How does Acupuncture feel?
If you’ve never experienced Acupuncture before, you will almost certainly be intrigued by the gentle and relaxing nature of the experience. For some types of conditions, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised when you experience an immediate change or reduction in the pain condition you’ve come to have treated.
The needles are extremely thin, about the diameter of a cat’s whisker, so the sensation is very different than what you’ve experienced getting an injection or having blood drawn. That said, sometimes you may feel a momentary tingle as the needle is inserted. You may also feel heaviness around the needled area. If any needle feels uncomfortable, it can be adjusted to ensure your comfort.
Will I feel better right away?
You might! Most patients leave the first visit with less pain and a deep feeling of relaxation. HOWEVER, Chinese Medicine is a physical medicine, much like physical therapy. The effects are cumulative over time. In the same way that you would not expect to go to the gym one time and be in prime athletic form or go to one physical therapy session and have your tendons, ligaments, and muscles suddenly heal, you should not expect a single acupuncture session to eliminate your symptoms. Having said that, my goal is to help you get better in the shortest possible amount of time.
How long will it take for me to feel better??
Any health professional needs to review the facts of your case before providing his/her professional opinion. That's why your initial assessment is critical. Afterwards, you'll receive a Treatment Plan based on a thorough analysis of your condition, including an estimate of the number of visits required to achieve your immediate goals.
As a general rule, conditions that are more recent respond more quickly than those that have persisted for a long time. Other considerations include whether the condition is being frequently re-aggravated or is the result of a current medication, one's overall health status, and one's compliance with other components of the treatment plan. If you’re committed to achieving better results quickly, integrating the recommendations of your treatment plan will help you do just that!
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when considering whether these treatments are right for you:
If you are coming for a pain condition: Very often you will notice an immediate change in your pain during your very first treatment. To fully address the condition, however, a series of treatments is generally required. Usually, I begin with 2-3 treatments in the first week and extend the interval between treatments based on how long the results are remaining stable in your case. To give an example: If after your first treatment your back pain reduces from severe to moderate and remains “moderate” 3 days later at your next scheduled visit, this tells me the treatment held its impact for at least 3 days. If we get a bit more pain reduction at this second visit, I will schedule the following visit for 3 or 4 days later, just to be sure the result is remaining stable. If by visit number 3 the pain is still greatly reduced and mild, the interval between visits can be extended to 5 days or so. Treatment intervals are progressively extended until pain is not returning at all. After your first few visits, we'll both have a clearer idea of how quickly your body is responding.
If you are coming for a gynecological condition:Generally, a woman’s body takes about three cycles to re-regulate. Many patients will experience significant changes in their conditions by coming once per week for 3 months. Women experiencing particularly severe conditions—excessive bleeding, extreme pain, or intense PMS/PMDD--may require two treatments per week for the first several weeks before tapering to a once-weekly schedule. In addition, herbal medicine is almost always a critical component for these improvements, so your commitment to taking herbal supplements throughout the 12 weeks of treatment will be very important for achieving maximum improvement over the shortest period of time. I will also provide a variety of at-home, self-care recommendations you can do between treatments to further accelerate your healing.
If you are coming for mood or sleep disorders: There is considerable variability in the number of treatments required for these conditions since people often seek treatment only after a long period of struggle. By establishing a clear baseline in the initial assessment, together we can craft specific, measurable goals for your treatments. In addition to looking at the primary emotions of your condition—fear? anger? sadness? worry?--we’ll also examine any associated physical symptoms, such as pain, palpitations, night sweats, mental fogginess, hyperactivity, or fatigue. In general, patients begin to see initial improvements within 4-6 treatments, with more substantial results achieved after a course of 12 treatments, usually over 2-3 months. As with other types of conditions, your treatment plan will include a number of recommendations for maximizing your results. These will be critical to attaining/maintaining your long-term goals. Patients with severe depression or anxiety, a history of trauma, or past or current social or relationship issues are strongly advised to seek concurrent care with a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional to ensure a comprehensive, multi-dimensional approach.
How can Chinese Medicine help improve emotional and mental conditions?
Consider this: Every aspect of your well-being influences the other. Intuitively, most of us recognize this in ourselves and in our loved ones. And the idea is certainly not a new one. Indeed, cultures from every corner of the globe have long acknowledged the existence of this dynamic balance and have integrated it into their definitions of health.
In fact, the idea that the mind and body existed as separate entities was a conception limited to a particular subset of medical paradigms. Fast forwarding to the final decades of the 20th Century, fields like psychoneuroimmunology emerged as cutting-edge science, showing that our consciousness/emotions (psycho), our nervous systems (neuro), and our immune systems (immun) are interconnected in the most intricate of ways. We now see major health insurers beginning to encourage us toward more multi-dimensional approaches to wellness. This "new" discovery has long been foundational to Chinese Medicine, to such an extent that it is woven into every diagnostic criteria and treatment strategy. By treating the physical body, not only are disorders of the physical body addressed, the mental and emotional roots of our dysfunctions, too, can begin to shift and heal.
Perhaps these cases provide an illustration:
Six months after a motorcycle accident Jim was still experiencing chronic pain. This interfered with his ability to engage in his usual activities and compromised his productivity at work. He felt frustrated, becoming easily short-tempered with family and co-workers. In addition, he found himself experiencing tremendous anxiety, which interfered with his sleep, as he worried whether he would be able to continue at his current job given his limitations. In Jim’s case, he presented with a chief complaint of pain, but the physical symptoms were clearly connected with his recent personality changes. As his pain improved with acupuncture and herbal medicine, he became able to resume full duties at work, allowing his anxiety to subside. Soon his sleep and temperament returned to normal. In other words, treating Jim's physical symptoms greatly enhanced his emotional well-being, too.
AnnMarie, a woman in her early 30’s, presented with a chief complaint of depression, something she had struggled with for much of her life. Her low moods left her feeling lethargic, and she frequently turned down personal and professional opportunities because of this cloud of exhaustion. Often, she woke during the night, which further exacerbated her fatigue. The week before her period most of her symptoms became even more pronounced. A review of AnnMarie’s case revealed that her depressive moods correlated strongly with her monthly cycles. Treatment that focused on regulating her cycles and improving her sleep soon led to tremendous changes in her energy level and mood stability. Consistent nights of sleep greatly boosted her energy levels, and better mood stability improved her interactions with co-workers and friends. In other words, activating her body’s natural healing response enabled her to physically and emotionally move beyond depression. Once every few months AnnMarie returns for a maintenance visit or for an herbal prescription, and her bouts of depression are now extremely rare occurrences.
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