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A Complete Guide to Acupuncture

Recently, a patient named Zamara needed help with her TMJ. She had talked to a craniofacial specialist and was not impressed by the price or the process, which could include surgery. She was in excruciating pain when she first visited Strength and Vitality for help in her teeth and jaw, taking painkillers every two hours. 

After an hour of acupuncture, Zamara says “I felt such extreme relief. The pain went away like magic.”

So what is acupuncture and why does it have such an impact on pain and wellness? 

What is acupuncture?

First, let’s explain the basics. Fine, sterile needles are placed at specific points of your skin. Next, they do their magic: the painless needles stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and central nervous system. This creates a biochemical reaction into the spinal cord, brain, and muscles. Many people seek out acupuncture for pain relief, but it can also be helpful in helping mental and emotional conditions, such as anxiety and depression, or in decreasing stress.

Nervous about needles? Not to worry. They are the thickness of two hairs, and they are filiform needles, not hollow syringe needles like are used for injections. The needles are so thin that they weave their way between skin fibers creating an almost painless experience.

The History Behind Acupuncture.
Depending on the scientist, acupuncture dates back to about three to five thousand years ago. Today, it is still considered to be a valuable therapy. Many international health organizations like NIH, CDC,  and WHO conducted studies and list improvements through acupuncture treatment.  

Why would I need acupuncture?

If you have pain or stress in your life, acupuncture has been proven to provide relief. Although we recommend having an evaluation by a medical doctor to rule out fractures or structural issues before giving acupuncture a try, patients have seen success in many areas.  It is shown to provide relief from pain of chronic diseases and other conditions, such as:

  • Allergies & Asthma
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Chronic gastritis
  • TMJ
  • Headache, including migraines
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Nausea (caused by surgical anesthesia and cancer chemotherapy)
  • Depression
  • Neck pain
  • Dental pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprains
  • Tennis elbow
  • Abdominal pain and gastrointestinal spasm
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Cancer pain
  • Earache
  • Eye pain
  • Female infertility
  • Facial spasm
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gouty
  • Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Neuralgia
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Premenstrual discomfort
  • Raynaud syndrome
  • urinary-tract infection
  • Spine pain
  • Ulcerative colitis

What are acupuncture points?

You may be wondering about the placement of needles. The acupuncture points can be throughout your body, from the top of your head to your feet, and everywhere in between. 

For those who have previously researched acupuncturists in the Baltimore area, you may have encountered a few types of practitioners and styles. There is no definitive “best style” about where the needles are placed. Their placement depends on the practitioner and their style of acupuncture. Each practitioner trains in a specific style–or several. Depending on your health concerns, there may be one or more styles better suited for your particular needs. 

Strength & Vitality’s owner Cara-Michele has been trained in three different styles of acupuncture, as well as educated in physiology and anatomy. She often used a treatment style called distal needling, which is most beneficial for pain and discomfort. With this in mind, she mainly treats the elbows to the hands and the knees to the feet, and often uses points on the head as well.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture is a virtually painless procedure, and tenderness is unlikely. Points on the hands and feet can sometimes feel sharpness, but the sensation is brief. It’s not uncommon to feel warmth around the point after the needle is inserted, and patients sometimes refer to a pulling sensation (called de Qi) as enjoyable. Once the needling is complete, most report a feeling of calm and relaxation.

What are the risks?

Licensed acupuncturists such as Cara-Michele receive thorough training in needling and safety, so the risk of side effects are very small. The most common side effects are minor bleeding and bruising at the needle sites. Acupuncture may not be suitable for people who take blood thinners, or have a history of fainting or seizures. We will talk to you about if you’re a good candidate for acupuncture during our free consultation.

How are acupuncturists trained?

In the United States, acupuncture training is a master’s degree program. Cara-Michele attended the Tai Sophia Institute (now called the Maryland University of Integrative Health). After graduating in 2005, she was awarded the Brown Award for Community engagement and was invited to be a part of their teaching staff.

How many sessions will I need?

The number of sessions will vary depending on your issue, the severity of the condition, and how long you’ve been affected by it. In general,  more chronic issues require a longer course of treatment. Because we are focused on your body’s ability to heal itself and restore balance, it may take a few sessions before you start seeing results. We recommend treatments from 4-6 weeks before determining its effectiveness for your condition.

How much does it cost? 

Out of pocket treatment costs will vary. However most insurance plans have some level of coverage for acupuncture treatment, and FSA and HSA accounts can usually be used. Several major insurance companies provide coverage for most or all of the associated costs as well. If you are unsure, we kindly suggest calling your insurance company’s customer service number. You can locate this on the back of your current insurance card. Allow an agent to review your benefits and answer any specific questions you may have. 

Why should you consider acupuncture as part of your wellness plan? With precise targeting, this unique holistic treatment alleviates physical manifestations of stress.  Additionally, it is used to treat a host of various illnesses and conditions – without the risk of side effects found in conventional medicinal treatments.  

For additional information about acupuncture, read more in this article by John Hopkins University. Or schedule a free consultation with Cara-Michele or one of the Strength & Vitality team members to discuss your health concerns. Of course, we would also be happy to answer any additional questions you may have. If you’re in the Baltimore, MD area, call Strength & Vitality at (410) 296-4028. 

Our staff at Strength & Vitality have the ability to evaluate and support health concerns from many viewpoints. It is an added value for all our clients. This added insight ensures visitors receive the very best in overall care. It is our mission to create a safe space for healing. Start feeling better today.

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