By Monica Zhou, LAc

Monica is a Licensed Acupuncturist within the Pain Management Program at the Gentle Wellness Center.

In this article, we ask our acupuncturist, Muyu Zhou, frequently asked questions on acupuncture. A lot of us have many questions related to acupuncture ranging from whether its painful to what does it treat. For some of us, acupuncture even feels scary ! Let’s get all our questions answered.

What is acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is a self-healing treatment. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing method in which the strong but sensitive acupoints of the body are simulated with sterile surgical stainless-steel needles. These acupoints are determined by the meridians and specific type of energy flow. Nervous system stimulation and its evoking leads to reduction of pain and regulation of hormones and improvement in immune system. It also helps in increasing the overall vitality.

Do you perform any other techniques related to acupuncture?

Yes, we recommend Gua Sha and Cupping to patients. Gua Sha involves using a special tool to increase the blood flow and stimulate the patient’s lymphatic system. Cupping involves use of cup like tools which are placed on certain points on the body that lead to suction of the skin. This is said to help in lowering or increasing the blood flow and creates hyperemia or hemostasis around the skin. Both techniques are said to help in reducing pain and help in treating many other conditions.

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture is an alternative form of medicine that can help treat various conditions. It can be used as a sole form of treatment or as a complementary treatment along with conventional forms of treatment. It effectively treats most types of pain, migraines, headaches, sleep disorders, fevers, colds, indigestion, depression, addiction, ENT issues anxiety, allergies and respiratory illnesses such as asthma. Acupuncture is also effective in treating serious conditions such as infertility.

What kind of needles are used in acupuncture?

Sterile surgical stainless-steel needles are used in acupuncture. These are one-time disposable needles.

Does it hurt and/or leave bruises or marks?

Most of the times, acupuncture needles produce very mild sensations that are caused due to stimulation. Sometimes if the acupuncture point is located near the capillary, there could be minor bleeding. Some patients can be sensitive to needles and may get minor bruises, but they do not produce any serious injuries. The tool used to perform Gua Sha may leave some bruising which usually disappears in 48-72 hours. Cupping technique may also leave marks that can take a week to go away.

How many rounds of treatments are required in order to see results?

There is no exact number of rounds that are required to see the results. The approximate number of treatments really depends on the patient’s health history, current health condition and the patient’s energy levels. It also depends on what the patient is trying to achieve in terms of his or her health. To start with, I recommend the patient to come in once a week or twice a week to start seeing results. As we start seeing results, we can get a better idea of how many sessions will be needed. I usually see that for muscular level pain, 8 or more sessions may be needed.

Is acupuncture safe for all? Does it have any side-effects?

When acupuncture treatment is performed by an experienced, skilled and a licensed practitioner, it is safe. There are no side-effects for regular patients but for patients that are on blood thinners or other medications that may cause them to bleed easily, it is a good idea to discuss with your doctor and get a consent or approval. For most patients, acupuncture does not have any serious side-effects.

Is there anything that a patient needs to do before and after the acupuncture treatment?

I advise that patients should not be very hungry before the acupuncture treatment. At the same time, they should not come in for a treatment immediately after eating. It is also recommended to not drink any alcohol for 24 hours after acupuncture treatment. Other than that, one should just try to be in a relaxed state of mind to get the maximum benefits. Some will see immediate effects while for others, it may take a few sessions to see the effects.