What Is Acupuncture Like?
Acupuncture can be used to treat many conditions: respiratory, orthopedic, gastrointestinal, and neurologic, just to name a few. We have patients seeking treatment for sinusitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, sciatica and lower back pain, ulcers, colitis, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, migraines, anxiety and depression.
Your First Acupuncture Appointment
At your first acupuncture appointment, your practitioner will ask a series of questions regarding body temperature, pain, digestion, elimination, eyes, ears, energy, sleep patterns and quality of life physically, emotionally and spiritually. Once the practitioner has determined the Chinese Diagnosis, he/she will choose the acupuncture points that relate to those areas of concern.
The theory of Chinese medicine involves moving energy along channels or meridians in the body. Acupuncture treats the disharmony in the body. By balancing the disharmony, the body is in a better (more balanced) place to in order to generate healing and return to homeostasis.
Where Are Acupuncture Needles Placed?
Needles will be inserted in acupoints along the meridians of the body. The ear is a popular location to treat many different conditions. The ear points are reflexive of the whole body. Needles also may be placed in acupoints in the arms, hands, feet, legs, etc. according to the Chinese Diagnosis. The placement of needles relates to the areas of imbalance and how the Qi or energy needs to be affected. Specific treatment protocols are set up for each patient.
For most people, the acupuncture needles cause little or no discomfort. Sometimes if the acupuncturist is targeting a specific condition, the body may react to the focused energy flow through that area and there may be an achiness or discomfort for a few minutes as the energy works to balance that area. Most people are not alarmed by this and recognize it as healing.
The number of needles inserted depends on the specific treatment plan. The acupuncturist can place as few as two needles or as many as 40, depending on what is being treated and how the energy needs to be directed. The needles are generally left in for 20 to 30 minutes. They can be left in longer but 20 minutes is generally the length of time it takes for the treatment to complete.
It takes 24 hours for energy to process through the body from one point to another. And the meridians carry it for 24 hours, and then it starts over again. So, from the time the first needle is placed, it takes 24 minutes to make one cycle. The treatment continues to make changes for the next 24 hours.
If you see an acupuncturist for wellness, you may return every four- to six- weeks. If you are being treated for a chronic condition, such as chronic pain, you may go more frequently.
What Are The Side Effects Of Acupuncture?
The most common side effects of acupuncture are things everyone wants: better sleep, more energy, mental clarity, better digestion and less stress. One or several of these side effects occur routinely for many, many acupuncture goers.
Other side effects of acupuncture that are less welcome are:
- Sometimes following acupuncture, some feel worse before they start feeling better.
- People can feel tired after acupuncture. A more common result is increased energy. The fatigue after acupuncture is your body telling you that it's depleted. Feeling fatigued after acupuncture is not cause for concern, but it is a warning sign that you need to rest
- Body parts where acupuncture needles get inserted can feel sore after needles are removed. Soreness from acupuncture typically dissipates within 24 hours.
- Although less common than soreness, bruising can occur at the needling site. These bruises usually don't hurt and last a few days after the treatment. There is no treatment necessary and they will dissipate on their own.
- People may experience involuntary muscle twitching during or after acupuncture. This is no cause for concern - it generally only happens once and is over before you can summon the acupuncturist.
- Rarely, post-acupuncture lightheadedness can result in fainting. Getting up too quickly from the acupuncture table can cause lightheadedness, as can arriving for an acupuncture treatment on an empty stomach. Remember that eating is one of the key things to remember before an acupuncture appointment. Most of the time there is no danger of fainting and the lightheadedness lasts only seconds.
Rebecca Flack, a licensed acupuncturist at Franciscan Health Indianapolis, is an honors graduate of the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago and the University of Indianapolis. She holds an associate's degree in nursing, a bachelor's degree in nutrition and a master’' degree in both acupuncture and Oriental medicine. To learn more about acupuncture services at Franciscan Health and to find a location offering acupuncture near you, visit FranciscanHealth.org/acupuncture.
By Rebecca Flack, L.Ac., RN, MSOM, DAOMᴿᴵ
Acupuncturist, Franciscan Health Indianapolis