UK HealthCast: What you need to know about acupuncture
They recently joined our UK HealthCast podcast to discuss this unique practice used to treat both physical and mental conditions.
In a nutshell, what is acupuncture?
Kim: Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles on specific acupuncture points. In Eastern terminology, what that does is, along the meridians, it helps stimulate the flow of chi, which is the life force.
In Western terminology, the way I like to describe it to patients is that it helps send nerve fibers to the spinal cord, brainstem, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which helps release neurotransmitters such as endorphins, which are the body's natural painkiller, along with enkephalins plus norepinephrine, which helps inhibit the nerve pain fibers to suppress pain.
Why is acupuncture considered good medical practice?
Charles: One of the amazing things about acupuncture is that it's non-medication. So, if someone is having a condition that is not responding (to) medication, they're not recovering fully with physical therapy or other kinds of therapy, we're sometimes able to make progress with patients that might be stuck in their healing process.
We find that we get a lot of referrals from medical doctors who are trying to help patients, mostly with acute and chronic pain, find alternatives to medication. And that's really the number one referral that we'll get.
What conditions do acupuncture most commonly deal with?
Kim: The most common ones that we see here in our clinic are musculoskeletal issues such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, carpal tunnel, arthritis.
A lot of the common ones that we treat here in our clinic involve neck pain, low back pain, any type of musculoskeletal issues.
Can you take us through a typical visit to an acupuncturist? What can patients expect?
Charles: The first session involves asking a lot of questions of the patient. So, patients usually come in with a primary complaint and we ask for the details about what brought them into the clinic.
Then, we go through questions involving other aspects of their health. It could be health history, body systems, things like: How's your sleep? How is your digestion? How's your mood? And the reason that we do that is because it helps us develop a better diagnosis from the acupuncture perspective.
What a lot of people don't realize is we can treat multiple conditions at once. So if somebody comes in with insomnia and also low back pain, those do not need to be separate treatments. So, we spend time talking with the patient at the beginning of the session to get an idea of what's going on with them in a whole health manner.
Then, we give them the acupuncture session. They will lie on the table for about 20 to 30 minutes with the needles in, and that's it. Then we schedule follow-up sessions.
Acupuncture is cumulative in its benefits. For example, if somebody comes in with low back pain, we would explain that they may notice relief after one session, but they will notice increased relief after more sessions.
Everybody's body is different and it depends on the condition, but we ask patients to give acupuncture three sessions to see if we can make any headway with their condition.
Listen to our entire conversation with Dennis Kim and Norah Charles below: