When people hear the word “acupuncture”, they almost immediately think of needles. For some this is a big problem. Needles can be a big source of fear, or inappropriate for kids who can’t sit still. Does this mean that acupuncture can’t be given to those people? No! You might be surprised to learn that acupuncture doesn’t require the use of needles to be effective, and needles are not even appropriate in some cases.
Acupuncture in China (zhen jiu) consists of more techniques then just inserting needles into the body. These other techniques in the United States are called “adjunct therapies” since they are often used in addition to needles, but they can form a treatment in their own right. While there are more adjunct therapies than we have space to describe, here are some of the more common ones:
- Moxabustion – This is the burning of ground-up mugwort leaf or other herbs close to or on the skin. Moxabustion is a form of concentrated heat therapy. Western science understands that it stimulates a different set of nerves than the ones that needles affect. It is used for conditions that are worse in cold weather, or for swellings & fluid metabolism problems, among other things.
- Cupping – Cupping is a technique where a vacuum is created in a glass or plastic cup and the cup is applied to the skin. The vacuum will pull up the skin & superficial muscle tissue into the cup, causing a local bruise. The cup may then be moved along the skin while still attached. This technique helps to break up tight muscles and promotes blood flow in the small capillaries of the body where blood can sometimes get stuck. It is often used for chronic or intractable muscle pain.
- Teishin – A teishin is actually a tool – it is like a thicker and blunt-edge needle. It is held against the skin rather than inserted into it. A teishin is used the same as a needle is – to stimulate a specific acupuncture point, but works on the idea that qi (vital energy) can flow from the practitioner to the patient just through a connecting item rather than by inserting something into the body.
While needles are used for most health problems, they are not always needed or appropriate for some people. The adjunct therapies above are good for those who are afraid of needles, or who anticipate them too much (thus having a lot of pain), or who have trouble sitting still during a treatment.
Because not all people play nice with needles, we offer a form of acupuncture treatment that is needle-free and uses only adjunct therapies. If the needles used in acupuncture have been keeping you from seeking care, worry no more. Schedule your appointment today!