What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture has been embraced across cultures for nearly three millennia, due to its simplicity and effectiveness at healing a broad spectrum of pain and illness. It takes the entire body’s health into account, even when addressing specific symptoms. Drawing on Daoist principles like Yin-Yang, it focuses on balancing energy pathways in the body, improving local circulation, clearing pathogenic obstructions, and optimizing organ function. This makes acupuncture a very versatile medicine—it can be used successfully for a wide range of health concerns, from acute injury and chronic pain to hormonal imbalances, immunity issues, digestive problems and mental/emotional imbalances.
What is acupuncture like?
Hair-thin, sterile, disposable needles, moxa (herbal heat therapy), and/or other methods are used to stimulate points along energy pathways in order to promote energetic balance, circulation and healing. Most times, needles are shallowly inserted and left in the body for anywhere from 10-30 minutes, after which another round might be administered from a different position or using a different strategy. A variety of different techniques may be used. For patients who are extremely needle-sensitive, various non-needle techniques are available. Treatments are always tailored to the unique needs of the individual patient. Generally treatments are surprisingly relaxing—not painful. Patients leave feeling nourished and rejuvenated.
Is acupuncture painful?
It's only natural to have trepidation about needles after experiencing the discomfort of hypodermic syringes! By comparison, acupuncture needles are a walk in the park, only a tiny fraction of the size and not hollow. Special methods are used by your practitioner during insertion to minimize the sensation, and most patients find acupuncture utterly painless, or at most feel a brief pinch, twinge, or mild ache now and then. As a rule the Japanese-style needle insertion at Bridge is especially gentle and shallow, using the smallest gauge needles. Still, everyone has a different level of sensitivity to acupuncture needles. From the beginning, we’ll use your feedback to determine a treatment plan appropriate to your level of comfort. For children and the highly sensitive we employ a wide variety of non-needle techniques, so please read more about our services.
What kind of training do acupuncturists get?
Acupuncture takes many years to master, and a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac) has gone through a rigorous, 3 to 4-year master’s degree program, has spent hundreds of hours in clinical internship, has passed stringent national board examinations, and is subject to state licensing and annual continuing education requirements. Most acupuncturists, including those at our practice, also pursue extensive specialized training beyond that required by law.
Though other medical professionals like MDs, physical therapists and chiropractors sometimes take an interest in acupuncture or "dry needling" (rudimentary orthopedic acupuncture) and attempt to practice it after very limited training, a professional licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) will be more likely to offer the skill, safety and experience you need to get results. (In the acupuncture profession we have an odd struggle between fighting for recognition by mainstream medicine, and mainstream medicine wanting to "be" us...!)
How fast does acupuncture to work?
It depends! We treat everything from the high school athlete with a hamstring strain, to the peri-menopausal woman with recent onset of hot flashes, to the middle-aged man with decades of acid reflux, to the octogenarian with severe diabetic neuropathy. As you can imagine from these cases, the course of treatment and speed of recovery is highly individualized, and may hinge on things like age, health history and lifestyle. Acupuncture can sometimes bring immediate relief, though a few weekly sessions might be needed to get a meaningful shift. Or, we may need to try more than one approach, as with any therapy or medicine.
How much treatment will I need?
We can give you our best instincts on your prognosis and the initial recommended course of follow-ups at your first session. As a general rule of thumb we tell patients to anticipate 3 to 5 weekly sessions to see if acupuncture can make an impact, after which we reassess. With most chronic conditions acupuncture has a cumulative effect after a series of treatments, so it's important to keep your initial course of follow-ups fairly close together, usually a week apart.
Slow-to-recover or very complex conditions may continue to benefit from treatment on a regular schedule, whereas some cases can play it by ear once symptoms abate. Many patients love the relaxation and preventative benefits of acupuncture and voluntarily opt for a treatment on a weekly, monthly or seasonal basis.
Why is acupuncture safe?
We use only sterile, one-use disposable needles and take precautions to maintain a safe and hygienic environment. With the use of such precautions, infection from acupuncture needles is virtually nonexistent. Since we are highly trained and use extremely thin needles and only shallow needling techniques, injury from deep puncture is also extremely unlikely. Due to the low likelihood of possible complications, acupuncture is, without exaggeration, one of the safest forms of medicine you could consider. The most common "side effect" is very slight bruising at a needle site (maybe one out of one hundred points). Acupuncture doesn’t add anything to the body, it just works with your body’s own energy and healing potential. Therefore, when practiced safely by a properly trained acupuncturist it is free of harmful side effects.
What conditions does acupuncture treat?
By tapping into the patient’s innate healing power, acupuncture can help in recovery from many health concerns. Patients should consult their medical doctor to understand all treatment options, but can consider using acupuncture as support with many conditions, including:
• Acute and chronic pain: arthritis, headache, migraine, muscle tension, fibromyalgia, phantom pain, post-operative pain
• Injuries and accidents: joint and muscle sprains and strains, fractures, whiplash, scar tissue, herniated discs, brain injury , sports injury
• Repetitive strain: tendinitis, tendinopathy, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fascia pain, Morton's neuroma, chronic joint pain
• Nerve pain and dysfunction: sciatica, radiculopathy, numbness, neuropathy, tremor, ticks, trigeminal neuralgia, Bell's palsy
• Neurological: post-stroke recovery (paralysis, loss of speech, cognitive dysfunction, proprioceptive loss); post-concussive syndrome (headache, difficulty focusing, cognitive issues); neuro-degenerative disease; Lyme's disease; neuropathy; trigeminal neuralgia; Bell's palsy
• Cancer support: chemotherapy and radiation symptoms, surgery symptoms, fatigue, suppressed immunity, weight loss, nausea, stress, pain
• Psychological support: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, stress, trauma, PTSD, ADHD
• Women’s health: menstrual irregularities, PMS, cramps, fibroids, ovarian cysts, PCOS, peri-menopausal symptoms, hot flashes, heavy bleeding, C-section scars , pelvic pain and dysfunction
• Symptoms during and after pregnancy: morning sickness, pain, lactation-related issues, post-partum depression and anxiety, C-section scars
• Hormonal imbalances: diabetes, hypothyroid, hyperthyroid, adrenal exhaustion, pituitary imbalances, low testosterone
• Digestive issues: nausea, IBS, constipation, loose stool, gallbladder dysfunction, gastritis, acid reflux/GERD, colitis, Crohn’s, SIBO, sensitive digestion
• Immune support: allergies, hay fever, asthma, chronic or acute ear and upper respiratory infections, frequent colds, flu, and bronchitis, effects of chronic infections like Lyme's disease
• Skin issues: acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, scars, hives, unusual hair growth or loss
• Autoimmune: Rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, scleroderma, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, interstitial cystitis, MS
• Cognitive: fatigue and low energy, poor concentration, memory loss, insomnia
• Cardiovascular: Reynaud’s disease, erectile dysfunction, low and high blood pressure, palpitations, arrhythmia, edema
• Sensory: vertigo, Meniere's syndrome, motion sickness, tinnitus, hypersensitivity
• Fertility and reproductive health: infertility; support before and during IVF cycles
• Weight: sluggish metabolism, sugar and food addictions, poor appetite
• Detox: tobacco, alcohol, and drug addiction; side effects of anesthesia or pharmaceuticals
• Preventative: health maintenance, stress management
What does it mean that acupuncture treats the "whole body"?
In conventional health care our health problems are typically treated as isolated complaints with drugs or surgery. There's a time and place for this but with many conditions these interventions don't get to the root of why the problem developed in the first place, and may cause new complications. In contrast, traditional East Asian medicine looks at the interaction of your body, mind, lifestyle and environment in determining a treatment approach, recognizing your unique health story. Even while targeting the chief complaint, acupuncture works to treat underlying imbalances, which can improve the longevity of results and enable a variety of other symptoms to improve. During this process acupuncture guides patients to new knowledge about their body-mind continuum. A successful treatment will leave the patient feeling more educated about their body, and more in control of their condition.
How is Japanese style acupuncture different from Chinese style?
During the past 3,000 years, as acupuncture migrated from China across various regions, it has evolved and taken on the influence of a number of different cultures. There are innumerable different theoretical schools, diagnostic styles and techniques in acupuncture, but the foundation of all systems of traditional acupuncture lies in the classical Chinese texts and methods. In Japan, from as early as the Edo period (1602-1868), acupuncture had the peculiar history of being a profession primarily of the blind. As a direct result, Japanese acupuncture relies to a great extent on palpation (gathering information through touch), refined forms of pulse taking, and subtle, sensitive needling techniques. By comparison, Chinese acupuncture typically uses thicker gauge needles, deeper insertion, and stronger needling stimulation, often accompanied by electrical stimulation.
In another important distinction, Chinese medicine became standardized in China under the Communist regime. The resulting state-sanctioned system known as “Traditional Chinese Medicine” (TCM) is relatively convenient to teach in modern institutions, but most practitioners find it leaves something to be desired in terms of efficacy. It is a simplified system, frozen in time, versus other styles (Japanese and otherwise) which are free to evolve with research and free inquiry. We believe that diversity in styles of acupuncture is a positive thing, enabling discovery, innovation and patient choice.
How does Bridge Acupuncture strive to reduce environmental impact?
Practices that better care for our health and better care for the environment are often one and the same. Whenever possible we use recycled and organic materials, eco-friendly detergents, bulk packaging, biodegradable products, and non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products.