5 Things You Didn’t Know About Acupuncture

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Guest Blog Contributed by Chamber Member Kendra Dale, LAc. (Licensed Acupuncturist)


Acupuncture Needles are Really Small

People who haven’t tried acupuncture might recall memories of childhood injections and hesitate to try a therapy that involves getting poked with needles. However, the average size of an acupuncture needle is .25 mm which is 20 times smaller than the average hypodermic needle used for injections. That is just over twice the size of a human hair. Depending on where the needles are inserted, it’s often a painless procedure. There can be unusual sensations as the body’s bio-electric energy or qi is being mobilized; however, they don’t last long and aren’t painful. For very sensitive people, the tiniest needles of just .18 mm can be used, and acupuncture needles don’t have to be inserted deeply to be effective.

Acupuncture Treats More Than Just Pain

Acupuncture is gaining wider acceptance as an effective treatment for pain of all kinds, and many people know about this. But did you know that acupuncture can treat a lot more than low back pain? Acupuncture can treat many different types of problems; there isn’t space to list them all. A few common conditions are early stage colds, seasonal allergies and hay fever, nausea, anxiety and depression, infertility, and many neurological disorders.

One key area acupuncture can make a huge difference is with a stroke patient. If a patient can be treated with acupuncture within the first three weeks of a stroke occurring, there can be a considerable improvement. After 3-4 weeks, acupuncture is still effective, but recovery is slower. The documentary 9,000 Needles tells the story of a competitive bodybuilder who recovered from a stroke using acupuncture.

Some acupuncturists focus on treating vision issues, emotional health, or PTSD. An acupuncturist I am currently studying with treats patients with Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis and cerebellar atrophy among many other conditions.

Your Acupuncturist Doesn’t Just Do Acupuncture

Most licensed acupuncturists (LAc.) have gone through at least four years of post-graduate training before they get their licenses. These days, some are studying for 5 years and are graduating with doctorates in Oriental or East Asian Medicine. During that time, in addition to acupuncture, they likely studied traditional herbology, tuina, or Chinese medical massage, cupping, guasha scraping, moxibustion (a form of heat therapy), nutritional counseling and exercise (Taiji and qigong) to help patients find health and balance. Acupuncture is just one modality under the umbrella or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), also referred to East Asian Medicine (EAM).

In China, the most commonly sought out traditional therapy is herbal medicine. These customized herbal formulas treat everything from colds to cancer. When I was living in Guangzhou China during the SARS outbreak, the teaching hospital of the TCM university where I was studying, successfully treated all their admitted cases of SARS. Not one of the patients treated with herbal formulas died, in contrast with the many deaths that occurred with standard medical treatment.

Herbal medicine has some practical limitations in the US due to lack of familiarity with herbal medicine and cost. However, if you are someone doesn’t feel well, and standard medicine cannot find anything wrong or simply doesn’t have a treatment, look into Chinese herbal medicine for a more personalized approach.

There are a lot of Different Styles of Acupuncture.

The traditional style of medicine practiced throughout East Asia started developing in China over 5,000 years ago. Just over 2,000 years ago the standard original medical text, called the Yellow Emperors Classic, (which many including myself still read today), was well established and spread to countries like Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Over time, acupuncture developed, and different countries started having their own styles. Within China, medical knowledge was often passed down through families, and families developed their own styles as well.

Your acupuncturist may have decided to focus on any number of styles that are still being taught today. Japanese style acupuncture is known for being very gentle and be better for the very sensitive. TCM style acupuncture tends to focus on using points on the traditional acupuncture channels and can have a stronger stimulation. Newer systems of acupuncture focus on the use of the ear or the scalp for treatment and work well for anxiety and neurological conditions. Tung style acupuncture is a popular style that falls under the family lineage category and is known for immediate pain relief. And there are many more.

The point is that the field of acupuncture is very broad, and each style has its own techniques. If you’ve tried acupuncture once and it didn’t work for you, it may have had to do with the practitioner’s individual style and experience. Try a different style, and you may get the results you are hoping for.

Acupuncture Research is Growing

Though very ancient, acupuncture is a relatively new field in the US, with the first acupuncturists appearing in the late ’70s. In the ’80s and ’90s, there was very little research on acupuncture. Because mainstream medicine didn’t understand it, acupuncture was often dismissed as superstitious. However, for the last 15-20 years, research has been pouring out of China on all aspects of Chinese medicine including acupuncture, and there is growing amount research from the US and Europe giving evidence for its effectiveness.

Just in Portland, OHSU and Providence are using acupuncture as part of their cancer treatments, and acupuncture is becoming more established in California hospitals as well. As the US is moving through the opioid crisis, more and more doctors are suggesting acupuncture as an alternative to pain killers.

For those who are a little more skeptical and need evidence before they are willing to try something as unfamiliar as acupuncture, there are resources that can direct you to the research on acupuncture. Check out the Acupuncture Now Foundation and the Society for Acupuncture Research for information on acupuncture research.


For more info on this topic contact Kendra Dale, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner at Heartwood Healing Center.  Website http://kendradale.com | Phone 503-388-6583 | 29781 SW Town Center Loop West, Suite 800 Wilsonville, OR 97070 |


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