Monday Medical; Acupuncture could be key

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Acupuncture has become increasingly popular in the United States, yet many people are unsure about what acupuncture involves and what to expect from a treatment.

What does acupuncture feel like?

During an acupuncture treatment, extremely fine needles are inserted into various acupuncture points on the body, depending on the diagnosis and condition being treated. Insertion produces very little sensation.

Once the needle is through the outer layer of skin, you should feel a heavy or distended sensation at the acupuncture point.

Sometimes this feeling radiates along the corresponding channel, producing sensation that is distal to the point being needled.

Acupuncture should not be painful, but it should elicit some sensation at the point in order to be most effective, according to traditional Chinese medical theory.

What can acupuncture treat?

The World Health Organization recognizes that acupuncture can effectively treat: addictions, allergies, arteriosclerosis, anxiety, asthma, cold and flu, constipation, diarrhea, eczema, fibromyalgia, headaches, hypertension, indigestion, infertility, insomnia, low back pain, neck pain, premenstrual syndrome and sinusitis.

How long are acupuncture needles left in the body?

The needles will generally be left in for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the patient's condition and overall constitution. After the needles are removed, patients generally report feeling relaxed and calm.

Are acupuncture needles re-used?

Acupuncture needles are not re-used in the United States. Only single-use, sterile, disposable needles are used.

How does acupuncture work?

Although the exact scientific mechanisms have not been determined, insertion of acupuncture needles causes both a neural and vascular response at the point. This means the needles stimulate nerves and affect blood flow. Acupuncture also has been shown to stimulate endocrine glands, alter the release of neurotransmitters in the brain, promote tissue healing and increase the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.

What occurs during a first visit to an acupuncturist?

After filling out necessary paperwork, your practitioner will ask you about your chief complaint and then ask specific and detailed questions pertaining to each bodily system. The practitioner will look at your tongue, take your pulse and make a Chinese medical diagnosis.

Based on this diagnosis, your practitioner will choose the appropriate Chinese medical modalities to treat your condition. These could include acupuncture, Chinese herbs, tuina, cupping or moxibustion.

Acupuncture is almost always administered in a treatment. The first visit lasts one hour to 90 minutes; return treatments are usually 45 minutes to an hour long.

How many treatments will it take to see results?

This varies, depending on the condition and how long the patient has been experiencing it. Some musculoskeletal conditions that are relatively recent respond in just a few treatments. Other conditions that have manifested over many years will take longer to effectively treat. Combining acupuncture with Chinese herbal medicine generally produces positive results more quickly.

How do I find a practitioner?

There are a number of acupuncturists in the Steamboat Springs area. When choosing a practitioner, it is important to make sure that he or she is board-certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. You can search for a practitioner at www.nccaom.org.

Kelley McDaneld, Dipl.OM, L.Ac., is an acupuncturist at Yampa Valley Medical Center and has a private practice in Steamboat Springs.

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