Frequently Asked Questions
What is Accupuncture?
Acupuncture is the method of using ultra thin needles to stimulate precise points on the body for the purpose of improving your health. It does this by regulating the circulation of vital energy, blood and nerve impulses. Acupuncture, with a 2500 year history of success, can treat many conditions including pain, organ dysfunction, emotional imbalance, and more.
“Qi” (chee) is the Chinese word for “vital energy”. It is the force behind every function of the body that keeps you alive. For pain free vibrant health, Qi must be freely flowing through its channels. An experienced acupuncturist can detect areas where this flow of energy is disrupted and correct it with appropriate treatments.
The goal of the licensed acupuncturist is to restore health and wellness to the whole person, addressing the cause of the condition, and at the same time addressing the patient’s immediate symptoms. In addition to acupuncture, your practitioner may recommend specific herbs, dietary modifications, body work, and qigong exercise as a comprehensive treatment plan.
What Can Acupuncture Treat?
What Kind Of Training Must An Acupuncturist Have To Be Licensed?
In order to become a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) in Montana, practitioners must graduate from a nationally accredited school, or other approved program, and pass rigorous national board exams administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
The NCCAOM requires a minimum of three years of education to become a Diplomate of Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.), which includes over 1,900 hours of schooling. An additional 720 hours of education in herbal medicine is required to become a Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M.) or a Diplomate in Chinese Herbalism (Dipl. C.H.). Both Diplomates in Acupuncture and in Oriental Medicine qualify to apply for acupuncture licensure in Montana. All national board applicants must be certified in the practice of Clean Needle Technique to assure that they are knowledgeable and competent in skin preparation, insertion, manipulation, and disposal of sterile acupuncture needles.
Approximately one-third, or a minimum of 660 classroom hours, are spent treating patients with acupuncture and Oriental medicine in a clinical setting. During this time practitioners see patients with a wide-variety of health issues to ensure they are prepared for practice. In addition to clinical training, students are required to complete extensive coursework in biomedicine, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and pathology.
To maintain licensure, all licensees must complete continuing education each year and be in good standing with the Montana Board of Medical Examiners.
What Can I Expect?
Your acupuncturist will first take a detailed history of your condition followed by an examination that can include physical palpation, observation of your tongue, examination of the pulse, and other diagnostic methods. There are several respected styles of acupuncture that may differ in their diagnosis and treatment techniques but the overall goal remains the same: to restore good health, reduce pain, and impart a sense of well being.
An acupuncture treatment is, for most people, a pleasantly relaxing experience. The acupuncture needle is uniquely designed with a sharp but rounded tip. It does not cut the skin like a hypodermic needle but rather separates the fibers of the tissue as it is inserted. The practitioner may gently manipulate the needle to obtain a sensation of heaviness, fullness, tingling or a subtle mild ache. For certain conditions, the needle may be attached to a very mild, comfortable electrical current that supplies continuous stimulation. Sometimes the needles are simply placed without further stimulation.
After insertion of the needles, which may range from only a few to a dozen or more, the person simply rests in a comfortable position either lying down or sitting in a chair. The length of a treatment may be anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes depending on the condition. During this time several physiological systems respond to the presence of the needles. The blood vessels relax, the nervous system becomes stabilized, and the channels of qi flow open up – all of this contributes to bringing the body and mind back to a state of optimum function. There is a sense of the body deeply relaxing and the mind becoming clear and calm.
Your acupuncturist will suggest a treatment plan to specifically address your unique situation. Acute problems such as recent injuries may only require a few treatments. For chronic, multi-layered problems the plan may require a series of treatments over several months or longer. Many people choose to see their licensed acupuncturist monthly or seasonally in order to maintain their active lifestyle with less stress and more comfort.
How Does Acupuncture Work? Will it Interfere With My Other Medical Care?
The answer to how acupuncture works depends on which perspective you approach the question from.
From the western medical model we know that acupuncture increases circulation of blood, lymph and nerve impulses. The brain releases endorphins, trigger points (called ashi points in Chinese) are released, and hormonal secretions regulate in response to acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture interrupts the pain cycle, giving relief from acute and chronic pain. Scientific studies have mapped many different ways in which acupuncture benefits the body, but these studies have not yet explained how acupuncture does this, nor can it explain why acupuncture points have the specific functions that they do. Why does a point below the knee affect the abdomen and any abdominal issues so positively? Western science cannot yet answer that question.
The logic behind Oriental medicine gives a clear explanation for how acupuncture affects the body. The energy and organ systems in your body interact in specific ways and it is those interactions that acupuncture manipulates to achieve its benefits. The presence and manipulation of an acupuncture needle stimulates or sedates those systems of the body that are out of balance. This restores functional equilibrium to the entire person so that they can be healthy in body and mind. If you would like a deeper understanding of Oriental medicine, we suggest either The Web That Has No Weaver by Ted Kaptchuk or Beyond Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold.
Acupuncture can be used in conjunction with other health care modalities. This is where the medical systems of East and West meet for the greater good of the individual. In almost all instances, acupuncture can be a helpful addition to the use of drugs, surgery and radiation therapy. The two medical systems, Asian and Allopathic, each have their own important contributions to health care. But acupuncture can often be used to treat disorders before they progress to the point of needing radical intervention. Acupuncture is safe, gentle, and nurturing.