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FAQ: Acupuncture

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is the art of inserting flexible, hair-thin needles into specific points on the body to help a person heal.  An acupuncture point is a point at which qi (pronounced "chee"), the body's life force or vital energy, gathers and may be accessed.  Acupuncture is the most well-known branch of Chinese medicine in the West.  Read more >

HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
Acupuncture works by guiding the body back to its natural state of balance so that it may heal itself.  This is accomplished by regulating the qi, which flows along pathways called "meridians" that connect the different areas of the body and the internal organs.  FAQ: Acupuncture - Each meridian is its own functional system with its own particular responsibilities.  Just as the Western medical model has the digestive system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system, the Chinese model references the Spleen meridian, the Liver meridian, the Kidney meridian, etc.  When the qi gets stuck or depleted in any of the meridians, many seemingly unrelated problems arise.  For example, fatigue, abdominal bloating, and difficulty falling asleep at night may seem like very different symptoms, but in Chinese medicine they could be seen as part of the same underlying pattern of Spleen qi deficiency.  By inserting and manipulating needles at specific points on the body, we can restore the smooth flow of qi in the meridians and thus the smooth flow of qi in the body as a whole.  We treat the pattern and all the symptoms tend to improve. 

Modern research studies have shown acupuncture affects the nervous system by stimulating the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands, which respond by releasing neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin--the body's natural painkillers and "feel-good" chemicals.  Other measurable physiological responses include enhanced blood circulation, decreased inflammation, and increased production of T-cells.

WHAT CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?
Acupuncture works by activating the body's own healing powers, so it can be beneficial for many health conditions.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has documented numerous symptoms, diseases, and conditions that have been shown in controlled clinical trials to be effectively treated with acupuncture.  Below are some common conditions we can treat at ATX Acupuncture and Wellness, but the list is by no means exhaustive.  Please contact us with any questions about your specific health condition. 

  • Painful and musculo-skeletal disorders including back, neck or shoulder pain; frozen shoulder; arm, wrist, or hand pain; tennis or golfer's elbow; carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS); leg, ankle or foot pain; sciatica; osteo-arthritis; repetitive strain injuries; jaw pain and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD); sprains and injuries to soft tissue and their after effects; heachache and migraine; postoperative pain
  • Neurological disorders including headache and migraine; tinnitus; after effects of stroke; facial paralysis (bell's palsy)
  • Menstrual, gynecological and obstetric disorders including premenstrual syndrome; painful periods; morning sickness; delayed labor; insufficiency of breast milk
  • Reproductive issues including male and female infertility and increased efficacy of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
  • Mental and emotional wellbeing including panic disorders; stress; anxiety; depression; insomnia
  • Digestive disorders such as heartburn or acid reflux; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); chronic indigestion; chronic loose stools or constipation; peptic ulcer; acute or chronic gastritis; morning sickness; nausea and vomiting; hemorrhoids; obesity
  • Urinary tract complaints such as recurrent cystitis; urethritis; incontinence
  • Circulatory diseases such as Raynauds disease; intermittant claudication; recurrent cramping
  • Addiction disorders including tobacco, drug and alcohol addiction
  • Respiratory complaints such as sinusitis; acute or chronic allergies (click here and skip to p 17 for a brief article)

IS ACUPUNCTURE SAFE?
Yes.  Acupuncture is used by millions of Americans every year.  Acupuncturists are required to undergo extensive education and training (in Texas, a 4 year full-time master's degree program), including detailed study of human anatomy and training in Clean Needle Technique.  Acupuncturists in Texas have passed four comprehensive national board examinations administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and are licensed by the Texas Medical Board.

As required by law, at ATX Acupuncture and Wellness we use only pre-sterilized, pre-packaged, disposable needles.  Each needle is inserted only once and is disposed of in a Sharps bio-hazard container after use.  While there are risks involved in any medical procedure, when administered by a trained acupuncturist, acupuncture is considered very safe.

DOES ACUPUNCTURE HURT?
Many first-time patients are concerned that acupuncture needles will feel like hypodermic injections at the doctor's office.  They won't.  Acupuncture needles are much thinner than the standard hypodermic needles used by phlebotomists;  most aren't much thicker than a couple of human hairs.  Many patients don't feel the needle insertions at all, others feel a slight prick.  Slight manipulation of the needles may produce a unique sensation Chinese medicine calls "de qi," or the "arrival of qi," as the needle plugs in and accesses the qi. Patients often describe de qi as a heavy, achy pressure, a tingling sensation, or a warmth that may stay local or a spread from the point of insertion.  You may also feel an electrical sensation moving down the meridian pathways, though this is less common.  Acupuncture is essentially painless and not stressful, even for people who dislike needles.  Indeed, most patients find these acupuncture sensations deeply satisfying and leave the treatment feeling relaxed, both mentally and physically.

What is the difference between receiving acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist (LAc) vs. from a medical doctor or chiropractor with an acupuncture certification?
In the state of Maine, Licensed Acupuncturists are required to complete all standard pre-medical undergraduate requirements and a minimum of 3+ years of advanced degree study. In addition, practitioners must pass 3 rigorous national board examinations given by the National Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).  In the case of acupuncturists who are also Chinese Medical Herbalists and prescribe individualized herbal medicines (as we do at ATX Acupuncture) your practitioner has also completed significant additional graduate level study and passed a 4th national board exam. In contrast, medical doctors can practice “acupuncture” with little or no acupuncture training, and chiropractors with as little as 300 hours of training can say they do “acupuncture.”

An LAc is trained in Chinese Medicine, a comprehensive system of internal medicine developed and refined by the brightest minds in the East over the course of millennia.  LAcs use acupuncture as a tool (one tool among many) to correct imbalances found in the body by viewing your symptoms through the comprehensive lens of Chinese Medicine.  Any one else practicing “acupuncture” is simply needling.  And while this “needling” can be effective, it is typically limited in its application.  In contrast, the breadth and depth of the application of acupuncture in the context of Chinese Medicine is large and wide.


Alexa Gilmore
LAc, MAcOM, LMT

Phone (207) 756-4301

Fax (866) 566-0298

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FAQ: Acupuncture -