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Acupuncture points are specific areas on the body just beyond the surface of the skin. They have high concentrations of nerve endings, mast cells, lymphatic vessels, and capillaries. When an acupuncture needle is inserted into an acupuncture point, it stimulates the sensory receptor, which in turn stimulates the nerve, which then transmits impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. This complex system of interactions (often called a “feedback loop”) between the brain, hormones, and glands is responsible for regulating a number of bodily processes. Because acupuncture helps to regulate the various feedback loops in your body, it actually activates your body’s self-healing response.

First-time patients are concerned that acupuncture will feel like the injections from a hypodermic needle. It doesn’t. Acupuncture uses hair-thin, flexible needles that feel like a slight pinch or pressure upon insertion, or may not be felt at all. Gentle stimulation of the needles produces a unique sensation that oriental medicine calls De Qi. Patients describe this sensation as heavy, achy pressure, or a spreading, traveling feeling. You may also feel an electrical sensation moving along the meridian pathways. Most patients find these sensations deeply satisfying and intriguing. Most importantly, patients leave feeling deeply relaxed mentally and physically.

It is extremely rare for just one acupuncture session to be enough to resolve an issue. Benefits of acupuncture are gained cumulatively, so more than one treatment is highly recommended. Generally, for acute conditions, at least 5-15 treatments are needed before significant improvement is felt, although it is not unusual for patients to have some relief after one session. Chronic conditions usually take longer to respond, but if a patient is feeling absolutely no improvement after 6 sessions they would be encouraged to seek an alternate form of medical care.

Results vary greatly depending on the individual, issue, severity, and duration of the condition. Treatments for prevention and for general well-being are recommended and may be scheduled on an as-needed basis.

Since acupuncture works cumulatively, it is essential to get treatments close to each other at first so that benefits from each treatment are sustained until the next. For acute conditions or severe flare-ups of chronic conditions, 2-3 sessions per week are recommended until major symptoms are reduced. At that point, sessions can be tapered down to once a week or less. It is also important to schedule a session if you start to feel yourself “backsliding” and your next scheduled appointment isn't for a week or longer.

Ideally, acupuncture should be done as a preventive measure. Many people receive acupuncture every other week, once a month, or once every season as a way to keep their immune systems strong, reduce stress, and maintain the results of previous sessions.