Acupuncture seems to be a popular topic these days. Hollywood stars praising its benefits, Time & Life magazine featuring articles about it, even Veterinarians claiming amazing results treating their furry little friends (no placebo effect there!). As acupuncture becomes more popular here in the West many people are becoming curious about this “mysterious” form of healing from the East. This article briefly addresses some of the most frequent questions that a prospective new patient might have.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the “eight branches” of what is known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The other seven branches consist of herbal medicine, diet, Tui Na (massage), qigong (breathwork), tai qi (martial arts), astrology, and feng shui (art of placement). Acupuncture itself is the practice of inserting extremely thin needles into specific points on the body known as acupoints. These acupoints are generally located along energetic pathways on the body known as meridians.
What are meridians?
Meridians are the pathways through which Qi (or energy, for the sake of simplicity) is carried throughout the body. They cover the body from head to toe, front to back, and connect with all the organ systems of the body. This creates a web of pathways that interconnect every aspect of the body.
What is Qi?
Qi, (pronounced chee) in its most basic description, is the energy flowing through the meridian system. From a more holistic point of view it can be thought of as the underlying omnipresent force permeating and animating the universe. The goal of the acupuncturist is to promote the smooth uninhibited flow of Qi through the meridian system. One interesting description of Qi is that it is energy on the verge of becoming matter and matter on the verge of becoming energy. This is a succinct verbal description of the original Chinese character for Qi, which is a pot of rice boiling with steam coming out- the rice symbolizing the matter and steam the energy.
Does it hurt?
Probably the most frequent question asked. Generally the answer is no. The acupuncture needle is a very thin solid needle unlike the hollow hypodermic version. Even under a microscope, these needles are incredibly smooth and uniform. A slight pinch can be felt along with other sensations such as dull ache, itching, tingling, or warmth. Rarely there might be the occasional sharper sensation but this generally fades away in a few seconds.
Does it only work for musculoskeletal pain?
Although this is the most common reason people receive acupuncture it is not the only situation it is helpful for. Acupuncture and more specifically TCM is a comprehensive system of healthcare that has the capability of addressing just about any health issue that may arise – physically and emotionally.
Does Insurance Cover Acupuncture?
Yes, many insurance companies are offering acupuncture benefits now. As it becomes more mainstream, the public is continually requesting this benefit. Insurance companies are beginning to realize that acupuncture is a cost effective form of treatment and seem to be responding to public demand.
One of the most important issues addressed in this article is the understanding that acupuncture is just one aspect of TCM. TCM is an ever evolving and empirically proven system of medicine capable of dealing with most of the ailments that affect our modern society today. It is safe, cost effective, gentle, and can be utilized by everyone from pediatrics to geriatrics and all those in between.
- Kaptchuk, Ted. The Web That Has No Weaver. Contemporary, Chicago 2000.
For more info, contact David Edge, O.M.D at (775) 783-4930 or (775)781-3465