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Acupuncture & Dry Needling


What are acupuncture and moxabustion?

Acupuncture is the insertion of solid needles into the body in a manner which relieves pain, stress, or symptoms of disease. Acupuncture involves many different techniques, the employment of which depends on the practitioner's preference and patient's presentation.

Moxibustion involves the burning of mugwart leaf (moxa) to warm certain acupoints. Moxa may be applied directly to the skin, placed in a box that sits over a large area of the body, or formed into a stick which is moved close to the skin as it is burned.

I've never had acupuncture before. What should I expect?

All acupuncture sessions involve a discussion of your symptoms and therapy options with your practitioner.

In a traditional acupuncture session, multiple needles are inserted and the patient rests with the needles for approximately 15 minutes. Often, both the front and back sides of the body are treated in the same session. Traditional sessions may also include other treatment modalities like cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, and herbal and nutritional consultation. Sessions last 60 minutes with 90 minutes for the initial visit.

Motor point acupuncture (dry needling) sessions involve the rapid insertion and removal of a single needle which is stimulated with electricity. The current causes the muscle to twitch and eventually fatigue. The patient does not rest while retaining needles as in traditional sessions. Sessions last 15 minutes.

Acupuncture for balance and gait requires the patient to conduct a series of simple balance exercises with two needles placed in the scalp. Needles are manually stimulated during the exercises. Sessions last 15 minutes and are recommended 3 times per week for the first 4 weeks with weekly maintenance treatments in perpetuity.


PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EATEN WITHIN 3 HOURS BEFORE HAVING ACUPUNCTURE OF ANY KIND. Although it is rare, the insertion of needles can sometimes create a hypoglycemic state known as "needle shock." Needle shock is not life threatening, but can make the patient feel faint, nauseated, and disoriented and requires that the treatment session end immediately. Eating before treatment will ensure that you will not experience needle shock.

Will I experience pain during acupuncture?

There is no way to preemptively tell whether or not a patient will experience pain during treatment. The presence or absence of pain depends more on the patient than the application of the therapy. Some people have very sensitive nervous systems and experience intense sensations, whereas other patients may undergo identical treatment and feel little pain or nothing. Pain experiences can also vary between treatments for individual patients. Often anxiety contributes highly to pain sensation. If you are concerned about pain during therapy, ask your practitioner for a special ear protocol that will relax your nervous system before treatment begins.

Acupuncture needles are filiform (solid metal without a hole in the middle). Their solid, thin structure combined with the act of stretching skin before insertion acts to minimize pain. Most often, pain is experienced for about 1-2 seconds as the needle is inserted, after which it dissipates completely. If a needle continues to cause sharp, tingling pain that lasts for longer than 15-20 seconds, it should be removed. Occasionally patients feel an aching sensation for the duration of the treatment, which as long as it is not intolerable, is desirable because it indicates that the body is responding well to the needles. Most patients experience only slight, transitory pain or no pain with acupuncture.

Cupping and gua sha can cause pain similar to a deep tissue massage when applied to very tight muscles. Some patients find the sensations associated with these therapies pleasant.

How is a Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.) different from other professionals who practice acupuncture or dry needling?

Licensed acupuncturists have a minimum of a 4-year master's degree in Oriental Medicine with at least 972 clinical hours. They must also pass a rigorous set of national board exams which are administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) which test proficiency in Oriental medical principles, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and biomedicine.

Professionals who are not licensed acupuncturists (any practitioner that does not have "L.Ac" after his/her name) has completed one of many continuing education courses that teach acupuncture. The content and rigor of these courses varies, there is no minimum requirement for clinical hours or standardized testing for proficiency.

What is the difference between acupuncture and dry needling?

Acupuncture is the use of solid, filiform needles to induce changes in the body. There are many different techniques of acupuncture, of which dry needling is one.

Dry needling is an acupuncture technique that uses a needle to release tight muscles. It is strictly anatomical and does not involve retaining needles for any length of time.

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