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Why to Try Acupuncture or Acupressure

Updated on July 27, 2014
An ancient Chinese chart illustrating some of the meridians.
An ancient Chinese chart illustrating some of the meridians. | Source

Although acupuncture and acupressure aren’t fully understood by western medicine yet, they have provided countless people with relief without side effects. There are many reasons to give these types of therapy a try.

What Does Acupuncture Work For?

Western studies have backed up the use of acupuncture for pain disorders and nausea from chemotherapy. However, there have been surgeries successfully preformed while the patient has been anesthetized with acupuncture and only minimal medicine.

It’s also helped people with the following problems, as well:

  • Asthma
  • Eye Problems
  • Emotional disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD and others
  • Arthritis
  • Digestive problems
  • Stress management
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

This is by far not an all inclusive list.

I’ve known quite a few people who had seen marked improvement in asthma, mood problems and digestive issues from acupuncture. Personally, I’ve experienced the positive effects of using acupressure in treating stress, fatigue and headaches.

People have sought acupuncture and acupressure treatment for centuries in the Far East. Although it’s still considered an alternative therapy in the west, it’s gained significant momentum as more success stories have made themselves known.

How Does It Work?

Because this type of treatment originated in China, it works based off of Chinese medicine.

It’s believed that we each have what’s called qi, or chi, running through us all hours of the day. This chi can be considered life energy. It flows in an endless cycle through meridians throughout the body, and when those meridians get blocked, that’s when problems happen, like disease, pain and dysfunction.

Think of this system like a circuit and the chi as electricity. When the circuit is completely open, there’s no resistance to the electricity. However, if the circuit is broken, it no longer functions properly.

Acupuncture and acupressure are ways to remove those blocks and reestablish proper function.

What to Expect

When you go to your first appointment, you can expect it to last about an hour.

This is because the practitioner needs to get a better idea of where they need to concentrate and determine what kind of treatment plan is needed. In this initial interview, you can expect the following to be covered:

  • Sources of pain/discomfort
  • An examination of your tongue
  • Examination of facial coloring
  • Taking your pulse to measure its strength, rhythm and quality

The practitioner may also ask you for a medical history and list of things that you’re currently taking. It’s also possible that they will suggest herbal treatment as well.

Subsequent appointments should last about thirty minutes each.

Your therapist should let you know what part of your body they’ll be working on, and ideally why it will help your problem. Because meridians align with different organs, the part of your body worked on may not be directly over the problem area.

Once they begin, they may use between 5 and 20 needles. Because they’re so thin, the process should be painless, but sometimes there may be a deep ache when they reach the spot they need to be.

The therapist will most likely manipulate the needles by either gently tugging on them to make sure they’re in the right spot or twirling them to help break the block up. Sometimes gentle heat or weak electrical impulses will also be applied.

Don’t be afraid to ask any questions or let them know if you’re feeling any discomfort.

Once the needles are in, you will be asked to lie still and relax for between 10 and 20 minutes.

There should be no pain when they’re removed, and the needles should be discarded once used to prevent infection.

After the appointment, you may feel either relaxed or energized. Either sensation is completely normal.

Acupuncture vs. Acupressure

Acupuncture
Acupressure
Needles are used
Fingers are usually used
Faster relief
Gradual relief, but also has benefit of massage
Need bare skin
Can work through clothing
Acupuncturists need to be TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) certification
Can be learned from a book/no certification needed
Multiple points are worked at once
One point is worked at a time
Although both techniques are based on the same principles, there are a few fundamental differences.

How Many Appointments Do You Need?

This is a question that your therapist will discuss with you. Because the energy system is so dynamic, it changes subtly every day.

However, when you’ve been suffering with a problem for a long time, the block may be harder to remove. When blocks are particularly bad, you will need more appointments to take care of the problem. Generally, 6 to 12 appointments is the normal treatment regimen in acupuncture.

Because you can learn acupressure, you can continue that type of treatment whenever you feel you need it. This is particularly useful when coping with high stress levels over a long period of time.

Drawbacks

Like all types of treatment, there are a few drawbacks.

Expense
Since the vast majority of health insurance companies don’t pay for acupuncture.

However, there may be discount packages available depending on the company and your area. The individual practitioners may be willing to offer you a payment plan or sliding scale depending on income as well.

Repeated Visits
Because it’s not a method that works on a systemic instead of symptomatic level, you need to go back for repeated treatments to permanently cure the ailment.

Might Not Work
Acupuncture and acupressure doesn’t work for everyone. Generally, if you don’t feel any improvement after a few weeks after the treatment, it’s a good indicator to seek a different therapy.

Side Effects
When done properly, acupuncture has no side effects.

Acupuncturists need to be fully trained and have TCM certification. TCM stands for “Traditional Chinese Medicine”, and many modern acupuncture schools also require their students study aspects of western medicine as well.

If you’re pregnant and seeking acupressure or acupuncture treatment, use caution. There are points around the ankles which can trigger labor or miscarriage in early pregnancy. Well trained practitioners know this, but if you don’t feel right about something that’s happening, speak up.

Acupuncture and acupressure are fascinating options for treatment, but like all health care, it’s best to do your research before taking the plunge.

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    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 3 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thank you!

    • Sushma Webber profile image

      Sushma Webber 3 years ago from New Zealand

      I have always found acupuncture very helpful. Great article!

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      It's pretty amazing stuff. I learned a little bit of it during my stint at massage school, and a bit more through independent study. There's a point just under each knee that I used regularly to wake myself up when I was working two jobs and going to school full time.

      I've heard of those bracelets, too, though I've never tried them myself.

      Thanks for the comment, vote and pin! :)

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      I've often thought of trying acupressure. These "ancient" treatments must be good since they have been around so long. Also, I know that the sea sick bracelets some people wear when sick work wonders. I think that is a form of acupressure. Up and interesting. Pinned too.

    • ESPeck1919 profile image
      Author

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Thank you! Do you happen to have a link to your hub? I may be a little on the blind side, but I can't seem to find it on your page.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Splendid hub. I think a link to my hub on Finding An Acupuncturist would complement our hubs nicely.