What is Acupuncture and how does it work?
Acupuncture works by guiding the body back to its natural state of balance so that the body can heal itself. This is accomplished by regulating the qi, energy, which flows along pathways called “meridians” that connect the different areas of the body and the internal organs.
Studies have shown acupuncture affects the nervous system by stimulating the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands, which respond by releasing neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin, the body’s natural painkillers and “feel–good” chemicals. It also moderates adenosine levels, which changes our perception of pain. Other measurable physiological responses include enhanced blood circulation, decreased inflammation, and increased production of T-cells. While researchers have been able to identify some of acupuncture’s mechanisms of action, none of these can explain why it can help with things like fertility and digestion.
Acupuncture is the art of inserting flexible, hair–thin filaments into specific points on the body to catalyze the healing process. Don’t think needles, though: about 40 acupuncture needles can fit inside a hypodermic, so the experience is nothing like what you’d imagine. It’s super-relaxing. Many of our clients take a nap on the table.
An acupuncture point is a point at which qi (pronounced “chee,” meaning the body’s life force or vital energy) gathers. It’s like a node where the body’s intelligence and bio-electricity can be accessed. Like a key on a keyboard, we can talk to the body through these portals.
Acupuncture is the most well–known branch of Chinese Medicine.
Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest systems of health care in the world, dating back around 4,000 years. It’s a complete and independent way of diagnosing and treating the body for optimum wellness. It encompasses acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet therapy, massage techniques, meditation, and qi gong (energy cultivation/ exercise). In Oregon, people who are licensed to practice Chinese Medicine are called “Licensed Acupuncturists,” a title which (sadly) tends to obscure the other branches of the medicine.
In Chinese Medicine, we see the body as an ecosystem rather than a bunch of disconnected parts. Symptoms in different systems the body –sleep problems, digestion, and hormone imbalance, for example — might be connected to one underlying imbalance in the body. We work on correcting that imbalance so that all the symptoms improve. Chinese Medicine is truly holistic: the body, mind, and spirit are all interlinked.
What can Chinese Medicine treat?
Chinese Medicine is a comprehensive holistic health care system that can treat a wide variety of conditions on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels, including:
- chronic and acute pain
- back pain sciatica
- Chinese meridians
- shoulder pain
- sports injuries
- PMS, fertility issues, hot flashes
- digestive issues
- asthma and allergies
- side-effects of cancer treatments
- colds and flu
It is also an excellent way of keeping the body’s energy in balance so that imbalances, and subsequent problems, do not arise.
What does acupuncture feel like?
Acupuncture needles are approximately as thin as a human hair and insertion is practically painless. You may not feel anything, or you may feel a slight prick as the needles are inserted, followed by a sensation of something “plugging in” to your body’s energy. We imagine it like a light bulb turning on: a sense of connecting to your body’s bio-electrical current. You may experience this as a strong tingle, warmth, or heaviness as the qi is accessed. You then relax with your pins for 20–40 minutes. Most people find acupuncture a very relaxing experience, and it is not uncommon for people to fall asleep during a treatment. If you are ever uncomfortable for any reason during an acupuncture treatment, just ring the wireless doorbell we put in your hand and your practitioner will come in and help.
While there are risks involved in any medical procedure, when administered by a professionally trained acupuncturist, acupuncture is considered very safe, especially when only sterile, single-use, disposable needles are used (as in our clinic). Brodie holds Master’s degrees in Oriental Medicine and Nationally Board Certified in Oriental Medicine.
What should I expect from my first treatment?
We always recommend wearing loose clothing and having something to eat a few hours before your visit. At your first visit, we will discuss your health concerns and your health history. Then we’ll take your pulse and look at your tongue. Weird, right? These are ways we assess what’s out of balance with your body’s energy.
Since acupuncture is just one branch of Chinese Medicine, your treatment may well include other tools in the Chinese Medical toolbox. We might do cupping or gua sha to relax tight muscles or open up congested lungs. We’ll talk about how lifestyle and dietary changes, meditation, breathing, qi gong, and yoga techniques may help bring you back into balance, and work with whatever branches of the medicine you’re comfortable with.
First visits typically last about 90 minutes.
What should I expect after an acupuncture treatment?
It’s not unusual to feel spacey after a treatment. Let it be okay if you need to rest afterward. Give yourself time for things to settle. You may notice all kinds of sensations in your body. Things may get better; things may flare up. You may feel energized or tired, emotional or elated. All of these are possible and to be noted and welcomed. Simply observe and report back. We’ve set a process in motion – trust that process. Remember, we just moved a bunch of qi!
If you’ve had cupping or gua sha, drink some extra water and keep the affected areas of your body covered and warm. If you drink alcohol, a little red wine could actually be beneficial. In the treatment of pain, often something will feel sore the day after treatment and much better two of three days later. It isn’t possible to predict whether your best day after acupuncture will be the day of, day after, or day after that — every body is different.
How many treatments are needed?
Most people see some significant change in their condition after coming in a couple times a week for a handful of treatments. But every case is different. To ensure the best possible plan of care, we ask that new patients schedule your first 4-6 appointments when scheduling the first appointment. Acupuncture works best with momentum, and we want to make sure we have time to follow through with your plan of care. Like chiropractic or physical therapy, while you might notice improvements immediately, it often takes a handful of visits for changes to really stick. A problem that’s been around for decades may require a longer course the course of treatment.
We’re interested in working with people who are committed to feeling better, and who understand that change can take time.
For internal medicine conditions, Chinese Herbs, lifestyle and diet may play an important role in your healing process. If you’re open to these branches of the medicine, you’ll likely need far fewer office visits.
For a problem-focused approach, our goal is to get you better as quickly as possible and equip you with the tools to take care of yourself.
If you’re more wellness-minded, you might find that you want acupuncture to become a regular part of your holistic self-care routine. Many clients come in for regular “tune-ups” because they appreciate the opportunity to check in with themselves, to prevent small issues from turning into bigger problems, to support the growing edge of their personal development, or just to relax in a nurturing environment. You choose your path.
How much do acupuncture treatments cost?
Just as when you go a doctor, you may not know exactly what it’s going to cost, but usually:
Your first visit, which lasts about 90 minutes and includes an extensive medical history and (usually, time permitting,) acupuncture runs $175, and follow-up visits (about an hour) are usually $105. We’ll give you a copy of our full fee schedule upon request.
We do not bill insurance directly, but are happy to provide you a detailed receipt for you to submit to your insurance company for direct reimbursement. Unless arrangements are made in advance, your payment in the form of cash, check, or credit card is expected at the time of your appointment.
Since acupuncture works best as a series, we encourage you to consider whether the cost of a handful of treatments is worth investing in exploring whether a new level of wellness. If you’ve tried everything else, what have you got to lose?