We are a 3-generation oriental acupuncturists and are dedicated to serving patients in the Rockville, Germantown and Gaithersburg MD region. We have over 60 years of combined experience and have helped thousands of patients with all kinds of conditions and ailments.
What is Acupuncture? Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine, most commonly used for treating pain, although there are several other uses. While acupuncture is relatively new in the west, evidence of its use in China dates back to 1600 BC. Acupuncture is described as a way to balance the flow of life force (called "qi" but pronounced "chee") which is always flowing through the body in pathways called meridians. Balancing the flow is done by inserting very thin needles in a patient's skin to open the pathways and release blockages in the paths. It is believed, especially in the western world, that the needles also stimulate nerves (as well as muscles and connective tissues) and activate natural pain relief in the body. They may also increase blood supply.
Is it Safe? The possibility of injury with acupuncture treatments is low. It is, however, important to use a licensed, trusted professional whom you trust. It is advised to research acupuncturists in your area and set up a meeting with your potential provider. As with any medical professional, it is important that you feel comfortable and safe in his/her presence.
A few situations may make it inadvisable to undergo acupuncture. Be sure to be very clear if you have any type of bleeding disorder (there can be minor bleeding from a site) or if you are taking any type of blood thinner.
If you have a pacemaker, it can occasionally be affected by acupuncture. If you are pregnant, talk to your OB/GYN about any affect acupuncture can have on you.
If a needle is pushed into the skin too deeply, there is a possibility that it could damage an organ, but this is very unlikely. If sterile, one-time-use needles are used, by qualified professionals, there is little risk of injury or infection.
Does it Hurt? Many people say absolutely not. They feel the sensation of the needle, but no pain at all. Others say yes, it hurts a little bit. One belief is that the more relaxed you can be, the less likely the treatment will cause pain. Some people feel the minor discomfort of the treatment is far outweighed by the pain relief they feel as a result.
Some areas of your body are more sensitive to pain than others. This may affect your reaction to the needle insertion. Because the acupuncturist is working on a meridian, or pathway, the treatment spots may not even be close to the problem area you are treating.
What Conditions Does it Work On? Acupuncture is often recommended for back pain, a condition which is prevalent in our society. It has some reported success with treating headaches, cramps, fibromyalgia, arthritis and other chronic conditions which cause pain. It is used for relief of nausea from cancer treatments. It has been used for weight loss and to help people quit addictions. Acupuncture may even relieve stress, anxiety and depression!
What Will a Treatment Consist Of? When you visit your acupuncturist for the first time, you may be asked to go over a complete medical history with him or her. Because it is a treatment that affects the energy of your entire body, it is important to share medical history that you may think has nothing to do with your current condition. Traditional Chinese Medicine, from which acupuncture is derived, is a holistic approach to healing. Often the relief of symptoms is found in areas that do not seem related to the problem. An excellent example of this is a person's diet being changed to cure a skin condition.
Perhaps your session will only involve acupuncture, but if your treatment is being provided by a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, there will be several other important pieces to your visit.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Exam
Tongue Exam Yes, that is right. A Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner will most likely examine your tongue. It is believed that the tongue is a reflection of the body's meridians and also of its internal organs. Areas of the tongue deliver a "report" of the condition of areas of the body. For example, the appearance of the tip of the tongue is said to represent the patient's heart, and just behind that, the lungs. Stomach and spleen health is represented in the center, and kidney and bladder at the back of the tongue.
Traditional Chinese Medicine professionals will have studied the tongue and what its appearance means for many years, so while you can learn interesting pieces of information about how to "read" your tongue, this is similar to diagnosing a complicated condition simply by reading about it on a medical website. The color, shape, dryness, coating and flexibility of the tongue are just some of the information that goes into a thorough exam.
If you do try looking at your own tongue out of curiosity, be sure you have not eaten or drunk anything before you look in a mirror. Coloring in food, hot or cold drinks, and other factors can affect your tongue's appearance.
Diagnosing Your Pulse Another important part of an exam will probably include a pulse diagnosis, which is completely different from the typical taking of your pulse at a western medicine doctor's office. In fact, there are actually 3 areas on the wrist which are used to evaluate the pulse. Again, as with the tongue exam, the pulse diagnosis is a long-studied procedure, so a novice would have a hard time even finding the different locations for readings, let alone interpreting the results.
Pulse diagnosis gives the practitioner information on the balance of the body's qi, which is important in the acupuncture treatment. It can also indicate the balance of the blood and the condition of the body's internal organs.
The pulse is not only measured for rate, but also depth, strength and other attributes. When reading the pulse, it is important that the patient is relaxed. Also, eating (especially a large meal) less than an hour before the exam may affect the results.
Yin and Yang The concept of yin and yang is an important one in Chinese science, philosophy and medicine. Because it is not a physical condition we can see in the body, it is difficult for some of us in traditional western culture to grasp. Truly, it is an idea which could fill a book - and indeed, is a major principle in a very large book called the "I Ching".
Yin and yang appear to be opposites, as in night and day, dark and light, feminine and masculine. But in Chinese philosophy, they are believed to be complementary, because they are actually dependent on each other to exist. Without dark, for example, there is no light. So it can be said that both yin and yang are aspects of one whole.
It is believed that yin and yang reside in the body (because the theory is that yin and yang are everywhere, in everything) and Traditional Chinese Medicine requires reading the balance of yin and yang through such diagnostics as pulse examination. A dramatic imbalance of yin and yang energies is believed to be a cause of illness and/or pain.
In addition to acupuncture, there are other remedies used to balance the energies of the bodies. Most experts in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine believe that the best treatment comes form the combination of these remedies.
Herbal remedies are part of the treatment for imbalances of all kinds. The science behind herbs as medicine is extensive, and common in all varieties of medicine, from eastern shaman to western doctor. The history of Chinese herbal medicine dates back to 2800 BC.
Body movement is another part of treatment, and it is not uncommon to be prescribed certain exercises for your condition. This is not much different from advice you might get from your physician, but chances are the prescribed form of exercise suggested by your Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner will not be running or high intensity. The healing exercise, Qi Gong, is an ancient healing art, and a large part of the holistic Chinese Medicine whole, and is more likely to be prescribed. It is as much a philosophy as a physical exercise, and can be practiced for years before it is mastered. It combines body, mind, and breath to balance the energies of the body.
Not surprisingly, diet and lifestyle are another part of the healing process likely to be discussed at your visit with a Traditional Chinese Medical provider. Again, this may seem akin to advice your western doctor would give. But instead of balancing our intake of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, etc., Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at balancing other things in your diet.
Hot and Cold This does not relate to the actual temperature of food, but rather the warmth or spiciness of foods (ginger and cinnamon for example) compared with cool foods like mint and cucumber. According to your body type, it might be recommended you consume more "warm" or "cool" type foods for balance.
Color It may seem odd to us, but the Chinese tradition is to eat a variety of colors of food. Interestingly, the colors of most plants and vegetables are due to the different vitamins and minerals they contain, so this theory works very well in getting a variety of nutritional benefits from your diet. For example, red peppers contain lycopene, orange carrots hold beta carotene, white onions are a source of sulfides.
Moderation Overeating is known to be placing a burden on our digestive system, so it will likely be recommended that our diet be modified to include a variety of foods but in smaller quantities.
While it may be possible to find an qualified, licensed acupuncturist who will only perform acupuncture as a treatment, without any of the other aspects of a Chinese Medical examination, it may be well worth a more thorough visit that includes the many other branches that make up Chinese Medicine. It has become more and more accepted that treating one area of the body, without taking into consideration the other pieces of the puzzle, may be treating only a symptom, and not a root cause. Balance of the body, mind and spirit might be the best way to approach the true healing of the whole person, since we are much more than just our physical bodies.
While there is little disagreement that some of the recent medical advances made in our lifetime have been hugely and staggeringly effective, we should respect the medical practices which have been in development for 5000 years. The combination of ancient practices and new discoveries are possibly the best balancing tools we have for the best health possible.