What's it like: To get treated with acupuncture

Acupuncture can help stimulate nerves and muscles, which can help increase blood flow and your body's production of chemicals to relieve pain, practitioners say.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: December 16, 2012

Why use acupuncture?

People see an acupuncturist to relieve a variety of ailments, including migraines, tennis elbow, dental pain or chronic pain, such as pain related to the sciatic nerve. Acupuncture can help stimulate nerves and muscles, which can help increase blood flow and your body's production of chemicals to relieve pain, practitioners say.

Acupuncture can serve as complementary care to other modern medicine. For example, some integrated cancer treatment centers have acupuncture available for patients undergoing chemotherapy to help with nausea and vomiting.

Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years in some Asian countries and is one of the key components of traditional Chinese medicine. There some debate around the value of acupuncture and whether it's more than placebo.

Some insurance companies cover acupuncture. It's best to talk with the acupuncture practitioner about cost and what your budget allows.

What happens during treatment?

An acupuncture practitioner will apply needles and other treatments, including heat and pressure, to places in the skin, referred to as acupuncture points. The acupuncturist will place between five and 20 fairly thin needles into your body and leave them in for a few minutes.

The needles will go anywhere from a few millimeters to a few inches deep. The number and location of needles placed is based on you and your specific condition, or conditions.

Does it hurt?

You might feel a slight prick from the needle, but it likely won't hurt. Some patients feel a deep sensation once the needles puncture the skin. The needles used are generally 32-gauge to 40-gauge, which are similar in size to a strand of hair.

What are the risk factors?

It's important to find a certified acupuncture practitioner. Oklahoma does not license acupuncturists, but the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine offers a certification. You can check the commission website to find a certified acupuncturist in your area.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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