Acupuncture is arguably the best known treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)...but that doesn't mean that it's well understood. Blog posts on this page are all related to acupuncture in some way: how acupuncture works, its history, etc.
It is generally believed that acupuncture started when people noticed a specific point on the body could cause a certain response. As more and more of these points were discovered, they realized that some had similarities to one another and were probably connected. These strings of points are now known as channels or meridians.
Another theory is that people discovered meridians first and then found specific points on them, which would be the same as reading the image to the left from bottom to top. Either way we're left with the same result: Your body is a system of meridians that acupuncturists use to influence your health.
You can think of your body as a web of meridians. There are fourteen that have named points that are used by acupuncturists. They vary in size, the shortest having only nine points and the longest having sixty-seven.
A common misconception is that meridians are actually blood vessels or nerves. Although acupuncture can have an effect on both the circulatory and nervous systems, the meridians are their own separate entities. However, meridians are similar to blood vessels in that they form a closed-circuit loop and are a transit system in which Qi and blood flow from your organs to the rest of your body (and back). When the meridians are blocked, everything gets thrown off balance, like when a traffic jam on a highway can cause congestion on others as everyone tries to find an alternate route. Balance is key to health, so keeping everything flowing smoothly through the meridians is of utmost importance. Work on yours at home with Qi Gong, yoga, and acupressure, but regularly schedule your acupuncture visits as well to give the body an even bigger push in the right direction!
Most people only know about acupuncture from what they see in movies, television, and the media, but there are finer nuances that you should keep in mind when searching for the right acupuncturist for you.
1. There different types of acupuncture
Japan, China, Korea, and other countries each developed their own systems of acupuncture over time, and each has different attributes. In addition to these, there are other specialties of acupuncture that concentrate on particular conditions or regions of the body. Do a little research and see which appeals to you most. Here at Beachside Community Acupuncture, we practice Traditional Chinese Medicine but are very light-handed, meaning we like our patients to barely feel the needles if they feel them at all. We add in other techniques as well, such as the Tan method or auricular acupuncture, in order to best serve our patients.
2. There are also different types of acupuncturists
A certified acupuncturist (CA) is a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor or medical doctor, who has undergone additional training (usually about a year) to learn how to insert needles into the body. A Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.) must complete a three- to four-year graduate program learning about Eastern diagnosis, needle placement and insertion, point actions, herbal medicine, and other aspects of health, including some Western medicine. All acupuncturists at our clinic will be Licensed Acupuncturists.
3. Each acupuncturist will have his or her own technique
If you've had acupuncture before and didn't enjoy the experience, don't be afraid to try it again! Just like having one bad experience with a dentist shouldn't make you give up on dental hygiene forever, not liking a previous acupuncturist shouldn't make you abandon this ancient medicine. If, on the other hand, you've loved your acupuncture treatments in the past, let us know what made them special and we'll keep that in mind during your visits to our clinic.
Stress happens whether we like it or not, no matter how much we prepare for it. Having a list of positive activities readily available is key because you'll never know when that stress will strike. We at Beachside Community Acupuncture like to incorporate the physical and mental when we're dealing with stress, as you can see from our list. Involving the body in your stress relief - either through activating different senses with essential oils or by giving it gentle exercise - can not only provide more of a distraction but also influence the brain to rethink how's it's perceiving the stressful situation.
Make a go-to list of stress relievers for yourself - they may be different from ours - and have it around so you know what to do when you feel overwhelmed. That way you won't agitate yourself more trying to figure out how to feel better!
Acupuncture can technically be done anywhere at any time, given there's a Licensed Acupuncturist around and he or she has needles available. When you book an appointment ahead of time, though, you have plenty of time to prepare so that you can get the most out of your treatment.
First of all, wear loose, comfortable clothing. This will give the acupuncturist better access to more acupuncture points and will help you relax. Most of the points we use are below the elbows and knees, so having clothes that can easily roll up is key. If you have a specific problem area (i.e. shoulder pain), it's also a good idea to wear something that can be rolled to uncover the area in case the acupuncturist wants to add local points, or points right in the spot that's bothering you. All that being said, if you're coming straight from work and forgot to bring a change clothes, you can still definitely benefit from a treatment. The acupuncturist will choose points to use based on what can be accessed - there are many, many different points to choose from to help your condition! - and will help you get as comfortable as possible so that you can enjoy your treatment.
Second, eat something light in the hour before your treatment, ESPECIALLY if you're diabetic. Acupuncture puts the body into a parasympathetic - or "rest and digest" - state, which means your blood sugar will naturally drop a little. In most cases, this drop is completely unnoticeable, but if you're very hungry you may feel light-headed after the treatment. Having a little snack will prevent this, and will also help you to relax during your treatment. It's hard to really let go when you're stomach is rumbling!
Third, stay hydrated. Every cell in your body needs water to function, so getting at least 64 ounces of water each day is very important. If you're drinking less than that, picture your poor cells trying to move through sludge to go about their work. (Wouldn't you rather have them happily gliding?) Anyway, acupuncture kick starts circulation in the body, and if you're dehydrated, there's much less to circulate. Just like you might feel sore after a deep-tissue massage, you also might feel sore after an acupuncture treatment if you're not consuming enough water to flush out what the body wants to release. Drink plenty of water the day of your treatment - not too much right before or you'll be thinking of the bathroom the whole time you're supposed to be relaxing! - and the days following.
Last of all, fill out your paperwork ahead of time if you're a new patient. This will not only save you time but will also decrease your stress as you won't be rushed to get through it all at the clinic. The whole goal of your treatment is to give you a break from stress while the needles do their work, so you might as well start your experience with as little stress as possible too.
You've learned a little bit about community acupuncture if you read through our "About Us" page, but we also wanted to go more in-depth into why this type of acupuncture can be life-changing.
In Western medicine, and even with acupuncture in private practice, you may feel like you lose your voice when it comes to speaking up about your health. Because of this, a lot of patients feel like community acupuncture takes some getting used to! You can choose how long to stay, what to pay, and what you'd like to focus on each treatment. Let's go deeper into each of these:
How long would you like to stay? If you stay long enough during an acupuncture treatment, you might reach a point when you feel like you're "done". Acupuncture puts the body into a parasympathetic ("rest and digest") state, and most patients feel very, very relaxed or even fall asleep! When you feel your body start to wake up, that's a good place to end your treatment. We suggest patients plan on staying a full hour so this happens naturally. That being said, if you know you only have half an hour because it's your lunch break and you have other errands to run, some acupuncture is better than no acupuncture. Just tell the Licensed Acupuncturist and your treatment can be cut short that day.
How much to pay? You know your finances better than anyone (or at least you should...), and you'll know what you can afford. We appreciate you paying full price when you can, but if you have a big expense coming up or are budgeting for a certain amount of treatments, we completely understand that you'd want to pay less. Having a sliding scale makes it easy to adjust the costs of each of your treatments as well. If you budget a certain amount of money for acupuncture per month and can't come in one week because of traveling or whatever other reason, you can adjust the prices of your other treatments. Also, because treatments are less expensive, you can afford to come in as often as you need. Have a killer headache that isn't going away? Come in a few times that week to make sure it's gone by the weekend. Fighting a cold? Come in to make sure we kick it out in as short a time as possible!
What to focus on? If we're consistently treating your knee pain but then one day you come in fighting a cold, we can put a hold on the pain treatments and work on kicking out that cold! (Or sometimes we can even work on both.) If we're treating your digestive issues but one week you're ridiculously stressed and want to focus on relaxation, we can do that as well. In community acupuncture we usually work on one or two things at a time, and you can call the shots at each treatment.
We encourage our patients to be their own best health advocates! Speak up during your treatment and get used to having more control of your health. It's empowering :)
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