Dr. Gopaul has a post-doctorate study in acupuncture and certification in dry needling.
Acupuncture for Natural, Whole-Body Health & Wellness
When you have health problems, it’s not unusual to seek advice from family and friends. Among the treatment suggestions is often alternative medicine, most notably acupuncture. Here, we will discuss what acupuncture is, the diseases and symptoms it treats, as well as how and why it works. We will also discuss safety and the importance of choosing the right physician.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an alternative whole-body health treatment that can relieve pain and treat a variety of health conditions. Rooted in a tradition of Chinese medicine going back 5,000 years, acupuncture treats pain and illness by inserting small sterile needles into pressure points on the body. It is a holistic treatment, meaning that it integrates physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and lifestyle needs.
Selecting The Right Acupuncturist
You wouldn’t see a medical doctor that you didn’t trust or who wasn’t qualified, and you should think of your acupuncturist the same way. The most important factor should be whether the physician has completed additional coursework in the discipline of acupuncture.
Acupuncture as an Alternative Medicine
Alternative medicine is a catch-all term that encompasses everything not viewed as Western medicine. Acupuncture is just one practice that falls under that umbrella. Acupressure, massage therapy, dry needling, and herbal medicine are all treatments that have a long tradition of healing outside the boundaries of Western medicine. This doesn’t mean that one way of treatment is better than another. Many patients use both Western medicine and alternative therapies to manage acute or chronic conditions. Some medical schools and hospital networks are even starting integrative health initiatives. Such programs pair traditional medical services with alternative treatments to engage patients in a truly holistic treatment plan.
Dr. Gopaul has a post-doctorate study in acupuncture and certification in dry needling. Continued study is an important part of the selection process for an acupuncturist. Since these techniques have deep roots in history while having also developed over time, you'll want to make sure your acupuncturist takes an active role in their continued education of the subject.
Other factors to consider when choosing a provider are the location of the practice, hours, the price per visit and whether they accept insurance, and what their specialty is. Since acupuncture treats many different problems, you’ll want to make sure your acupuncturist has a record of treating your specific condition.
Diseases, Symptoms or Conditions Commonly Treated
A common misconception is that acupuncture only treats pain. While it has been highly touted and widely praised for its effectiveness in treating migraines, back pain, and chronic pain like fibromyalgia, there’s so much more. Acupuncture can treat morning sickness from pregnancy, acute dental pain, nausea, and vomiting. Acupuncture can even help to safely and gently induce labor. Acupuncture opens blood vessels and improves circulation, which provides relief for patients with Raynaud’s syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is frequently used by chemotherapy patients to reduce nausea and vomiting and improve appetite.
The Science behind the Effectiveness of Acupuncture
Acupuncture is considered a traditional Chinese medicine based on ancient philosophy. The body exists in partnership and opposition to the universe, described as the yin and the yang. When yin and yang are balanced, the body is healthy. Energy flows unimpeded through the body, but the body falls out of balance if the energy gets blocked. Illness, pain, functionality, and quality of life can be affected. So, acupuncture serves to release energy blocks, in addition to stimulating natural healing and activating the body’s immune system.
Acupuncture achieves this by focusing on pressure points within the body that can release energy, also known as acupoints. Most commonly, practitioners stimulate acupoints by inserting an extremely fine sterilized needle into the skin. Sometimes, this is all that is needed. Other times, needles can be combined with heat, pressure, or electrical stimulation to enhance healing. When correctly performed, acupuncture can promote healing, reduce pain, improve sleep, and aid in solving issues with breathing and digestion.
How Acupuncture Affects the Body
Acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system, which encompasses the brain and spinal cord. The central nervous system controls movement, sensation, coordination, speech, and memory. By inserting needles into acupoints, you stimulate muscles and sensory neurons within the central nervous system. In turn, your body releases endorphins into the spinal cord, brain, and muscles. These chemicals promote the body’s natural healing processes and block pain signals in the brain. Other experts believe that the fascia, or sheath around the muscles, acts as a conductor for signals transmitted by the acupuncture process. The energy pathways are connected with the fascia, so some acupoints actually affect other areas of the body.
Why Acupuncture Works
Nobody knows for sure why acupuncture works. However, thanks to acupuncture, people have gotten relief from debilitating pain, chronic illness, and acute injury for thousands of years. Those knowledgeable about alternative medicine will maintain that the success of acupuncture comes from unblocking energy. After all, acupuncture does increase blood flow and stimulate the nervous system to improve healing and decrease inflammation.
However, a March 2017 study in the journal Brain goes even further. Researchers studying the use of acupuncture in carpal tunnel sufferers found two quantitative results after eight weeks of treatment. The first showed that there was a measurable increase in electrical conductivity through the compressed tendon after acupuncture. The second, found through fMRIs of study participants, showed that acupuncture actually altered the brain’s pain pathways. These results are particularly promising for stroke patients who essentially have to rewire their brains in recovery.
Treatment should be a relaxing, peaceful time for you to focus on healing. Your acupuncturist should communicate with you about what they are doing, and you should not be afraid to communicate with them, either. After all, it is your body. Speak up about discomfort or pain, or anything you see about their treatment process that concerns you. Remember, like in any medical situation, you are your own best advocate.
Risks & Safety
There are always certain risks involved with any medical treatment. That is why it is essential to make sure your acupuncturist follows safety protocols. Since disposable, sterile, single-use needles are now the norm, safety risks are relatively small. Practitioners should also swab the insertion site with alcohol before inserting the needles. The FDA, which regulates acupuncturists, reports a negligible incidence of severe side effects. Pre-treatment suggestions:
Avoid alcohol and caffeine
After acupuncture, your body needs to flush out toxins. Alcohol and caffeine both dehydrate you, which will not help remove toxins. Instead, drink plenty of water.
Use heat on sore spots
Bruising and soreness are not uncommon at acupoints. Use a warm compress on sore spots to hasten healing and continue releasing blocked energy.
Get lots of rest
Yes, physical rest is essential. Even though acupuncture is less invasive than surgery, it’s still hard on your body. But mental rest is just as important while your body is healing itself. Giving your body and spirit some quiet and rest will allow the healing energy released during acupuncture to continue flowing.
When you go to your first acupuncture appointment, your practitioner will want to know what medical conditions you have and what medications you take. They will discuss your specific health issues, family history, sleep patterns, diet and digestion, and psychological and emotional health.
After that, it’s time to get started with treatment! You’ll get a gown to change into, or they’ll ask you to roll up shirts or pants, so make sure to wear comfortable clothes that are easy to maneuver. Your acupuncturist will remove the needles from their sterile packaging and get to work.
The needles themselves are hair-thin and have a blunt end to reduce any bleeding. They are placed along the appropriate points to treat your condition, at depths from mere fractions of an inch to as deep as one to two inches. You may feel a prick as the needle goes in. If your acupuncturist uses stimulation of any kind, they will do so, and then it’s just a matter of waiting.. Some people even fall asleep at this point!
Acupuncture shouldn’t hurt. It should be relaxing, and a time for you to rest and focus on your body and healing. You might feel mildly sore, or some numbness and tingling at the insertion points, but you should not feel pain.
If you do experience real pain, tell your acupuncturist! You also might feel an intense heaviness, which is a sign that the treatment is working. During your treatment course, the acupuncturist will experiment with different acupoints and different needle techniques to optimize your healing. Be sure to answer questions honestly, as this will help your doctor tailor your treatment plan.
After the treatment, you may feel tired for a few days. Because acupuncture releases energy, you might find yourself overly emotional or overcome with memories. This is normal and is considered a healthy response to acupuncture. Be sure to tell your provider if symptoms worsen or become unmanageable, especially if there is pain involved.
Acupuncture is one of the most accessible and accepted forms of traditional Chinese medicine. It is a painless procedure that works with your body by releasing blocked energy to promote healing. Although acupuncture is most well-known for treating chronic and acute pain, it can successfully treat other conditions. Morning sickness and other difficulties of pregnancy, carpal tunnel, and circulatory problems respond well to acupuncture.
Always do your research - experience is a must when considering a provider. A good provider is one that makes you feel safe, who engages in sterile procedures, and who you trust. Once you find the right physician, you can look forward to increased energy and reduced pain and inflammation levels. Give acupuncture a chance to treat your pain or illness. It’s minimally invasive and has a reputation of working when other treatments have failed.