Person recieving acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Relief

Although it has been around for thousands of years, acupuncture has really started gaining acceptance around the medical community in the last 10 years or so. Because it is unlike anything we know in western medicine, many people don’t understand it and are afraid to try it. As an acupuncturist, and also a patient of this amazing medicine, I have seen and experienced its benefits first hand, and want to share it with everyone. So let's talk about acupuncture, what it is, and why you need it in your life.

How Does It Work?

Here is the short version. Acupuncture is an ancient medicine based on the principle that the body has twelve energy meridians, or pathways, running through it. These meridians run from the tips of our toes to the top of our head and everywhere in between. Within these meridians, exists something called “Qi”, our body's vital life force or vital energy, that helps all of our life processes happen, from eating and sleeping to thinking and feeling.

On each meridian there are places where the Qi collects, these are the acupuncture points. Each of these, over four hundred acupuncture points, has an individual location and function. So when a patient comes in with a complaint, after a full intake and diagnoses, a specific group of points is chosen for that patient. This group of points will help correct the Qi, or energy, of the body and promote healing.

What's with the Needles?

The number one reason people tell me they don’t want to try acupuncture is they are ”afraid of needles”. Acupuncture needles are nothing to be scared of, they are a far cry from the needles you are used to seeing in western medical offices. As a matter of fact, almost forty acupuncture needles can fit inside one hypodermic needle. Most of my patients refer to them as dog whiskers because they are so small. And for safety, they are single use, surgical grade stainless steel needles. So don’t let myths of reused needles scare you away either.

Okay, so they aren't big scary needles, but why do acupuncturist use them? Can’t they just push on the points? The needles are used to activate the points. And yes you could put pressure on these points, but that technique is just not as effective. Acupuncture points are below the surface of the skin, and by just pressing on them you will not get the full benefit of the treatment and your healing will take much longer.

What Can It Help?

When I am asked this question, I usually answer immediately with “Everything!”. But then when I see the confused look on the person’s face, I go further into explanation. Chinese medicine was the medicine thousands of years ago. So before there were antibiotics, over the counter pain relievers, and emergency rooms, people went to their acupuncturist to keep them healthy from head to toe. Although today acupuncture is mostly recognized for pain relief, most American’s do not realize it can help with a number of internal issues from mental illness to high blood pressure and so much more. In fact here is a list of just a few of the commonly treated conditions in an acupuncture office:

How Many Times do I Have to Go?

Once I convince someone to give acupuncture a try, they want to know how many treatments it will take to feel better. The answer is the dreaded “it depends”. Each person and condition is different. Most patients see relief after just one treatment, but usually a full course of treatment takes about 4-8 visits. Just remember that the longer you have been suffering from a condition, chances are the longer it will take to correct. If you slept wrong and woke up with a stiff neck, and the next day went to see an acupuncturist, it may be fixed in one treatment. However, if you have been battling depression and anxiety your whole life, that will take more than just one or two treatments.

And not to worry, you aren’t going to be chained to your acupuncturist the rest of your life. The goal of these treatments is to step down the frequency, until treatments are no longer needed, or are only needed on a maintenance type of schedule. I tell my all of my patients, as much as I enjoy each and everyone of them, I don’t want to see them in my office every week.

So, no matter what is ailing you, acupuncture can help you get through it. By itself, or in conjunction with any other course of medical treatment, the benefits are unmatched. Now that you know how it works, that the needles are nothing to be afraid of, and that you don’t have to keep going forever, you have no reason to not give it a try. So make an appointment today, and start living the healthiest version of your life!

The information in this article is for general educational purposes only, and should not be construed or interpreted as medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any medical condition or treatment, and before undertaking a new heathcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article or any linked materials.

Anna Mahoney is a Licensed Acupuncturist with a Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition from Rutgers University. In her practice, she focuses on bringing her patients back to health through Chinese Medicine, nutritional counseling, and overall wellness care. In her personal life, she is a passionate cook, musician, yogi, and athlete. Anna lives in New Jersey, with her husband, John, and their dog, Betty. Anna blogs at The Green Banana.