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How To Thrive In The Modern World: A Layperson's Guide To Chinese Medicine

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A Holistic Acupuncture Practice and Wellness Center in the Sarasota/Bradenton Area


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation, at very precise acupuncture points. Acupuncture is just one mode of treatment within the framework of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment. A neutral attitude (For example, a patient thinking, “I don’t know if I really believe in this.”) will not block the treatment results. Acupuncture causes physiological changes in the body regardless of knowledge or belief in the treatment, just as taking medications cause physiological changes regardless of knowledge or belief in the drug.


How does acupuncture work?

There are many modern theories, but the general explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulates the release of chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals can either change the experience of pain, or trigger the release of chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.

Chinese medicine is based on a completely different paradigm than contemporary medicine. A simplified version of 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 and organs. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that gets backed up. The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians.


Can acupuncture treat more than pain?

Yes, definitely! While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as support to other medical treatments. Acupuncture is a system which can influence three areas of health:

• promotion of health and well-being

• prevention of illness

• treatment of various medical conditions


What can acupuncture treat?

The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:

Digestive disorders: vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, digestive trouble, indigestion, gastritis and hyperacidity, irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, colitis, dysentery, gingivitis, hiccup

Respiratory disorders: common cold, sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections, pneumonia, rhinitis, tonsillitis

Tension, stress and emotional conditions: stress, addiction, anxiety, fatigue, depression, emotional problems, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sleep disturbances, smoking cessation

Neurological and musculoskeletal disorders: headaches, migraine, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendinitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, dental pain, dizziness, facial palsy, trigeminal neuralgia, fibromyalgia

Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems: fertility, incontinence, menstrual irregularities, pain, menopausal symptoms, morning sickness, PMS, reproductive problems, urinary tract infections


How long does it take to see results from acupuncture?

This depends on the type of condition being treated, as well as the individual’s response to treatments. Sometimes immediate relief may be felt, sometimes there’s a one-two day delay in response, and sometimes it can take a few treatments to start feeling results. For example, if a relatively healthy person receives treatment for a cold, it is likely that they would feel immediate results. On the other hand, if a person gets treated for back pain they’ve been suffering with for 10 years, it may take 3-5 treatments before they start to feel improvement.


How often are treatments required?

Once per week is the minimum treatment frequency during the active healing phase. With treatment once per week, cumulative results add up and strides toward reduced symptoms and improved condition are usually measurable. For very severe or chronic conditions, it is advisable to jump start a treatment regimen with 2-3 treatments per week if possible for the first couple weeks until relief is felt, then transition to the once per week frequency.


After the body is stronger and the condition is stable, when a week can pass without any symptoms, then the treatment frequency is reduced. Time between treatments will be stretched out to 10 days, 14 days, 21 days or just reduced to a monthly maintenance visit.


How long are treatments required?

Again, this completely depends on the type of condition being treated, as well as the individual’s response to treatments. Most patients are feeling a definite improvement within one month of weekly treatments. Most patients have weekly treatments for 2 or 3 months, some people continue with weekly visits for 3-4 months. The goal is to get you feeling well and living life–so as soon as you’re ready the treatment frequency will be reduced, we’ll figure out what is the minimum amount of treatment time that will keep you comfortable and doing what you love in life! After symptoms are under control, monthly maintenance visits are recommended.


Does acupuncture hurt?

Most people say that acupuncture doesn’t hurt. People experience acupuncture needling differently. Most patients feel only a very tiny pinch as the needles are inserted; some patients don’t feel the insertion at all. The sensation is like a mosquito bite or less. Once the needles are in place, there may be a pressure or tingling sensation that indicates the treatment is working well, but this sensation is not painful. Most people agree that acupuncture treatments are comfortable and relaxing. Many people fall asleep during acupuncture treatment!


What are the needles like?

Acupuncture needles are NOTHING like the hypodermic needles used for injections or blood sampling. They are tiny, smooth and solid—almost like a strand of hair. Dozens of acupuncture needles can fit into the shaft of a single hypodermic needle. Only sterile, single-use needles are used for acupuncture.



What if I’m too scared of the needles to get a treatment?

You’re not alone. Many people are uncomfortable with needles. Some people even have an authentic phobia. The first thing to know is that you can benefit from Chinese Medicine by receiving other forms of treatment including acupressure, cupping, moxabustion or herbal formulas.

That being said, acupuncture is the most effective and economical form of treatment. Most people fear acupuncture because they associate needles with painful injections. Acupuncture needles are usually painless. Whenever I attend a health fair or similar event I do free demos for people. The overwhelming response is surprise at how little is felt with acupuncture needle insertion. If acupuncture needling was painful, free demos would not be a successful way to promote it!

If you do have an authentic phobia, professional psychological assistance may be needed to overcome it. If you want to try acupuncture but feel afraid, I will do my best to help you conquer your fear. Desensitization is a proven technique for conquering fears. We can start slowly by just showing you the needles. You don’t have to receive any acupuncture until you’re ready. We can rely on other treatment methods until you are comfortable with acupuncture. We can do treatments with fewer needles and tinier needles to ease you into it.


Does acupuncture have any side effects?

Acupuncture is totally natural and does not involve any drugs or chemicals, so there are few side effects. Some patients report feeling deeply relaxed, or even “spacey” after treatments, but this passes after a short time. Acupuncture doesn’t usually cause any bleeding, but occasionally a couple tiny drops of blood may be released when the needle is removed (about 3% of the time), or a small bruise might form after the needle is removed (about 2% of the time). Dizziness during treatment, usually due to either conscious or subconscious fear of needles, occurs in about 1% of patients. These days we have come to think of side effects as negative things. Many patients experience positive side effects with acupuncture including: better sleep, greater sense of well being, reduced asthmatic conditions, reduced allergy symptoms, and regulated cycles–even when those are not the issues we are targeting 🙂


Is acupuncture safe for children?

Yes, acupuncture is safe for children. Special methods and precautions are used when treating very young children who are not yet able to sit still for 20 minutes. At least one parent must always be present with a child during treatment.


Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?

In general, acupuncture is safe during pregnancy but special precautions must be taken. Always tell your acupuncturist if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.


What should I do before my first visit?

Contact us for tips on your first appointment.

When you get the How to Thrive e-book, you'll discover:

How Chinese medicine is uniquely capable of transforming your health and life.

The intimate connection between your emotions, beliefs, and health challenges.

How our unique approach can help your specific health issues.



Leave your name and email address here to receive a free copy of our ebook.

How To Thrive In The Modern World: A Layperson's Guide To Chinese Medicine

Your privacy is important to us and we will never rent or sell your information.