How does acupuncture work?

This is the million-dollar question. From a Chinese point of view, acupuncture works by regulating the flow of energy (‘qi’) in the body. A smooth flow of qi is synonymous with good health. Disease arises when qi flow becomes slow, stuck, or deficient to any part of the body. This disease can manifest as a physical problem, like joint pain or GI distress, or it can be a mental problem, like constant anxiety or chronic depression. In East Asian medicine, there is no boundary between physical and mental health.

Some people can live with this answer, others can’t.

From a Western point of view, the research is still ongoing and points to many different causes. We know that acupuncture releases pain-killing chemicals and that it alters activity in the brain where the perception of pain occurs. We know that inserting a needle promotes a local immune system response and a change in blood circulation. We know that the manipulation of a needle alters the tension in the body’s network of fascia. And we know that inserting needles in specific locations can have different effects on the brain depending on where the needle is placed. Putting these effects together allows us to treat a wide range of conditions.

We talk more about acupuncture and what it can treat in this blog post.

Does acupuncture hurt? What do the needles feel like?

Patients sometimes feel a small pinch when a needle is inserted, but even if this is felt it goes away within seconds. During treatment it is common to feel a dull, achy, or heavy sensation around the needles or radiating to different places of the body. This is normal. Any prolonged sharp or burning pain is not normal, and you should inform us so we can alter or remove needles as needed.

How long before I see results?

The answer to this question depends on what you are getting treatment for, and how long you have had that particular problem. Patients with acute issues often see lasting results within 2-3 treatments. More chronic conditions can take longer before sustained progress is noted. Age, lifestyle, and general health conditions play a role in this too. In terms of treatment planning, we’ve written about this a bit more here.

Can I get acupuncture or take herbs while I’m on other medications?

Yes – acupuncture & herbal medicine often work better when used along with other therapies. Acupuncture does not interfere with any chiropractic or physical therapy work. It is also not a problem for patients on bloodthinning medications (ie coumadin or warfarin) as it is uncommon for patients to bleed when needles are removed. Herbal formulas are prescribed to work with a patient’s existing medications. Even still, it is recommended to take any herbal formula either 2 hours before or after any Western medication to prevent any unforeseen complications. Furthermore, herbs should not be considered a substitute for any prescription medication without extensive discussion between the patient and the different prescribing parties.

Can acupuncture help with X?

This is our most common question, and we answer it in some detail here.

Do you take my insurance?

Amherst Wellness Center is in-network with Cigna and Harvard Pilgrim. Please call your provider to determine if you have any acupuncture coverage as part of your benefits. Please note that insurance companies typically only reimburse for nausea or pain in the: head, neck, back, knees, or sciatic pain.

If you have a different insurance provider that covers acupuncture, or if you have a flexible spending account or health savings account, we will be happy to provide you with an itemized receipt to send in for reimbursement.

What kind of training does an acupuncturist have?

An acupuncturist requires extensive training & licensing to practice medicine. You can read more about our credentials here.