What is Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine is a stand-alone medical system developed thousands of years ago in ancient China. Chinese medical theory understands that all parts of the body, physical and mental, mutually support each other and need to maintain a dynamic balance in order to be healthy. This balance, in part, is achieved through harmonizing the two-opposing yet complementary energies of yin and yang. Energy life-force, or “qi” (pronounced “CHEE”), flows through the body via meridians or channels that connect to organs and govern physical and mental functions. Very simply, moving “qi” is what initiates the balancing of yin and yang throughout the body-mind.
Over the centuries, Chinese medicine has spread to Japan, Korea, Europe, and the United States, with each region incorporating Chinese medicine into its own cultural understandings and needs. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the most widely taught form of Chinese medicine in the United States, and includes among its tools acupuncture, nutrition and herbal therapy, cupping/gua sha, moxibustion, tuina massage, and qigong(qi exercises).
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a medical practice used within Chinese medicine to move qi and balance yin and yang throughout the body-mind. It is the insertion of very thin filiform needles into the body to unblock and work with qi. According to Chinese medical theory, blocked and/or disturbed qi can lead to disharmony, causing physical and mental health ailments. Acupuncturists insert acupuncture needles at specific points along meridians or channels to effect change in qi flow, thereby restoring balance, initiating the body-mind’s own innate healing capabilities, and promoting deep relaxation.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
We don’t really know how it works yet, but researchers are trying hard to figure it out! We do know that acupuncture does work, though, because people get better every day using it; and we do have a few theories as to how it works based on the research that has been done thus far. Most of the research has shown acupuncture to stimulate anti-stress and pro-healing biochemicals such as endorphins, oxytocin, and adenosine, and help switch the body from a “flight-or-fight” sympathetic nervous system state to a “rest-and-digest” parasympathetic state. One possible mechanism of action is through the acupuncture needle’s effects on connective tissue. Studies have shown that when an acupuncture needle is inserted and retained for a set amount of time, the constituents of the connective tissue surrounding the needle reorient themselves to the needle, thereby effecting a seemingly unconnected part of the body. This is one possible explanation as to why, for example, a needle in the lower leg can diminish the feelings of nausea felt in the stomach.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
While the experience will be different for everyone, acupuncture, when performed by a licensed and well-trained practitioner, does not usually hurt. Once the needle is where it needs to be, there may be a dull, heavy, or tingling sensation.
Here at Bloom Integrative Care, our acupuncturists use Japanese SEIRIN needles, which are the gentlest on the market. Hair-width thin and designed with rounded guide-tubes for painless insertion, patients enjoy stress-free acupuncture treatments.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
When performed by a licensed and well-trained practitioner using sterile needles, acupuncture is very safe. All needles are made with highest quality surgical-grade stainless steel, individually packaged and sterilized with ethylene-oxide gas (ETO) and are single-use. Our acupuncturists are certified in Clean Needle Technique, and take every precaution necessary to ensure your safety. Side effects of acupuncture are rare, but may include soreness, minor bleeding and bruising where needles were inserted, with soreness and bruising lasting no more than a day or two. Because needles are sterile and single use, risk of infection is very low.
What Conditions Can Chinese Medicine Treat?
Whether used as a stand-alone practice or as a complement to other forms of medicine and therapy, Chinese medicine can treat a wide variety of conditions, including but not limited to:
- Acute and Chronic Pain (such as headaches, back pain, neck pain, etc.)
- Arthritis (Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis)
- Chronic Fatigue/Fatigue
- Gastrointestinal disorders (nausea, acid reflux, gas/bloating, IBS, IBD, etc.)
- Sinus Congestion
- Women’s health related conditions (dysmenorrhea, menstrual irregularities, fertility, labor pains, menopausal symptoms, etc.)
How Can I Prepare For My First Acupuncture Treatment?
Be sure to have eaten within 30 minutes of your acupuncture appointment. Wear loose, comfortable clothes, if possible, and keep hydrated. Bring a list of all herbs, supplements and medications you are currently taking.
What Can I Expect at my First Acupuncture Session?
The first treatment is an intake session designed to assess all areas of your health and wellbeing. An hour long, your acupuncturist will ask you questions related to your chief compliant and other body-mind systems. They will look at your tongue, check your pulse in three positions on both wrists, and examine any areas of pain or discomfort. After a thorough evaluation, your acupuncturist will give a Chinese medical diagnosis and a brief acupuncture treatment. At the end of the session, they will explain the care plan going forward.
At follow-up treatments, more time will be devoted to body-mind treatment, utilizing other tools of healing, such as cupping and moxa, if needed. This treatment will be an hour long as well, and will follow the care plan set at the initial intake.
After treatment, some people experience a “blissed-out” state, lightheadedness or a profound sense of calm. It might be helpful to sit in reception for a few minutes, drink a glass of water or take a walk around the block before driving home!
Can Children Receive Acupuncture?
Yes, children of all ages are welcome to receive Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Depending on the age of the child, needles are inserted and taken out immediately with no retention period. There are other non-needle tools we can use, too, such as Pointer Plus, a handheld microstimulation device and tei-shin, a small handheld tool with a rounded tip used to stimulate acupuncture points without inserting a needle.
Who Should Not Receive Acupuncture?
Anybody with a blood disorder, any type of cancer, and women in their first trimester of pregnancy need to speak with their doctor(s) before beginning Chinese medical treatment. In some cases, a doctor’s note in support of Chinese medical treatment and/or acupuncture may need to accompany the patient on their first visit.