Acupuncture is a system of healthcare aimed at naturally promoting health and alleviating sickness through the stimulation of very specific anatomical points, known as acupuncture points, throughout the body. These points generally lie along meridians, or energy channels, that run through and along the surface of the body. It is believed that pain and sickness occur when these channels become blocked, and that these blockages can be removed through the stimulation of acupuncture points. In modern day acupuncture, this stimulation is achieved by superficially inserting sterile, super thin, disposable needles into these points. This may be done with or without the addition of gentle needle manipulation, heat, or electricity to further stimulate the points and break up the obstructions.
Although acupuncture may seem mysterious to some, it is a time tested therapy that was first developed in China thousands of years ago and is still very much a main method of healthcare there and in many other parts of the world today. It is one of the most proven and well-known forms of alternative therapies, and many studies have been conducted demonstrating the safety and efficacy of acupuncture.
Acupuncture is rooted in a history that spans more than 2,000 years and restores the natural balance and smooth flow of energy throughout the body. From a modern Western medical perspective, needling acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release biochemicals such as endorphins, immune system cells, and neurotransmitters, in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. In addition to alleviating pain, these chemicals can influence the internal regulating system of the body and affect involuntary bodily functions such as blood flow, immune reactions, body temperature, and digestion. By stimulating the nervous system and influencing these bodily functions, acupuncture can help the body heal itself naturally.
During a typical first visit, your acupuncturist will take a detailed health history, fully investigate your chief complaint, perform a physical exam, and determine the best plan for treatment. This plan may include acupuncture as well as additional techniques, such as cupping, bodywork, electro-stimulation, or moxibustion, if necessary. This may take 60 minutes but is necessary to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique health condition while focusing on your main concern. Treatments during subsequent visits will be adapted to your progress and will generally last between 30 to 45 minutes.
Wearing loose, comfortable clothing is best to allow easy access to acupuncture points. Our clinic is also equipped with gowns and towels if needed. Try and have a light meal prior to treatment and remember to stay hydrated. After your visit, refrain from overexertion, working out, drugs or alcohol for up to six hours. This is an important time to relax and get plenty of rest if possible. Between visits, please take note of any changes that may have occurred, such as the alleviation of pain or other symptoms, pain moving to other areas, or changes in the frequency and type of problems.
Each person is different. For most people, acupuncture causes minimal to no pain. Unlike hypodermic needles that are used for injections, acupuncture needles are solid, remarkably thin, and therefore cause very little pain. During the insertion of needles, some people feel nothing, while others experience a quick twinge, which may be followed by tingling, numbness, heaviness or warmth. This is a desired affect and should not be uncomfortable.
Often, during an acupuncture treatment, a patient feels so relaxed that he or she will fall asleep. Needles generally remain in place for 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the patient and overall treatment plan. At the end of a session, the acupuncturist quickly removes the needles – this is painless. Symptom relief may occur immediately, or in the few days that follow a treatment. For complex, longstanding complaints, more than one treatment is required.
Needle apprehension is very common and natural. Most people do not realize how thin the needles are and that they are nothing like the needles used in a medical setting that we associate with pain. It is also important to remember that needling is not the only modality used for treatment. Our acupuncturist is trained in several healing techniques including acupressure, cupping, Asian bodywork, moxibustion, ear seeds and qigong. None of these things involve needles. Remember that this is your treatment and your body – come to your appointment equipped with any questions or concerns you have. We are here to make you feel comfortable with your treatment and make sure it is tailored to your specific needs.
Benefits are often felt immediately after the first treatment although acupuncture builds on itself as it returns the body to a state of health. As treatment progresses, so too does the length of time that its effects last.
Frequency of treatments is dependent on the nature and severity of your condition. Chronic conditions generally take longer to resolve than acute ones, and the longer a patient has had a condition, the longer it usually takes to resolve. Other factors that influence the number of treatments needed include the patient’s lifestyle, overall health, and constitution.
Our acupuncturist is happy to meet with you for a free 15-minute consultation to assess your individual situation and give you a sense of your likely course of treatment.
What is the difference between getting acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) or from another type of practitioner, such as medical doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist?
At Upstate Spine & Sport, our acupuncturist has an undergraduate degree and completed a master’s degree consisting of 3 academic years of study, which includes extensive hours of classroom time as well as hands-on clinic time treating patients. In addition, in order to become licensed in South Carolina, candidates must pass a rigorous national board examination given by the National Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). In contrast, other practitioners, such as chiropractors, medical doctors, and physical therapists can practice acupuncture or dry needling with as little as 100 hours of training. Licensed acupuncturists use acupuncture and its underlying theories as their main therapy, enabling them to utilize their expertise to safely and effectively treat patients.
Cupping therapy is an ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine in which a glass or plastic suction cup is placed on the skin. It is used to mobilize and stimulate the flow of both blood and energy in order to promote healing. Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps). The cups can remain stationary or be gently moved across the skin. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. This type of treatment lasts around 10 minutes depending on the patient and their treatment plan.
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy using moxa made from dried mugwort. It plays an important role in the traditional medical systems of China (including Tibet), Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. Suppliers usually age the mugwort and grind it up to a fluff or process it further into a cigar-shaped stick – known as a moxa stick.
Our acupuncturist uses moxa to warm regions and specific acupuncture points with the intention of stimulating circulation through the body, strengthening the blood, and maintaining general health. It is very good for treating chronic problems, particularly in a condition of weakness known as “deficiency conditions”. During a moxa treatment at Upstate Spine & Sport, the patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but will not experience any pain, blistering or scarring.
If your plan provides coverage for Acupuncture out of network, we are more than happy to provide you with all of the documentation needed to submit to your carrier for reimbursement. Patients are always welcome to utilize their flexible spending accounts, healthcare savings accounts, or healthcare reimbursement accounts to pay for acupuncture services. If you have any questions about your coverage, our pricing, or payment for acupuncture please call us. We are more than happy to help!