What is acupuncture?
The short answer is that acupuncture is the insertion of tiny, filiform (solid) needles into specific points on the body. Interestingly, many acupuncture points are located at intermuscular (between muscles) or intramuscular (within muscles) connective tissue planes. The long answer involves thousands of years of history and many different philosophies, but I am happy to discuss this with you at your appointment or give you resources to explore.
How does acupuncture work?
The traditional explanation is that acupuncture frees the flow of qi throughout the body and that imbalances in qi lead to pain or disease. There is an old saying “where there is pain there is no free flow; where there is free flow there is no pain.” However, as a scientist and a self-described nerd, I have read dozens of research articles on the subject, and as far as I can tell no one really knows exactly why acupuncture works. A fairly recent (2010) article in Nature Neuroscience found that acupuncture in mice released adenosine, a chemical neurons use to communicate with each other that has pain-blocking effects. This may account for the pain relieving effects of acupuncture but does not explain all the other wonderful things that acupuncture can do. (Fun fact: Caffeine causes most of its effects by antagonizing all types of adenosine receptors).
Does it hurt?
Not as much as most people expect. Acupuncture needles are solid, unlike hypodermic needles which have a beveled, cutting edge. There is sometimes a slight pricking sensation when the needle is first inserted, and frequently a slight dull, achy sensation (what acupuncturists call “de qi”) after the needles are in. My goal is for you to be able to rest comfortably, and some people are so comfortable that they actually fall asleep on the table.
What do I need to prepare for a treatment?
For your first treatment you will need to fill out the new patient paperwork and be prepared to answer a lot of questions that may seem to have nothing to do with your chief complaint. This is so that I can get a “big picture” idea of the factors that may be influencing your condition. Try to eat at least a little something before your treatment, otherwise you might be lying on the table listening to your stomach growl. (You might also want to use the restroom). Wear loose fitting clothes (or bring shorts) so that I can access the affected area as well as your lower legs and arms. If you forget, it’s no big deal-- flattering hospital gowns are available.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments will depend on the severity and duration of your condition. Acute issues may take only 2-4 treatments while chronic cases may take as many as 12 or more. You should start to notice a difference within the first few treatments. If you don’t, or if I am not seeing the kind of results I expect, I will refer you out so that you can get the most appropriate care for your condition.
How is sports acupuncture different from other types?
Sports acupuncture blends principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with Western Sports Medicine to assess and treat your sports, work, or life-related injury. Assessments may include range of motion and muscle strength tests, evaluation of posture and gait, and traditional pulse and tongue diagnosis. Specialized techniques, as described in the services section, may be used.
What about dry needling?
Dry needling is the use of a solid acupuncture needle or hollow hypodermic needle to induce a local twitch response in a myofascial trigger point. What do all those fancy and painful sounding words really mean? A dry needle (rather than one containing an injectable solution) is used to release those pesky muscle knots we all seem to get. The “knots” are trigger points, which are are painful when compressed, have a characteristic pain pattern, and can increase muscle tension and restrict range of motion. Physical therapists may offer the treatment, however they usually only take a weekend seminar on the technique, compared to the thousands of hours of hands-on experience required to graduate from acupuncture school. As an acupuncturist I also have a number of other techniques I can use to make trigger point needling less painful and more effective.
Kinesiology Taping FAQ
What is kinesiology tape?
Kinesiology tape was first used by acupuncturists and chiropractors in Japan and popularized by athletes in the Olympics. I use RockTape™, which is a super stretchy tape made from 97% cotton and 3% nylon with a hypo-allergenic, acrylic based adhesive.
Why use it?
RockTape™ has three primary functions: reduce inflammation and swelling, minimize pain, and cue form. It’s also amazing for helping to heal bruises.
How does it work?
The tape microscopically lifts the skin away from the muscles and fascia, essentially “fluffing up” the fascia to increase circulation and reduce swelling. It also communicates with the central nervous system (the brain) through sensory nerves on the skin, reducing pain. Have you ever rubbed your leg after bashing it into something? It works a bit like that--your brain is “too busy” sensing the tape to feel the pain.
How long do I leave it on?
Officially, RockTape™ sticks for 2-7 days. I think I once left a piece on for a week and a half, but you should take it off if the adhesive starts to bother you, the tape gets itchy, or the edges start to peel off.
Can it get wet?
Yes, absolutely. The tape is water resistant, and if you swim frequently there is an extra sticky tape available.
How do I take the tape off?
Once the edges start to peel, gently press your finger under the loose edge and roll the tape off over your finger, in the direction of hair growth. You could just yank it off like a bandaid, but you might take some skin and hair with it.