Acupuncture How Does Acupuncture Work ? In simple language the human brain is like a computer – but more sophisticated than any computer on earth! Just like mechanical computers, sometimes a little reprogramming is needed to get things back on track. Acupuncture, in effect, talks to the brain by sending electrical impulses from different parts of the body via nerves and other avenues. You might think of the combination of points chosen by the acupuncturist as an “access code and program rolled into one” which encourages the body to better regulate itself. That is the key…acupuncture stimulates the body's own self-healing / self-regulatory systems. It can affect the functioning of the brain, the nervous system, the immune system, the organs and the glands. It can also help reset the pain threshold of irritated nerves, increase the output 
of natural pain reducing neurohormones, improve circulation, relieve muscle spasms and reduce inflammation. Ancient doctors came to understand that health and vitality were dependent on several factors. These include diet, exercise, mental and emotional states, exposure to infectious diseases, heredity, climate and the flow and balance of electrical and other subtle energies within the body. Acupuncture works, in part, by balancing and regulating the functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems (including the autonomic nerves which regulate the organs and glands), and by balancing the flow and regulating the effects of more subtle energies, thus helping to restore the patient's vitality. Acupuncture is Effective, But is It Safe ? Acupuncture is clearly a safe form of treatment. Treatments are performed in a modern clinical setting using factory sterilized disposable needles. Norman E. Smith, L.Ac., is a 1980 graduate of The New England School of Acupuncture, is certified by The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and is licensed by the State of Colorado . While national and international statistics are still being compiled, reports form acupuncture centers and hospitals throughout the world indicate impressive success rates virtually free from any kind of complications. Dr. David Bressler, as Director of the UCLA Medical Center Pain Clinic, reported that 80,000 acupuncture treatments were performed at their clinic over a nine year period and there were no cases of any patient being harmed by the acupuncture. Occasionally, minor complaints such as a small bruise, a sore spot or a tingling feeling near a point are reported by patients. These can be corrected very easily when brought to the acupuncturist's attention and are self-correcting with a little time anyway. Serious complications from acupuncture are extremely rare when administered by a licensed acupuncturist. Sometimes, as the healing process begins, symptoms may appear to worsen temporarily. This is a short-term response as the body gets out of the rut it was in…just like gently rocking your car back and forth when it is stuck in the snow. This is generally a positive sign of a change for the better! We encourage our patients to communicate with us and to express any concerns they may have. We want to accurately assess your progress and, like you, we want your treatment to be successful! Is There Any Scientific Evidence For Acupuncture ? Scientific studies in China have determined that about 85% of humans and animals (for which acupuncture points have been charted) have the physiological capability to respond well to acupuncture. Many theories have been proposed as to how acupuncture works. This question has been the topic of lively discussion among scientists for decades and while all of the answers are not yet in, much has been discovered. It appears that no single mechanism can explain the variety of effects acupuncture is able to produce. Scientific research has proven that it can trigger an increased production and release of neurohormones such as endorphins, enkephalins and dynorphins which relieve pain. It has also been shown to regulate levels of cortisol (an anti-inflammatory hormone) and prostaglandin-E, affect serotonin levels (a pain and mood altering hormone), increase the supply of oxygen to the brain, affect the dilation or constriction of blood vessels, trigger measurable changes in the hypothalmus and other control centers in the brain (in EEG and MRI studies), regulate glucose levels in the blood, normalize gastro-intestinal function and a host of other effects such as increased production of alpha waves in the occipital portion of the brain. By 1980, the World Health Organization recommended acupuncture for the treatment of 47 different medical problems. Recently, studies on acupuncture are being conducted by the National Institutes of Health and they have already recommended its use for several conditions with more research on the way. Acupuncture points can be located by modern electric instruments as places of lowered electrical resistance on the skin. Researchers such as Dr. H.S. Burr of Yale University School of Medicine have also measured fields of subtle energy within and around the body which change with the weather, emotions and other factors as described in ancient Chinese medical texts. So, we can see that some of the seeming mystery of acupuncture is starting to be explained scientifically. It is our understanding that over 5,000 American physicians now perform acupuncture as a part of their medical practice and many more now recommend it to their patients. Are The Benefits of Oriental Medicine Permanent ? For many patients and for many treatable conditions the initial series of treatments will produce lasting results. In some cases the patient may experience a re-development of symptoms some months later. This can generally be cleared up with a few additional booster treatments at that time, especially if the patient will come in promptly before the symptoms become pronounced. Some patients, such as those with degenerative or progressive conditions like arthritis, diabetes, nerve diseases and so forth may need maintenance treatments periodically to sustain the improvement in their condition. How Many Treatments are Required ? While every individual is different, many patients achieve highly satisfactory and lasting results in about eight to twelve acupuncture treatments. Sometimes an occasional booster treatment is recommended following recovery. Please note that some patients get dramatic results with fewer treatments, while some difficult conditions may require more extensive treatment to achieve satisfactory results. The patient will usually come for two visits per week for the first few weeks, depending upon the type of case. As recovery progresses, the frequency of the visits will decrease and be tapered out accordingly. When ch'i remedies are employed, we generally schedule a separate extended session devoted to that modality and then do follow-ups every six or seven weeks for a number of rounds in addition to your regular treatments. What Should I Expect During Treatment ? On the first visit the patient is asked to fill out a health/history questionnaire and then is interviewed and examined by the acupuncturist. Bring copies of any MRI reports, x-ray reports, etc. that you can. After this intake evaluation, we are generally able to begin the first treatment. When traditional acupuncture treatment is employed a major part of the treatment process consists of quickly tapping very fine stainless steel needles (nearly as thin as a human hair) through a small tube to the depth of a few millimeters at carefully selected points on the skin. The needles are made to exacting surgical standards, are factory sterilized and only used for one treatment after which they are properly discarded. The skin is cleansed with alcohol before the needle is inserted. Most people agree that acupuncture is nearly painless and frequently the insertion through the skin is scarcely felt, though pain tolerance levels do vary from person to person. Once the needle reaches the correct depth to achieve stimulation of the point, the sensation is often described as a small shock or tingle which travels. This sensation only lasts a few seconds. Once the needles are in place, the patient then remains reclining for about twenty minutes and occasionally will even doze off, as the effect is actually very relaxing. We may also use any of a number of other Oriental medicine treatment modalities and will try to educate you, when appropriate, regarding lifestyle changes or other relevant health information.


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