If having a little food around treatment time doesn't clear the issue up, have a conversation with your provider about what you're experiencing. Acupuncture treatment is often also diagnostic. It's important to provide feedback on your experience so your provider can make any adjustments that might be necessary.
For the best results, please make sure you see an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. To find one close to you, go to NCCAOM.org and click their "Find a Practitioner" link.
For patient scoring between 5 and 7 or so, I like to get them in twice a week for two to three weeks. This lets us get the pain knocked down to below 5 and then we can back off to weekly until we're at a place where, again, we can start thinking about maintenance intervals.
For pain levels over 7, I try to get patients to come in three days in a row for two to three weeks. After this we evaluate the overall pain levels and decide if we can go to two days a week for a week or two or if the patient is ready to go to weekly treatments.
Studies of acupuncture in chronic pain almost always show a dose dependency. This means, to a point, more acupuncture sessions provide superior results. Of course, we have to balance this against the individual patient's financial situation/tolerances. But, in general, if your pain is severe, once a month probably isn't going to get you where you want to be.
You may be able to return to a once a month schedule after an intensive set of sessions brings your pain under control. This is the other big advantage to acupuncture: it's a front loaded process, but saves money in the long run - once we get things under control and start spreading treatments out to find the optimal maintenance interval for a given individual.
For the best results, you need to make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. To find one near you, go to NCCAOM.org and click their "Find a Practitioner" link. If your pain is fairly severe, probably best if you can find someone who specializes in pain management
We know acupuncture regulates a set of neurotransmitters at the level of the brain and spinal cord. We know that acupuncture is affecting brain structure and how sensory signals are processed in the brain. Acupuncture can also be used to release tight muscle through the use of trigger points. Any or all of these could be playing a role in symptom relief.
For the best results, please make sure you see an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. To find someone in your area, go to the "Find a Practitioner" link at NCCAOM.org.
It's difficult to provide a course of action for you for a couple of reasons:
1. I don't know what you were being treated for, what points were used or what brand needle your provider was utilizing.
2. If it was an allergic reaction, it may escalate to a more serious condition called anaphylaxis with repeated exposure to the allergen. In other words: you want to pin down the cause of the reaction before you try another round of acupuncture.
To be 100% on the safe side, I'd suggest you find an allergist and have some allergy testing done. If you can, you're going to want to rule in/out steel or stainless steel - and I have no idea if this is even in the scope of most allergy testing. You also may want to try to rule in/rule out silicone (for reasons explained below).
Another important thing to note here is: Seirin brand needles, which many acupuncturists use, contain a small drop of medical grade silicone at the tip. If your provider is using Seirin needles, it's very possible that your reaction was to the silicone rather than the needle itself. If this is the case, then switching to another brand of needle should resolve the issue.
Whatever you decide, make sure you talk to your acupuncture provider about what happened.
The second thing we need to address is the western idea of acupuncture as a monolithic system. There are actually multiple systems of acupuncture which have slightly different needling locations. Some of these recognized locations overlap and some locations are unique to a given system.
We also have so-called micro-systems, the most common being auricular acupuncture and Korean hand acupuncture. These systems map the entire body or parts of the body on to smaller areas like the ear or hand, and have an entire set of corresponding acupuncture points in these smaller spaces.
And finally we have so-called 'extra points'. These are locations with classically recognized function which often aren't located along any particular acupuncture channel.
All of the above makes it extremely difficult to pin down a concrete number of recognized needling locations. If we consider the classical channels (the channels most often taught in Chinese medical school) and the commonly accepted needle locations on those, we get roughly 362 points. Adding in the commonly taught 'extra points' gives roughly another 23 for a grand total of 385.
Lastly, the placement of needles does not 'fully depend' on recognized acupuncture points. There is a long tradition in Chinese medicine of 'ahshi' or 'ashi' points. These are locations on the body which do not necessarily correspond to a channel or a recognized needling location but which are sensitive to palpation (i.e. the location causes pain when pressed).
If you have any questions at all, talk with your provider before your treatment session. No provider should take a question like this personally - I've fielded this one before for my patients and it's part of my acupuncture informed consent form.
If it was an achy feeling around one or more of the needles, yes, that's totally normal. Your acupuncturist should have given you some guidelines as to what normal and abnormal needle sensations might feel like so that you could gauge what was going on.
There are several sensations a patient might experience during acupuncture: a dull ache around the needle site, a distending feeling around the needle (like someone is blowing a balloon up under the skin), a short lived electrical sensation that propagates up or down the limb/body - these are all normal needle sensations.
After insertion, any needle that feels sharp or stabbing is not normal and should be addressed by the practitioner through repositioning or removal.
Now, if we're talking about a more generalized body ache after the needles were all in, that could be a different thing. Most of the time, we want the patients to have a mild sensation around one or more of the needles, but we also want you to be able to relax while you're resting with the needles in. A generalized body ache could be indicative of a few different things. Without seeing you and evaluating your presentation against the treatment provided it's difficult to speculate what might have happened.
My best suggestion would be for you to have a conversation with your provider and see what they think. It may be that they need to modify the points they're choosing and your feedback might give them the pieces of information they need to correct their diagnosis and make sure this doesn't happen again.
Whether there are underlying issues or not, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a pretty good track record when it comes to fertility. It's best if you both receive treatment, unless you're fairly sure that one or the other of you has some underlying issue - which is why I opened with the suggestion to see your MD.
There really isn't a "best time". If you're experiencing menstrual issues as well (pain, cramping, and so on), it's can be a good idea to start treatment just after your period. This will give you three to four sessions before your next period, and provide a way you can judge if the treatments are changing anything. Unfortunately, for women, sometimes it takes a cycle or two for the body to catch up with the acupuncture.
For the best results, please make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. You can find someone local to you by visiting the "Find a Practitioner" section at NCCAOM.org. There are acupuncturists who specialize in fertility treatments, so you might ask your ob/gyn or call around and see if there's a fertility specialist near you.
Cardiovascular disease is a tricky one to explain because there are so many facets that could be discussed; from high blood pressure to arterial plaques to angina and so on. Acupuncture's effects in each case are probably due to different mechanisms, some of which are not well understood currently.
Acupuncture has pretty consistently shown that it promotes the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic is the so-called "rest and digest" mode (as opposed to the "fight or flight" or sympathetic side). This gives us a level of stress reduction along with dilating the blood vessels. A larger pipe leads to reduced pressure and this is one of the ways acupuncture reduces high blood pressure.
Acupuncture has also been shown to increase blood levels of nitric oxide (NO). This is a fairly potent vasodilator (again, larger pipe) and can also lead to decreased blood pressure as well as decreased angina (chest pain).
There are studies showing acupuncture can exert a cardio-protective effect. The mechanism here isn't clear, but we see lowered levels of cardiac enzymes in patients treated with acupuncture prior to heart surgery. Cardiac enzymes in the blood is one of the ways we know the heart has been damaged. Typically in heart surgery we expect to see a lot of cardiac enzymes in the blood after the procedure. For some reason, with acupuncture prior to the operation, we don't see a lot of cardiac enzymes in the blood so acupuncture might be doing something to protect the heart cells.
Acupuncture can also be used to help regulate irregular heart beat (arrhythmia). Some studies show acupuncture having similar effect to pharmaceuticals in this regard. Again, the mechanism isn't clear.
Since it has come up a couple times here, there are a lot of cases, in both Chinese and conventional medicine, where the mechanism of action isn't clear. In fact, there are a lot of FDA approved drugs on the market whose mechanism of action either isn't known at all or isn't fully understood. We make decisions based on efficacy and safety - does it do what it claims and are there any serious side-effects? In acupuncture's case the answer is typically, yes, it does what it claims and no, there generally aren't any serious side-effects. So, just because we don't understand how it works, sometimes it's enough to know that it does work and it works safely.
All of which brings me to my final point: to get the best and safest result, you need to make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. If your doctor doesn't have a few acupuncturists that he/she recommends, go to NCCAOM.org and use their "Find a Practitioner" link to locate someone local to you.
I'm just going to give you some generalities here, whatever provider you're seeing may be slightly different. That being said, an initial intake usually runs 90 minutes and will include treatment time (i.e. time on the table with needles inserted to treat whatever your complaint may be). A followup treatment usually runs 60 minutes with a few questions up front to determine how the previous treatment worked and what has changed for you followed by treatment time. A community session typically runs 20-30 minutes after a very short set of questions/diagnoses.
Different practitioners may vary from these times slightly, but what I've outlined above is fairly typical.
It sounds like you've already taken the first big step by addressing your diet. Assuming no underlying health/metabolic issues, I'd think something in the range of 7-10 acupuncture treatments spaced at one treatment per week would probably assist in getting you where you want to be weight wise.
For the best results, make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. To find someone local to you, go to NCCAOM.org and click the "Find a Practitioner" link.
With that statement out of the way, generally speaking acupuncture is very safe. In increasing order of severity (and decreasing order of probability), here's what could possibly go wrong:
1. Local bruising/itching at the needle site. Itch is probably the most common adverse event and usually resolves in an hour or two. Bruising is probably the second most common and usually resolves in a couple of days.
2. Sharp pain around the needle site. Typically this means we're a little close to a nerve or capillary bed. Often times, repositioning the needle will make this pain go away. It's important to provide feedback to your provider (and important for providers to solicit this feedback). If you experience sharp pain on needle insertion that does not go away after a couple seconds, tell your acupuncturist and have them either move or remove that needle.
3. Sharp pain that does not subside when the needle is repositioned or removed. This is a little more serious and may mean the needle has nicked a larger nerve. Sometimes this can take a couple days to clear up.
4. Organ puncture, including tension pneumothorax. Organ puncture only occurs when needling over the abdomen (front or back). Pneumothorax only occurs when needling over the lungs (front or back). Of the two, pneumothorax is the more serious. Basically what has happened is the needle was pushed too deep and invaded the pleural/lung space allowing air from the outside to get in. This is a potentially life-threatening condition and requires immediate ER attention. Symptoms of a pneumothorax are: chest pain/tightness, painful cough, shortness of breath. If you experience any of these symptoms after receiving acupuncture over the chest or at the top part of the shoulder, go directly to the ER.
There is a 5th issue which very, very rarely pops up and that is infection. Almost all US acupuncturists use single-use disposable needles. This mean the needle is used once and then thrown away, reducing the possibility of cross-contamination between patients. Additionally, NCCAOM board certified acupuncturists are required to obtain a Clean Needle Technique (CNT) certification prior to receiving their board certification and state licensure. CNT spells out all the requirements for maintaining a clean space for the practice of acupuncture. Receiving this certification consists of being trained in school, attending a seminar, taking a written test and then taking a practical exam where an exam proctor looks over your shoulder while you're inserting and removing needles to ensure you're doing so in a safe and clean manner. Since the implementation of these guidelines and certifications, there have been very few instances of infection due to cross-contamination.
In my experience, the first adverse event happens quite a lot. Itch is probably the single biggest piece of feedback I receive from patients after a treatment.
The second event happens a fair amount, but getting feedback and repositioning or removing needles takes care of the problem and I've never had someone not schedule or re-schedule with me because the needles were too painful.
I've never had the 3rd, 4th or 5th adverse events occur while providing a treatment. To be honest, I've never heard of a board certified acupuncturist causing the 3rd or 4th issue. The only acupuncture cross-contamination case I'm familiar with comes from Canada in the 1980's.
Which brings me to my last point. Throughout this answer I've referenced NCCAOM board certified acupuncturists. These are folks who attended at least 3 years of Chinese medical school, sat for multiple board exams, acquired CNT certification and are state licensed as providers of Chinese medicine. Unfortunately, these aren't the only folks who offer treatment using solid acupuncture needles. There are other providers in the system who offer acupuncture-like services with a fraction the training and, in my opinion, you are rolling the dice with these providers.
To find an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist close to you, go to NCCAOM.org and use their "Find a Practitioner" look up. Making sure your provider carries an NCCAOM board certification, CNT certification and state practice license will greatly minimize the probability you'll experience a serious adverse event.
That being said, what acupuncture does is help manage cravings. Typically when treating addictions we use a set of 5 needles in the ear. These needles appear to be stimulating the GABA system in the brain. This system is responsible for chilling things out in the central nervous system which is why it can be effective for helping people quit addictive substances.
If this is a route you decide to try, in order to get the best possible result you will want to take him to either an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. To find someone local to you, check out the "Find a Practitioner" link at NCCAOM.org. Or you can find an Auricular Detox Specialist near you by contacting the folks at acudetox.com (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Short version: yes, both your issues could be treated at the same time.
There are a few acupuncture points which are classically contraindicated in pregnancy, but any well trained, NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist will be very familiar with points to avoid. To find a board certified acupuncturist near you, go to the "Find a Practitioner" link at NCCAOM.org.
Why should a woman use acupuncture if she's trying to get pregnant? It's a good question, particularly if the woman and her partner have no other fertility issues. I'm going to take a stab at answering the question, hopefully without resorting to any 'woowoo' terminology, we may just have to wander around the barn a bit to get there.
In recent years, we've started to realize that stress may be sitting at the root of a lot of modern disease conditions. In the west we have a very high stress 24x7 lifestyle where people are working a lot, spending a lot of time indoors, spending a lot of time sitting, spending a lot of time in front of a screen (computer, TV, tablet, phone). We have long commutes in heavy traffic. We have poor diets. We have a lot of exposure to environmental toxins. We get little exercise. None of this is particularly healthy, no matter how we attempt to rationalize it.
This stress activates our 'fight or flight' mode which is the sympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system. Activation of the sympathetic system leads to increased cortisol levels, higher incidence of high blood pressure, more headache/migraine, more digestive complaints, reduced immunity and a host of other potential effects. Why this all happens is a relatively simple function of how the sympathetic nervous system is designed to work. It's just that our bodies were never intended to be in this mode all the time.
Acting in opposition to the sympathetic system is the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is the so-called 'rest and digest' mode. Here, the body relaxes, blood is diverted to the internal organs for nourishment, blood pressure drops, muscle tension is released. This is where our bodies were designed to spend most of their time.
Enter acupuncture. One of the things most acupuncture studies consistently show is acupuncture's ability to promote the parasympathetic 'rest and digest' mode over the sympathetic 'fight or flight' mode. In other words, acupuncture encourages your body to enter a state where better nourishment is going to be derived from your food and that nourishment is going to be better distributed to your internal organs.
From the perspective of fertility, being able to maintain a healthy balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic can sometimes make the difference between getting pregnant and not. We've all heard stories of the couple who are trying and trying and trying to get pregnant. Eventually, they tire of the grind and decide to just chill out for a few months before trying again and bam, pregnant. Stress can have a tremendous effect on our overall health, probably more than we think and in more ways than we currently recognize. Anything that helps to manage stress can increase fertility.
And, of course, if a woman is in the unfortunate position where she's having to consider IVF or other fertility treatments, acupuncture has a really strong track record with plenty of studies currently available showing efficacy.
To get the most out of any acupuncture treatment, please make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. You can start with the "Find a Practitioner" directory at NCCAOM.org to find someone local to you. If you're just looking for stress relief and have no underlying fertility issues, any acupuncturist will do the trick. If you have some sort of fertility issue, you will want to find an acupuncturist who specializes in this area.
Acupuncture can definitely help manage any pain/discomfort in the meantime.
If you have dental anxiety, acupuncture can also help. If this is the case, I'd suggest scheduling an acupuncture appointment either the same day (ideal) or 24 hours prior to your dental appointment.
Explaining how it works is a little more complicated. From the perspective of biochemistry, acupuncture appears to be affecting a set of neurotransmitters which have a lot to do with the transmission of pain signals in the brain and spinal cord. There is also evidence that acupuncture is changing the way the pre-frontal cortex in the brain processes pain signals coming from the body.
Generally, for tooth/mouth pain, I'll use points on the hands and feet.
For the best results, please make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. You can go to the "Find a Practitioner" page at NCCAOM.org to get a list of folks local to you.
Studies involving acupuncture have pretty consistently shown that it is, at least in part, stimulating the parasympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system. This is part of the nervous system that acts in opposition to the "fight or flight" side.
There are a lot of potential effects which can result from activating the parasympathetic system and one of them has to do with relaxing blood vessels. This allows blood to flow more freely contributing to increased circulation.
If you decide to try acupuncture, please make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. You can start with the "Find a Practitioner" link at NCCAOM.org to find someone local to you.