What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points in the body for therapeutic effect. It is increasingly recognized as a safe and effective therapy for a variety of health concerns. Oddly enough, it tends to be very relaxing.

Does it hurt?

Properly executed, acupuncture won't hurt. When being needled, you should experience a change of sensation (perhaps tingling, a distending sensation, or a dull ache), but it won't be sharp or painful. The needles are hair thin, nothing like the hollow needles used to draw blood or administer a shot. 

How does it work?

From a Chinese medical point of view, your body includes a network of channels that contain the flow of Qi, somewhat like a watershed holds the flow of water. Needling specific acupuncture points affects the Qi of the channel, which in turn regulates the functioning of that channel and the related functions of your internal organs. This helps to bring your body into a state of balance.

From a biomedical point of view, the needles create a micro-injury to which the body responds with increased blood flow, bringing in more nutrients to the local area and carrying away waste. The needles also interact with connective tissue, which in turn interacts with the nervous system to create systemic changes in the body. (Needles are not inserted directly into nerves.) Needling muscles can cause them to twitch and relax, relieving tightness and soreness. Acupuncture also creates central nervous system responses, such as the release of opioid peptides like endorphins. In short, the body's reaction to acupuncture is complex, and acupuncture has many "mechanisms of actions" that are continuing to be researched.

Is acupuncture the same as Chinese medicine?

Acupuncture is just one piece of Chinese medicine, which also includes Chinese herbs, massage, exercise, and dietary recommendations. And these are just the treatment modalities - Chinese medicine also includes traditional medical theory and traditional diagnostic methods, including tongue and pulse diagnosis.

Are the needles re-used?

Nope. The needles are one-time use, disposable needles.

Chinese Herbs

 Herbs for sale in Bozhou, China, October 2014.

Traditional Chinese Medicine boasts the most sophisticated system of herbal medicine in the world, with a long history of scholarly commentary and clinical innovation.

The thousands of substances within the Chinese Materia Medica are organized in various categories according to their main functions. These herbs are the building blocks of a huge number of carefully composed traditional formulas, which can be modified to better fit individual patients and presentations.

This attention to synergy and customization are the unique strengths of Chinese herbal medicine.

While herbs are generally less harsh and more "natural" than pharmaceutical drugs, herbs are powerful substances that can have side effects. Patients wanting herbs should also bring an accurate list of current medications.

Tuina (Chinese Massage)

Tuina (pronounced "twee-na") is more than just a particular style of massage or collection of massage techniques. It represents the orthopedic side of Chinese medicine, requiring an understanding of the muscular, nervous, and skeletal anatomy in addition to an understanding of channel theory.

Treatments include massage techniques to stimulate the flow of Qi through the channels as well as orthopedic testing and therapeutic passive stretching techniques. 

For pain conditions stemming from structural problems, the combination of acupuncture and Tuina is often more effective than acupuncture alone. 

My focus in Tuina is on musculoskeletal problems such as neck and shoulder pain, rotator cuff injury, sciatica, and back pain. I offer Tuina massage in combination with acupuncture or as a stand-alone treatment. I also offer Tuina massage for general relaxation.