Sandra Chaloux

| 05/26/2016

Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture

Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture

You’re thinking of trying acupuncture, and you’ve got some questions. Will it hurt? Will you bruise? Is it safe? We posed these questions to Tuan Nguyen, an acupuncturist in Sterling, VA, who answered six frequently asked questions about the art and practice of acupuncture.

1. How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture works by manipulating acupuncture points with tiny needles. This sends signals to internal organs through the corresponding meridians, or energy pathways, in your body and promotes the healing process.

In the terminology of Western medicine, acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system and release chemicals into your muscles, spinal cord, and brain. Acupuncture points conduct electromagnetic signals that send biochemical like endorphins and immune system cells to places in your body that are injured or vulnerable to disease. Research has found that your body may release several types of opioids that reduce pain into your central nervous system during treatment.

2. Is it painful?

Your experience with acupuncture depends on the technique of the acupuncturist. Some acupuncturists perform strong stimulate at the acupuncture point while others just let the needle touch the skin without any penetration and stimulation.

Most people feel little to no pain as the needles are inserted. Occasionally you may feel a brief stinging sensation at one or two of the acupuncture points, but this sensation subsides very quickly. For someone who works outdoors and whose skin isn’t as sensitive, they will need stronger stimulation than people with more sensitive skin. Besides that, the level of stimulation depends on the patient’s age, the condition he/she wants to address, and his/her health constitutional.

3. Will there be needles inserted on my face?

It is not necessary to put needles on your face unless you are treating something like Bell’s palsy, headache, sinus issues, or TMJ. Acupuncturists can use local points or remote points, so the points on your hands and feet work as well as the ones on your face. Additionally, occasionally you will see a small bruise after acupuncture. This is another reason to avoid needles on your face.

4. What about bruising?

You will see a small bruise on the acupuncture point less than 10% of the time, even if you get bruises from having blood drawn.

5. What is the likelihood of puncturing an organ?

It is not likely that the acupuncturist will puncture an organ. Practitioners undergo hundreds of hours of training to learn anatomy and physiology and the correct depth and angle of needle insertion. They also know the areas to avoid in acupuncture and which needles to choose for each area.

6. Is it sanitary?

Whether or not acupuncture is sanitary depends on the practitioner. In the United States, a practitioner needs to be certified with the Clean Needle Technique in order to get an acupuncture license. This protocol requires that an acupuncturist sterilize their hands between patients, sterilize the skin before they insert a needle, use a needle only once and dispose of used needles.

However, it is not guaranteed that a practitioner will follow this protocol in his or her practice. If you notice that the acupuncturist is not sterilizing your acupuncture points first, ask why. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to whether the facility and tables are clean. This will give you a good idea of the practitioner’s sanitary habits.

If you have more questions about acupuncture, the best way to get answers is to talk to an acupuncturist. Many aspects of your experience will depend on the specific practitioner. Always make sure to ask questions upfront, before your acupuncture session. That way, you’ll go into your session reassured, relaxed and ready to enjoy the experience.

Tuan Nguyen is a third generation acupuncturist and herbalist and the owner of Acupuncture & Herb Clinic, LLC in Sterling, VA. He has been practicing acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine in the United States since 1997.


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