by Cara Michele Nether, L.Ac.,M.Ac., NADA RT
Since the 1960’s acupuncture and oriental medicine have raised questions in the United States about how health and wellness are viewed in other places around the world. Acupuncture is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world and is used by one-third of the world’s population as a primary health-care system. When you stop and think about it, that’s a lot of people. What is all the hoopla about anyway? What are they talking about when throwing out phrases and terms like “Qi” and “preventive medicine,” “natural,” and “holistic medicine”? The intention of this article is to fill in some of the gaps you may have about acupuncture and its uses.
Acupuncture is one part of a medical system called oriental medicine. Some of the other parts are herbs, meditation, moving meditations like Tai Chi or Qi Gong, body work and nutrition. Oriental medicine believes that every living being has a vital life-giving energy that is called Qi, pronounced “chee.” The whole point of acupuncture is to move Qi. If our Qi is not moving freely and evenly throughout our bodies, symptoms begin to surface and we don’t feel well. A great example of this is a headache. Headaches are usually a sign of either an overabundance or a lack of Qi in our heads. An acupuncturist would meet with you and decide to bring more Qi into that area or move out the excess Qi that is already there. The next time you get a headache, check in and ask yourself, “Does my head feel really tight and full or empty in places?” Doing this will help you learn to tune into your body’s symptoms.
From the perspective of Oriental medicine, acupuncture is viewed as “natural” because nothing is added to our bodies. The job of an acupuncturist is to encourage the smooth flow of the energy that is already present. This is really empowering. When we need support from a professional, it does not mean we are defective or broken. We already have everything that we need inside ourselves. We only need assistance redirecting our energies.
The term “holistic medicine” refers to the belief that illnesses are not separate from the whole person. In other words, oriental medicine practitioners, even if they specialize in a particular ailment, won’t look at that ailment without considering what else is going on in your life. Let’s use the example of an ulcer. Acupuncturists believe that an ulcer does not manifest out of thin air. There is a reason or root cause for our discomfort. Instead of only making the ulcer pain go away, acupuncturists want to understand why your body is giving off this warning sign in the form of pain in your abdominal area. Are you drinking enough water, are you anxious at work, are you angry with your partner, are you eating foods that don’t agree with your stomach? By paying attention and noticing the very first signs of stomach discomfort, your acupuncturist can work with you to connect it to some behavior and avoid it the next time by making the necessary lifestyle shifts.
The emphasis on learning to listen to our bodies is why acupuncture is also useful as a preventive medicine. Acupuncture not only keeps our energy moving, which eliminates the excess accumulation or deficiency of Qi, but it teaches us to pay attention to our bodies’ signals when something is wrong. When we have small aches, pains, worries, angers, or disappointments, we can notice them and make shifts before they become major illnesses or even disease.
Now that we have covered some of the general aspects of acupuncture, let’s look at some of the more commonly asked questions.
Does acupuncture hurt? The sensations that clients experience during acupuncture range from nothing at all to a brief ache or heaviness. Some points are more sensitive than others. Patients describe the sensations as fleeting and often deeply relaxing.
Is acupuncture covered by insurance? Acupuncture is one of the benefits most requested of insurance companies. Coverage can range from 0% to 100%. Come in for a free consultation and we can check on your coverage for you.
Are the needles safe? Yes. Sterile, disposable needles are used. They are used once and then disposed of immediately.
If you are looking for another way to deal with your pain, allow yourself to explore a little. The acupuncturists at Women in Wellness are happy to sit with you to see if and how we can help. Our goal is to help our clients resolve their issues and have a great experience doing so.