“Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. A key component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain. Increasingly, it is being used for overall wellness, including stress management.” – Mayo Clinic
From its ancient roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine, modern acupuncture now finds itself used in a diverse set of healthcare contexts. Acupuncture is now used by physiotherapists and chiropractors to treat musculoskeletal pain, by medical doctors to treat migraines and nausea, by midwives to assist with births, by the U.S. Military to aid in the safe transport of wounded soldiers and by drug and alcohol support workers to help treat addiction. Many different styles of practice and traditions exist, including TCM, Five Elements, Japanese acupuncture, Stems & Branches, Western Medical Acupuncture and many others. Because it is so safe when practiced by qualified practitioners and it uses the body’s own healing mechanisms, it lends itself to inclusion in a diverse array of healthcare contexts.
Safe, Effective, and Non-Invasive
During acupuncture treatment, needles will be inserted into your body. These cause very little to no tissue damage, and these “micro-traumas” are what trigger the body’s self-healing processes to start up.
Whatever discomfort occurs with needle treatment is minor in comparison to the potential effects and benefits. Most needle insertions should settle into something very comfortable before the practitioner allows you rest with needles retained in your body.
What to Expect
Does acupuncture hurt?
Needles are sterile, generally cause no bleeding upon entry or removal, with little or no pain being felt; however, slight bruising may be experienced on occasion.
Where will you place the needles?
This decision is based on many factors related to your individual case, and the prescription will be customized for you. Often needles are placed in local or adjacent areas to symptoms, but may also be placed in other areas further away from, but still connected to the target tissues.
How deep do the needles go?
This depends on where the needles are being placed. The depth of insertion takes into account the surface anatomy and the depth at which we may activate the therapeutic effects of a point. This may range from a few millimeters (such as in the auricle of the ear) to several inches (when needling points which are located deep in muscles, such as the piriformis).
Are there any side effects to acupuncture therapy?
According to the Mayo Clinic:
“The risks of acupuncture are low if you have a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner using sterile needles. Common side effects include soreness and minor bleeding or bruising where the needles were inserted. Single-use, disposable needles are now the practice standard, so the risk of infection is minimal. Not everyone is a good candidate for acupuncture.”