More Than Just Needles: What Acupuncture Can Offer You
Most people, when they think of acupuncture, immediately think of the ultra-fine needles used in the therapy; however, needling is only one of many services your acupuncturist can offer you in your journey to better health. Registered acupuncturists use a variety of treatments to promote relaxation and encourage your body to heal itself, rather than relying on pharmacological drugs or other Western medical solutions to promote health.
The practice of needling is what most people are familiar with when they think of acupuncture. Needling involves using sterile, ultra-fine needles to stimulate very specific areas of the body called acupoints. These points are associated with nerve clusters that encourage the production of important neurotransmitters in the body (like serotonin and endorphins), the release of hormones (i.e. cortisol, etc.), increase blood circulation, and help relax muscle tension i.
Dry Needling / Ahshi needling
Dry needling is another term for the traditional Chinese Medicine needling practice ‘Ahshi’ needling. Ahshi/dry needling is concerned with treating local musculoskeletal problems through the stimulation of trigger points. Ahshi/dry needling is often used as a quick solution for an acute injury, whereas including tin the treatment traditional acupuncture approaches would be preferable for long-term complaints like chronic pain, insomnia, etc.
Laser acupuncture is a great option for patients who aren’t as comfortable with needles. Practitioners generally use low level or “cold” lasers, so the therapy is completely painless, and there is no risk for infection ii. Laser acupuncture can successfully be used to treat the same complaints and conditions as traditional acupuncture, and involves stimulation of all of the same points throughout the body.
Tui Na (Chinese Remedial Massage)
Tui Na is a form of massage taken from TCM that can be used on all ages to help reduce pain, provide energy, and bring relaxation to the body and mind. Tui Na involves the use of manual techniques like kneading, vibration, tapping, rolling and pressing. Tui Na is typically used to treat pain and stress, but has also been shown to be effective in easing digestive, reproductive, and respiratory symptoms iii.
Acupressure uses the same points in the body as traditional acupuncture, but employs the use of massage rather than needles. This is different from Tui Na in that acupressure is used on very specific points around the body, rather than on entire muscle groups.
Acupressure is often a preferable option when working with children or with those who have a phobia of needles. Acupressure uses deep, targeted massage to stimulate the nerve clusters near the meridians to help relieve pain and stress, and address a number of physical and emotional disturbances in the body iv.
Moxibustion is a treatment that involves the burning of mugwort, which is a small, spongy herb. In direct moxibustion, a small cone-shaped piece of mugwort is placed on acupuncture point and burned. The herb is removed before it can burn the skin, so the patient only feels a pleasantly deep warmth, and will not experience pain.
In indirect moxibustion, the practitioner will light one end of a moxa stick and hold it close to the meridian until the area turns red. An alternate practice is to use an acupuncture needle to stimulate the area first, and then wrap the needle tip in moxa and ignite that.
Moxibustion is commonly used to treat complaints like colds, and has been used to help with reproductive issues and pregnancies as well. When administered by a certified professional, moxibustion is a very safe and beneficial therapy v.
Cupping is a form of therapy that has become extremely popular in recent years; you may have seen many athletes sporting the telltale red marks on their backs during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Cupping uses thick glass or plastic cups to help create suction on the skin. This draws blood to the area and opens up the pores, drawing toxins out of the body and helping to ease tight muscles. Though redness and swelling are common at cupping sites on the body, the procedure is generally not painful and does not incur any negative side effects when administered by a certified acupuncturist vi.
Guasha involves using pressured strokes with a smooth-edged tool over the skin to induce light bruising, which increases the circulation of blood under the surface of the skin. This treatment is highly successful in treating pain and inflammatory symptoms, especially those associated with chronic illnesses; guasha is also used to treat acute complaints like earaches, bronchitis, asthma, fevers, and the flu. Guasha has also been shown to increase the production of an enzyme in the body that is both an antioxidant and cytoprotectant (meaning that it protects cells against toxic or noxious chemicals) vii.
Chinese Herbal Medicine/ Chinese Dietary Therapy
Occasionally, your acupuncturist may recommend taking herbal supplements to help encourage your overall health. Chinese Herbal Medicine can come in the form of teas, capsules, powders, liquid extracts, or granules. It is normally derived from plants and minerals, only non-harming animal products are used, ensuring animal welfare is upheld viii.
All of these different forms of therapy can be successfully used to treat a wide range of complaints, illnesses, or conditions. Your acupuncturist can consult with you on the best combination of therapies to suit your individual needs and help improve the overall health of your mind and body.