Acupuncture is a therapy that involves inserting fine needles into specific points along channels that run along the body called meridians. A part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for over 5000 years, Acupuncture is based on the theory that health is determined by the balanced flow of qi, or vital life energy through specifically mapped channels called meridians. Meridians link to specific internal organs and organ systems, and insertion of needles into these “acupoints” impacts the cellular, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems. TCM is a system of health that includes Acupuncture, herbal formulas, Tui Na, Gua Sha, Moxibustion and cupping. TCM also includes the exercise and breathing techniques known as Tai Qi and Qi Gong within its scope of practice. TCM differs from western allopathic medicine in that each person is treated as an individual for a holistic approach. Two patients being treated for the same concerns may be treated very differently due to their previous history, individual constitution, and even environmental influences.
Acupuncture literally means to puncture with a needle. The term “Acupuncture” is used in its broad sense to include traditional body needling, moxibustion, electric Acupuncture (electro-Acupuncture), laser Acupuncture (photoAcupuncture), microsystem Acupuncture such as ear (auricular), face, hand and scalp Acupuncture, and acupressure (the application of pressure at selected sites). It is often combined with other modalities that fall under the auspices of TCM during each session.
Modern biomedical research has determined that Acupuncture stimulates certain systems to release chemicals such as endorphins, and hormones that affect mood, health, and pain perception. Needle insertion is not painful and many people relax very deeply during treatment. For some conditions, heat or electrical stimulation may be used to enhance the effects of the treatment.
Acupuncture can be used for a multitude of conditions, with pain management being the most frequent reason patients seek out treatment. In addition to pain, Acupuncture is also used for alleviating side effects of cancer treatment, chronic disease and auto-immune disease, or for acute conditions such as injury (sprain, strain, motor vehicle accidents), cold & flu, vertigo, and surgery preparation & recovery.
Acupuncture needles are small, thin, pre-sterilized and disposable needles that do not typically hurt when inserted. Some people report unusual sensations at the acupoint such as deep aching, tingling, or heat. Acupoints are located all over the body and any number may be used in a single session. In some cases, small ear seeds are placed for the patient to stimulate at home between sessions. Relief from symptoms may occur quickly in a single session, but more typically take several sessions over a period of time for lasting results. Your acupuncturist will work with you to create an individualized plan of treatment.
Acupuncture & Insurance
Insurance coverage for Acupuncture varies by plan. Not all diagnoses are considered MEDICALLY NECESSARY to qualify for coverage by insurance. Please call your customer service number to see if you have benefits, and to clarify whether the condition you are seeking Acupuncture for is covered. The Springs offers affordable options for the community for conditions not covered by insurance, or when annual insurance benefits are exhausted.
Cupping is a modality in which heated glass cups are placed over areas of the body, creating suction which draws the skin, superficial muscle and fascia into the cup. The cups may be left stationary, or can be slid across lubricated skin depending on the treatment. The session feels almost like the reverse of a massage…rather than pressure and pushing, the suction pulls the tissue up and away from the body, loosens muscles, encourages blood flow, and calms the nervous system. Cupping may be used to relieve back and neck pain, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and other symptoms. Like Acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians which include lines on the back (where the cups are usually placed). Cupping strives to open the meridian channels providing a smoother and more free-flowing qi (life force). Other areas of the body can be treated including hands, wrists, legs, and ankles, treating specific organs and systems that correlate with these points.
Gua Sha is a technique used for treating conditions like tension, pain, and those conditions characterized by excess “heat” like a fever, some respiratory issues, etc. The technique is literally a skin-scraping technique that aims to break up areas of tension and intentionally creates petechiae (called ‘sha’ in TCM). A ceramic spoon is often used, and is scraped across oiled skin. The treatment can feel anywhere from relaxing and soothing to a little uncomfortable, depending on the level of tension within the tissues, and the location.
Tuina is a form of medical massage characterized by vigorous strokes. Translated loosely as “pushing and pulling”, Tuina is used to stimulate the meridians and move areas of qi stagnation. Smooth movement of qi is what stimulates the body’s healing response and promotes optimal organ function. Treatment may include various forms of massage, acupressure, rocking, and traction. Tuina is well-matched for the treatment of specific musculoskeletal disorders and some chronic stress-related disorders. Tuina is not a mild, sedating and relaxing session, since it tends to be more task focused than other types of bodywork.
Moxibustion is the use of particular dried herbs formed into compressed cylinders, cones or pellets that are burned and applied either directly or indirectly to the body. Traditionally, direct application is used, however, in the US, indirect moxa is more frequently done. Moxa essentially creates intense heat from the heated herbs, and may be used alone, or in combination with Acupuncture needles. Moxa is used to treat cold or stagnant conditions, moving blood and qi. It has been used to assist turning a breeched presentation baby before birth, and also to relieve menstrual cramps. Moxa is not indicated for someone who suffers from excess heat, and may be irritating for some respiratory conditions.
Gua Sha, cupping and moxa are not indicated for every patient, but may be incorporated into an Acupuncture treatment if I feel it would be of benefit. Potential patients can even book just TCM modalities even if they aren’t interested in Acupuncture. During a short evaluation, I can assess whether cupping, Gua Sha, Moxa, or a combination may be helpful for your particular condition.