Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles to various depths at strategic points on your body. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago, but over the past two decades its popularity has grown significantly within the United States. Although scientists don’t fully understand how or why acupuncture works, most studies indicate that it may provide a number of medical benefits — from reducing pain to even helping with chemotherapy-induced nausea.

What should I expect during an acupuncture session?

Acupuncture normally involves a series of weekly or biweekly treatments in an outpatient setting. It’s not uncommon to have just 2 or 3 sessions but based on the specific condition, a patient can have up to 12 treatments in total. The course of treatment will be discussed with the Acupuncturist at the first meeting. Although each acupuncturist has their own unique style, each visit typically includes an exam and an assessment of your current condition, the insertion of acupuncture needles, and a discussion about self-care tips and diet. An acupuncture visit typically lasts about 30 minutes although the first session should be about one hour.

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Before the needles are placed, you will lie down on a comfortable surface. Depending on where the needles are to go, you will lie face down, face up or on your side. All certified acupuncturists use single-use sterile packaged needles. You may feel a brief, sharp sensation when the needle is inserted, but in general the procedure is not painful. Points can be needled anywhere in the range of 15 to 90 degrees relative to the skin surface, depending on the treatment called for. In most cases, a sensation, felt by the patient, is desired. This sensation, which is not pain, is called deqi (pronounced dah-chee).

It’s common, however, to feel a twinge or an aching sensation when the needle reaches the correct depth. After placement, the needles are sometimes moved gently. As many as a dozen needles may need to be placed for each treatment. Once the needles are inserted, they’re usually left in place for five to 20 minutes.

How does acupuncture work?

The traditional Chinese theory behind acupuncture as a medical treatment is very different from that of Western medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, health results come from a harmonious balance between the complementary extremes (yin and yang) of the life force known as Qi or Chi (pronounced ‘chee’).

Qi is believed to flow through pathways or meridians in your body. These meridians and the energy flow are accessible through more than 350 acupuncture points. Illness results from an imbalance of the forces and by inserting needles into these points in various combinations, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance.

What is Acupuncture | What to Expect