What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an ancient healing science which originated in China.  Along with herbal prescriptions, acupressure massage, and health exercises (qigong), acupuncture is a part of the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a holistic complementary healthcare system.  Acupuncture consists of the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body.

What does acupuncture treat?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acupuncture has been shown to be clinically effective for dozens of disorders, including various musculoskeletal, digestive, neurologic, cardiovascular, obstetric and gynecological problems. The full list of disorders for which the World Health Organization concluded acupuncture to be effective may be found here.  Since 2014, Acupuncture has been considered mainstream medicine in Europe, Asia, and Australia.  Ask your practitioner if acupuncture can help you.

How does it work?

Pain and dysfunction in the body is often caused by myofascial dysfunction.  This occurs when muscle tissue or fascia, the connective tissue surrounding the muscles, develop adhesions and scarring due to injury or overuse.  The needles directly break up these adhesions and restore proper neurologic function.  Acupuncture also has a reflex effect on the central nervous system, acting as a sort of circuit breaker, inhibiting aberrant nerve signals and thereby reducing pain and dysfunction.

Is it safe?

Acupuncture is among the safest forms of healthcare.  Possible side effects, which are rather uncommon, may include soreness or slight bruising.  More serious side effects, which are very rare, may result from a preexisting condition, which your physician can discuss with you before treatment.   Acupuncture is considered “safe in the hands of a well-trained practitioner.”  Acupuncture Evidence Project, p. 55

Is it covered by insurance?

Acupuncture is covered by some insurance plans.  Check with your insurance carrier or your healthcare provider for specific details.

What is the difference between acupuncture and “dry needling?”

On the surface, acupuncture and dry needling are similar: The insertion of thin, filiform needles into nerve points to effect a change in physiology. In fact, the term “dry needling” is only a modern name for the ancient and basic Chinese acupuncture technique of treating the jingjin(muscle channels) or ashi points (tender trigger points). But whereas dry needling is limited in scope to the treatment of uncomplicated pain syndromes, and limited in location of treatment points, acupuncture is an effective and comprehensive healthcare system endorsed by the World Health Organization as effective for dozens of maladies. In Alabama, an acupuncturist, due the extensive training he or she receives, is automatically allowed to perform both acupuncture and dry needling. A practitioner certified in dry needling, however, is not allowed to perform acupuncture.