What Really Happens To You In Acupuncture

When you hear the word “acupuncture,” most likely you envision a person flinching as needles are poked all over his body with the end result resembling Pinhead from “Hellraisers.” But the reality is much more Zen. This Chinese medical treatment has been around for thousands of years (dating back to 6,000 B.C.) and its practitioners and patients all over the world swear by its preventative and healing benefits.

In the West, acupuncture is considered holistic, alternative medicine. It is a non-invasive, non-prescription treatment most often used for pain relief.

It is believed that the body’s “life force” or “qi” flows through the body’s meridians and when these pathways become blocked, disease, pain and illness can set in. Acupuncture has also been used to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, stress and worry, among others. It works to balance the mind, body and spirit.

Before an acupuncture session is started, the practitioner will observe the patient with four traditional diagnostic methods: inspection, auscultation and olfaction, palpitation, and inquiring.

Inspection involves examining the head, face and tongue. Eye brightness/cloudiness, skin pallor and texture, and the tongue’s color, shape, size and coating are analyzed.

Auscultation and olfaction focus on the breath and chest sounds as well as the upper torso as a whole. The practitioner determines if the patient’s body and breath have a sweet or acrid odor and if his breathing is clear and smooth or ragged and wheezy.

Palpitation involves pressing around the body to locate any tender spots as well as taking three pulses along the wrist, each one representing a different area of the body.

Inquiring is what Westerners consider a traditional medical consultation. The acupuncture professional discusses the patient’s “seven inquiries” as to his overall health.

The seven inquiries are:

  1. Appetite
  2. Chills and fever
  3. Defecation and urination
  4. Pain and sleep
  5. Perspiration
  6. Taste and thirst
  7. Menses and leukorrhea

Once the practitioner has determined where the patient’s problems are, treatment begins.

The patient lies down flat on an examining table as the practitioner inserts fine, stainless steel needles into the skin at various points of the body known as “meridians.” Once the needles are placed, the patient lies quietly and in stillness for up to 30 minutes.

Depending on the patient’s condition, multiple treatments are usually required and are sometimes accompanied by tinctures or pills made from leaves, seeds or herbs for the patient to consume post-session.

Some practitioners use needles by themselves; others employ additional stimulation via electricity. Much like the action involved in jump-starting your car’s battery, tiny clips from a machine that produces electricity are clamped onto select needles to provide more stimulation to the affected areas. While this added energy doesn’t hurt, patients report that it feels similar to plucking a hair from your skin.

And while Western medicine still questions acupuncture’s efficacy, there exists proof that at the very least, it does have positive effects on the human body. It’s been shown to increase blood flow, which plays a huge part in healing. It works to release natural painkillers and reduces the intensity of chronic pain, and it reduces stress. For a practice to have been around since 6,000 B.C., something’s got to be working.