Is Acupuncture Safe?
Acupuncture is very safe. Only disposable needles are used and discarded properly in sharps containers. Needles are never re-used on patients. Every precaution is taken by the practitioner to ensure the safety and privacy of every patient.
The majority of states in this country require acupuncture practitioners to have a Master’s degree from an accredited Acupuncture institution with a minimum of 3,200 hours of training, which includes clinical rotations, various biomedical courses, physical exam and case management. In addition, acupuncture practitioners are required to be nationally board certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). A state license to practice acupuncture and herbal medicine is also required by most states, including Colorado.
Is Acupuncture Painful?
Acupuncture is a gentle therapy. Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture uses very fine, flexible, stainless steel needles.
The treatment should not be painful, however, many patients do feel a sensation from the needles.
Some patients describe the feeling as warming or achy, while others may feel an energetic sensation that travels through different areas of the body. After treatment, patients generally feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
What is the difference between “dry needling” and Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the system of inserting solid needles into the body to create a healing response. There are many methods of Acupuncture - classical, sports medicine, orthopedic, motor point, ear, Korean Needle, Japanese, and trigger point.
Dry needling was the result of German doctors in the 1940s experimenting with injection therapy into trigger points. They began by using hypodermic needles filled with saline and injecting them into the body. This is called wet needling.
The doctors wanted to see if any difference occurred when using a “dry” hypodermic needle. This is called dry needling. They did not document any difference in either technique.
There is a misconception that Acupuncture only uses “meridian points” or “channel theory”. This is untrue. Traditional Chinese Medicine includes an entire system called tendomuscular theory, which includes muscle knots also called ahi-shi points. This misconception is echoed over and over again to distinguish dry needling from Acupuncture.
The process of true “dry needling” would be performed in this manner: the practitioner inserts a hypodermic needle into a trigger point, releases it, then removes the hypodermic needle from the body. Any other technique is considered Acupuncture and should only be performed by a trained, licensed, and board-certified Acupuncturist.
Practitioners who perform “dry needling” have less than 100 hours of training while Acupuncturists have over 1900 hours of training. The term “dry needling” is employed to circumvent the requirements needed to complete an Acupuncture degree, even though these systems are the same.
What sort of training do acupuncturists have?
To become an acupuncturist in the United States, the practitioner has studied at a school accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), which is recognized by the US Department of Education as the authority in this field.
Applicants to accredited acupuncture schools must first complete a bachelor’s degree. The student will complete Master’s degree program in Acupuncture (3-years) or in Oriental Medicine (4-years).
Typical hours of study range from 2700 – 3600 hours, including clinical practice. Students in these programs take courses in Oriental medical theory, diagnosis and treatment techniques, Oriental Herbal Studies, Integrated Acupuncture and Herbal Clinical Training, and Biomedical Clinical Sciences.
Acupuncturists must obtain a state license to practice.
To become certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), the student must graduate from a ACAOM-accredited program, complete a clean needle technique course offered by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCOAM), and pass certification board exams in the Foundations of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, and Bio-Medicine. and Herbal Medicine.
What should I expect during my first treatment?
Patients who have not already completed their paperwork early should arrive for their first appointment 20 minutes early.
Please wear loose, comfortable clothing. Pant and shirts that can be rolled up to the knees and elbows are preferred.
Make sure you have eaten before acupuncture. Acupuncture on an empty stomach can lead to dizziness and nausea. Don’t overeat or consume greasy heavy foods, but get a decent meal at least 1 - 2 hours before your treatment.
Please allot 60 - 90 minutes for your visit. This includes time for an initial intake and a full acupuncture treatment.
The initial exam takes longer than other treatments because we want to take the time to get to know you as an individual and how your body works. We will discuss your diet, lifestyle, and medical conditions. We will also take your pulse and examine your tongue. Pulse taking and examination of the tongue are two methods used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to confirm your diagnosis.
Then you will lay back, relax, and get your first treatment. Insertion of the needles is usually painless. Some patients feel a small poke. Normal sensations during the insertion of acupuncture needles include heaviness, dullness, achiness and tingling. Sometimes the patient doesn’t even know the needles are there.
Side effects are rare but may include the following symptoms: light-headedness, dizziness, sleepiness, euphoria, nausea, slight bruising, residual muscle aching. Any of these should last only a very short time. It is helpful to take a short nap after acupuncture.
During the initial intake we will discuss a course of treatment for your condition. Acute problems will generally take 4 - 6 visits to resolve. Chronic conditions may take 6 -12 visits. It’s important to remember that everyone is an individual and heals at different rates.
How soon will I feel better?
Your relief may be immediate, delayed for a few hours, or even develop after 1 to 3 days. The relief may last for a few hours on the first visit and then last longer with each successive treatment. OR, relief may last from the first treatment until your next visit. It is important to recognize that we are all individuals.
Individual response to treatment varies. We see many patients that flit from healer to healer, diet to diet, and supplement to supplement in search of an instant cure to their problems.
It’s important that you give whatever modality you choose a chance to work. Don’t just try it once or twice and then quit. If you’ve spent years suffering with chronic pain or disease, it’s unreasonable to think it will go away in the blink or an eye. Give the medicine time.