You are ready to try acupuncture. You’ve decided that it might help. What do you do now? How do you decide who to go to for treatment?
There are many options available. From the very clinical to the very intimate, hour and a half treatments to half an hour sessions. Some people have you undress and wear a hospital gown, or cover with a sheet while others treat you fully dressed using points below the elbow and knees.
It depends upon what you are seeking help with. For most pain conditions, almost any type of acupuncture style or setting will help you. The shorter, community style acupuncture using distal acupuncture points works mainly on the perception of pain. Although it does help with the root or the cause of the pain, the main focus is on the feeling of pain. The distal points also can help reduce inflammation, and regulate the autonomic nervous system.
The longer more intimate acupuncture sessions may take a little longer, in fact you might need to come to the acupuncturist for several sessions, but the root cause of your pain could be completely eliminated. These treatments are usually both directly and indirectly treating your issue. Most licensed acupuncturists who have either a Master’s or a Doctorate Degree will have a good understanding of how to balance your system using acupuncture and other modalities to bring your health back to its optimum functioning capacity. Some of the causes of your symptoms may be so subtle that you would not recognize them as symptoms, but your acupuncture practitioner will know and see these subtle changes in your body that are signposts to what is out of balance.
If your issue is not pain, but chronic illness, then either type of acupuncture is going to help. You might think about alternating or starting with the longer more intimate sessions, then finishing or continuing with the shorter, less expensive treatments. Chronic illness is a little more complex that simple pain, although a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is trained to treat all kinds of illness, as well as health and wellness. He/she often can help you to regain or maintain health and wellness in a more natural way than a western doctor who is trained in diagnosing illness and prescribing the correct medication could. A TCM doctor will know what the root cause of your illness or imbalance is (in TCM terminology), and they will know what to do to correct that. If you follow their advice, take the herbs, and get treatments, your health could improve greatly.
Acute illness is relatively easy to treat. Acupuncture can help the body to take care of what is not right by stimulating the body in helpful ways such as expelling the pathogens, or bolstering your own immune system, and eliminating inflammation are ways that it does this.
Acute injury is a fairly easy fix, but you’d be better off with a private practitioner who will have heat lamps, moxabustion, cupping, as well as the acupuncture needles. This would be the longer more intimate treatment, which can address the state you are in at the time (excess or deficiency, hot or cold, damp or dry, etc). It may be that you need needling at both local and distal points.
If you are looking for support in the research studies for the efficacy of acupuncture, you will find mixed reviews. Acupuncture by its very nature and the way it is best practiced (individual), is difficult to study in a Random Controlled Trial. Random Controlled Trials assume that all participants are similar. Usually, when recruiting they look for people who fit a particular template of similarity. Acupuncture is based upon the premise of each person being individual and the treatment depends upon the individual’s symptoms and signs at the time of treatment along with some history of the illness. Each treatment takes into consideration the person’s birth constitution, and body type, as well as what is causing the illness on an individual basis.
You might get completely different diagnosis and treatment plans with different practitioners, because there is more than one path to wellness. Each practitioner sees the path through his/her own eyes. The most important thing is that you feel like you are being understood and respected, and your health is improving. Although sometimes a person’s symptoms will worsen in the beginning, your health and wellness should be improving with subsequent treatments. (It can take as few as 3 or as many as 10-20)
Whatever your choice is, you will be in good hands if you choose fully licensed and educated acupuncture practitioners. There are many community acupuncture clinics around the country. And many private practitioners also who are very competent and skilled at their profession.