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Acupuncture: 3 questions everyone asks

Acupuncture – the stimulation of specific points along the body, most often by insertion of tiny needles.

Acupuncture has few side-effects, is relatively safe, and an effective form of treatment for both chronic and acute conditions. Acupuncture is a technique used in Chinese medicine, a whole medical system which also includes: food therapy, herbal medicine, bodywork, accessory techniques, movement and breath work.

Chinese medicine has been a primary medical system long before our western medicine existed. The American Medical Association (the largest health care member association in the US) was formed in 1847, some 3,800 years after the first mention of traditional Chinese medicine. Our modern Western medical and scientific communities are beginning to recognize the benefits of acupuncture, but haven’t even begun to understand the potential of Chinese medicine as a whole.

3 commonly asked questions about acupuncture:

1. Does acupuncture work? 

Let’s get to the point- YES! acupuncture works. In fact, it often works really well.

Here are some studies showing it’s effectiveness for various conditions, from physical to mental/emotional:

Back pain:

“From our analysis, the message for people with chronic low back pain is that acupuncture is a truly effective therapy that provides significant pain relief,” says Manheimer. “Patients with low back pain have many options for treatment including medication, chiropractic care, physical therapy and back exercises. However, these treatments do not always help, and scientific evidence indicates that they have only modest effectiveness.” Acupuncture Helps Back Pain | University of Maryland Medical Center

Chronic pain:

“These trials investigated the use of acupuncture for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, shoulder pain, or chronic headache. For all pain types studied, the researchers found modest but statistically significant differences between acupuncture versus simulated acupuncture approaches (i.e., specific effects), and larger differences between acupuncture versus a no-acupuncture controls (i.e., non-specific effects).” Acupuncture may be helpful for chronic pain.|NIH


“Acupuncture is an effective treatment for women who experience nausea and dry retching in early pregnancy. A time-related placebo effect was found for some women.” Acupuncture to treat nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy| NIH


“One new study found the traditional Chinese practice to be as effective as antidepressants, and a different study found that acupuncture may help treat the medications’ side effects.” Can Acupuncture treat Depression? | Scientific American

So much more:

The World Health Organization’s 2003, 87-page Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials specifically listed 28 diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proven through controlled trials to be an effective treatment. Nearly 100 more conditions were reported by controlled trials to have some therapeutic benefits.”  read more from Is Acupuncture a Deception?

2. How many treatments will I need?

Acupuncture works with a series of treatments and often has a cumulative effect. The more you get, the better you feel.  You wouldn’t go to the gym once and expect amazing results. Give acupuncture a little time before you decide if it’s “working”.

  • Frequency varies case-by-case. You and your acupuncturist will determine the best plan for your condition.
  • Treatments may be as often as 3-5 times/week  to  once per month.
  • Acute conditions should be addressed immediately for better results. Chronic conditions may require a longer treatment time.
  • Changes should be noted after 1-3 visits with Chinese Medicine, 1-6 visits with acupuncture only. A total series of 6-12 is most common.

NOTE: Much of the research studies are based on a series of 12-15 treatments given over a short period of time. These treatments are based on protocols (the same selected points of insertion used each visit) in order to measure result. I find in clinical practice that individualized treatments have greater response in a shorter period of time and treatment plans evolve as the the conditions change. I also notice changes occurring in fewer visits when the treatment is more comprehensive – which means adding additional therapies or techniques to complement acupuncture.

3. How much will it cost me?

Practitioners vary in their training, approach and style. Evaluate the time, skill, experience and attention provided and expect to pay accordingly. 

  • Cost may range from $65-125, depending on the practitioner. Our student acupuncture clinic starts at $30
  • Some insurance companies cover acupuncture and care is approved for Flexible spending accounts(FSA) and Health savings accounts(HSA).
  • The Veterans Administration(VA) covers acupuncture for specific conditions with pre-authorization required by physician. At 8 Branches, we accept authorizations for treatment of care through the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

Acupuncture is designed to correct imbalances but it also helps keep you healthy. Many use it as a last resort,when all other treatments, OTC or prescription medications are not working. Most people understand the importance of car maintenance, but what about body maintenance?  Take time to take care of yourself, maintaining your health will cost you less and improve your quality of life. 

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