Acupuncture, a form of Chinese medicine that involves placing very thin needles in the body, is a last resort for most people, but it is actually an affordable, effective, safe, and holistic alternative to the established medical model in this country. The goal is to look at symptoms in relation to the entire body in order to achieve balance. We spoke to Robert Weinstein, a highly rated and licensed acupuncturist in Seattle, Washington, who has help thousands of clients overcome illness and injuries.
Just recently, he treated a woman with severe arthritis in her ankle. She had a surgery scheduled in a few months, but was in so much pain that she was hoping acupuncture could at least help in the meantime. She saw a 90 percent improvement with the pain and actually canceled the surgery and is now able to go hiking and go on long walks. Another woman had life long chronic allergies and after six months, saw significant improvement and was able to stop taking prescription medications. He’s managed to help another woman with kidney disease postpone dialysis.
But what does acupuncture and is it for you? Read on and decide for yourself.
What is Acupuncture?
“Acupuncture is part of a system of traditional Asian medicine that originally comes from China,” Weinstein says. “When a client comes in, we try to strengthen and restore their life force (or chi) and remove any obstructions that are blocking the flow of chi that can cause illness or pain.” That’s done by inserting very thin needles into specific points of the body that influence the energy flow and help the body heal itself in a natural way.
What is Acupuncture Good For?
“I specialize in treating chronic pain and acute injury rehabilitation,” Weinstein says, “but acupuncture can help with so many things.” For example, it may be useful for:
- Back pain, neck pain, knee pain, hand and foot pain, wrist and ankle pain, sciatic pain, nerve pain, arthritis, sports injuries, work related injuries, TMJ, and carpal tunnel
- Whiplash and injuries from automobile accidents
- Migraine and tension headaches
- Menstrual cramping
- Herniated discs
- Emotional issues: Anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia
- Women’s health: Prenatal & post partum care, menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, symptoms of menopause and infertility
- Pediatric Acupuncture: Bed wetting, digestive upset, ear infection, allergies, hyperactivity and injury treatment
- Digestive disorders: Heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, diarrhea and constipation
- Respiratory problems: Asthma, acute & chronic cough, allergies and chronic sinus problems
- Men’s Health: Erectile dysfunction, impotence, male infertility, urination difficulties and prostate problems
- Miscellaneous Conditions: Fatigue, Adrenal fatigue, vertigo and dizziness, eye and vision problems, tooth, jaw and dental issues
When I Should Get Acupuncture?
Many people turn to acupuncture as a last resort, but Weinstein suggests if you think you should make a doctor’s appointment, you should see an acupuncturist first. “An acupuncturist can tackle most basic common family practice type problems without suppressing the system using pharmaceuticals. Unless it’s a life-threatening problem, I recommend that the first thing you do is see an acupuncturist for four to five sessions.” He says if that doesn’t solve the problem, then you should discuss how to proceed.
That being said, you don’t need to be sick or have something wrong to get acupuncture. It also helps with stress management, relaxation, and just keeping your body in good working order. “I approach people as if they were a musical instrument that’s out of tune,” Weinstein says. “Some things might be too loose or too tight just because of hard work and hard play. The human body needs its energy to be tuned up and fined tuned on a regular basis.”
Does Acupuncture Really Work?
There’s a good reason that acupuncture has been around for over 2000 years and that’s because patients have found that it really does work. Still, Weinstein says that it depends on the nervous system. “It’s not actually about the condition,” he points out. “Rather, some people just respond better to it. If you’re in good health and taking care of yourself, there’s a good chance it will work very well.” But even if you’re not, he says he sees success of varying degrees in nine out of 10 of his patients.
What Happens During Acupuncture?
First, your acupuncturist will meet with you to discuss your overall health and what’s bothering you. Then, you’ll lie on a treatment table and the acupuncturist will tap very thin needles into your skin at different points to stimulate various areas of your body. Usually anywhere from six to eight needles are used, unless more than one condition is being treated, in which case ten or more may be used. The needles then stay in for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
“Acupuncture is nothing like getting an injection,” Weinstein says. The needles are actually much thinner and finer (“like a human hair”) than injection needles and the insertion is not a painful experience. Most people actually feel minimal or no discomfort. “There is a chance that if you’re incredibly needle-phobic, you might have issues,” he says, “but only because there’s too much anxiety and you can’t relax.” And even then, he says that’s very rare.
How Many Sessions Will I Need?
“A typical course of treatments is anywhere from 5 to 10 to 15 sessions, depending upon the severity of the issue,” Weinstein says. “You may, however, experience temporary relief after just the first couple of sessions. And most people see a breakthrough after four.” He suggests patients get treatment at least once a week though some people benefit from going more often.
Are There Any Risks?
“Just like any medical procedure there are some risks, but in general acupuncture is extremely safe,” Weinstein says. “Sometimes people will feel a little tired after a session and sometimes the main symptom can be temporarily slightly aggravated, but that’s the body’s natural healing response and you’ll see a big improvement after that.” In addition, while you may go in to treat one thing, like chronic neck pain, you’ll be pleased to find that there are often other side effects, like less anxiety and better sleep.
How Should I Find a Provider?
Weinstein recommends you find someone who has at least five years of experience. You also want a licensed practitioner, which requires three to four years of specialized study, and ensures your provider has training and follows specific guidelines. (Note: there are a few states where acupuncture is not licensed). You should also check reviews online at places like Thumbtack to see what other people are saying and what their experience was like.
Robert Weinstein is a licensed acupuncturist who has been a trusted source of healing and wellness at Sourcepoint Acupuncture in the Seattle, Washington area for over ten years. You can find him on his website and on Thumbtack.