, the results are usually very positive.
Q. How do I know if acupuncture will help my condition?
A. An initial evaluation is conducted to obtain a history and initial examination. During this "consultation period" we will discuss your diagnosis and the options for treatment.
Q. How many treatments will I need?
A. The number of treatments necessary depends on the condition being treated. Recent injuries and conditions seen at an early stage will often improve immediately. Those conditions that have been present for longer periods may require more treatment, and serious derangement's of structure or metabolism will require extensive therapy.
For many disorders, symptoms reflect underlying conditions that may have to be treated beyond the point at which symptoms have improved. If treatments are stopped too quickly after symptoms begin to respond, the condition may eventually return.
A course of treatments for recent problems in a healthy person may range from 2 to 5. In a person with many health problems and a chronic disease, as many as 7 to 15 sessions may be required before an initial response is seen.
Q. What are the risks of acupuncture? Is it uncomfortable?
A. The use of sterile, disposable needles ensures that there is no risk of disease transmission. The needles are very thin and are much smaller than the needles used in the familiar hypodermic injections. The most common complication of treatment is a small bruise or a drop of blood when the needle is removed.
Any medical technique involves some risk. Properly performed, acupuncture presents minimal hazard when compared to drug regimens or surgical techniques.
Because the needles are so small and light, the sensation that occurs when the needles are placed is minimal. A heavy, distended, sore, or achy feeling is often felt around the area of effective acupuncture.
Q. My doctor does not believe in acupuncture. Do I have to believe in order to obtain results?
A. In fact, acupuncture works very well for horses, dogs, oxen, and cats, most of whom probably don't "believe" in acupuncture, either. It is always beneficial to have confidence in your physician, but faith in a particular technique is not required to obtain results.
Q. How should I prepare for treatment sessions?
A. The best general advice is to come in a calm state. Try to arrive ten or fifteen minutes before your appointment to allow yourself a chance to relax. Vigorous exercise or sexual activity in the hour before treatment is not recommended.
You should not have recently eaten a large meal, nor should you be fasting for more than 6 hours before your appointment. The use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs is also not recommended prior to or just following a treatment.
Comfortable, loose clothing should be worn, and, if possible, you should not wear any metallic jewelry, watches, or earrings. Makeup and nail polish should be minimized or eliminated.
Please also avoid the use of perfumes, colognes or strongly scented cosmetics.
Q. What happens during the treatment?
A. Depending on the areas to be treated, you may be positioned on your back, your stomach, your side, or sitting. Be certain that you can remain relaxed in this position, as you may not wish to move for the duration of the treatment, usually 15 to 25 minutes.
It is best to practice a slow and relaxed abdominal breathing during treatment, and to avoid trying to do any mental work. Abdominal breathing means allowing your abdomen to expand as you inhale, and to contract as you exhale.
Q What sensations will I experience during treatment?
A. Usually, there is a pleasant state of calm, which develops during the treatment and may persist for some time. You may even fall nearly asleep during the session. In areas that have been treated, a sensation of heaviness or swelling may persist for up to an hour or so after treatment.
You may find that the pain or discomfort of the condition may be reduced by 20 or 30% or even completely eliminated. Frequently, the relief will persist, though in some situations the pain will return after a few hours or days to its former level. In certain conditions, a worsening of pain is to be expected before improvement is seen.
For some disorders, no effect is noticed immediately and the condition takes a few days or a series of treatments to respond. Be sure to tell us of the response to treatment at the next appointment so that necessary changes can be made to your treatment.
Q .What should I do after treatment?
A. It is often helpful to sit quietly following a treatment, and relax. A gentle walk or very mild exercise can also be helpful. Large meals, vigorous exercise, alcohol or excessive aggravation should be avoided.
Q. Will Chinese "herbal" formulas help me?
A. Most physicians trained in Oriental medicine will prescribe dietary supplements derived from plants and minerals, though animal products are sometimes used. Sometimes these may be part of the initial treatment, or they may be used after a series of acupuncture sessions has clarified the diagnosis. Patients should expect that any behavioral or dietary changes will need to be continued to maintain the benefit of the Oriental approach, and often dietary supplements are taken daily for weeks or months. Free of most of the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, Chinese formulations are often available in modern extract or tablet form that is more convenient than the traditional "soups" used in the Orient.