Acupuncture works by restoring the body’s natural healing powers. Acupuncture involves placing very thin needles into specific points on the body to influence the body’s energy flow and help the body heal itself in a natural way. In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture is linked to the belief that disease is caused by disruptions to the flow of energy (called qi in Chinese) in the body. The acupuncturist places whisper-thin needles into the arms, back, neck and other areas where the chi (or energy flow) has been blocked. The acupuncture needles stimulate points on or under the skin called acupuncture points or acupressure points, releasing this qi. These pathways — called “meridians” — become re-stimulated by the needles to bring blood and healing to the body. In Western medicine, acupuncture has been proved to relieve pain and help provide healing and relief from painful symptoms associated with everything from headaches to asthma to cancer. Western medicine sees the use of the needles as a way to stimulate the body’s nervous system, thereby prompting healing.
There are many proven health benefits of acupuncture, whether you’re seeking short-term relief or need help with a chronic health condition. This alternative healing is likely why millions of adults nationwide get acupuncture treatments each year. Acupuncture provides pain relief, can help speed the body’s natural healing process, and has also been proved to have positive outcomes on mental health concerns such as depression. Acupuncture can also help relieve discomfort associated with chronic and terminal illnesses. For example, acupuncture has been proved to be effective in helping cancer patients manage pain, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, hot flashes, xerostomia (dry mouth), neuropathy (nervous system problems), anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances, according to Cancer.gov. Acupuncture is a safe and effective alternative to opioids and other pain medications, which not only are hard on the body but also present the risk of addiction. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services found that people had less pain or were better able to manage pain when they received acupuncture as part of their health treatment.
Reiki is a type of wellness bodywork, often referred to as energy work, that originated in Japan. Reiki practitioners offer this traditional healing technique with the intent of manipulating the flow of energy through the client’s body. Unlike massage, Reiki uses minimal — if any — pressure, focusing on stimulating energy flow rather than working the soft tissue and muscles. This movement of energy is done to improve mental, emotional and physical health. Reiki is touted for its stress relief and ability to ease tension. It can also improve mental clarity, release stress and tension, manage pain, or help with spiritual growth. It is said that Reiki practitioners act as a channel for a universal life force to help support a client’s natural ability to heal. Reiki sessions often last 30 to 90 minutes, with prices varying based on session length, background and experience of the provider, and where you live. Nationally, the average price range for a Reiki session is $60-$80.
Naturopathic medicine is classified as an alternative healing method, but licensed naturopathic doctors share some of the same academic background as conventional medical doctors and can often prescribe some medications. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), naturopathic medicine is holistic care that addresses a wide range of problems including (but not limited to) allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Naturopathic medicine aims to strengthen and empower the body and its organs to heal itself through low-force interventions. Here are some examples of the type of medical services often provided by naturopathic doctors, as cited by the AANP:
- Clinical and laboratory diagnostic testing
- Nutritional medicine
- Botanical medicine
- Naturopathic physical medicine (including naturopathic manipulative therapy)
- Minor surgery
- Intravenous and injection therapy
- Naturopathic obstetrics (natural childbirth)
Acupuncture can be helpful for treating a wide variety of conditions ranging from cancer to headaches to sciatic nerve pain. It may also 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 and postpartum care, menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, endometriosis, symptoms of menopause and infertility
- Pediatric problems such as bedwetting, digestive upset, ear infection, allergies, hyperactivity and injury treatment
- Digestive disorders such as heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and constipation
- Respiratory problems such as asthma, acute and chronic cough, allergies, and chronic sinus problems
- Men’s health problems such as erectile dysfunction, impotence, male infertility, urination difficulties and prostate problems
- Miscellaneous conditions such as fatigue, adrenal fatigue, vertigo and dizziness, eye and vision problems, and tooth, jaw and dental issues
Many naturopathic doctors accept insurance, but a separate question is whether your insurance covers alternative and naturopathic services. There are several steps you can take to find out:
- Verify whether you live in one of the 20 states that currently licenses naturopathic physicians:
- Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
- Confirm whether your insurance will cover naturopathic medical services. Read your insurance plan’s fine print, verify whether naturopathic doctors fall into your insurance carrier’s definition of a doctor, and confirm that the care you are receiving is considered medically necessary. Questions to ask your insurance provider could include:
- Am I covered for this treatment by a naturopathic physician?
- Do I need a referral?
- Is there a list of approved naturopathic doctors in my network?
- What will the co-pay be?
- Are there limits to my naturopathic coverage?
- Before seeking medical care, it’s key to understand the difference between a naturopathic doctor and a naturopath. Anyone may advertise themselves as a naturopath, while to be a licensed naturopathic doctor, a person must complete academic and clinical training.
Reiki is a form of bodywork that involves the “laying on of hands” to heal. In Reiki, a client lies down, clothed, and allows the energy worker to pass their hands slowly over their body, sometimes physically touching the body and sometimes hovering above it, to help create healing movement in their energy. This movement of energy is said to help the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
According to the International Association of Reiki Professionals, the practice of Reiki was developed by Dr. Mikao Usui in the early 1900s. The doctor sought to create a healing practice that wasn’t attached to any religion or religious belief so that all people could use it. The healing power of Reiki is said to come from a universal life force, and the Reiki practitioner is like a channel or conduit for the healing energy that is present in all living organisms. The Reiki practitioner can sense energy blockages and help restore flow, which in turn can help create emotional, physical, spiritual or mental wellness.
An acupuncture treatment is a type of integrative health care session that uses needles (and sometimes heat and/or electrical stimulation) to stimulate the body’s nervous system to begin a healing process. Long practiced in traditional Chinese medicine and other Eastern cultures, acupuncture has gained widespread acceptance and use as a complementary and integrative part of healing in Western medicine. During an acupuncture treatment, the patient lies in a relaxed position on a table that is very similar to a massage table. The acupuncturist, having done a diagnosis of health concerns and determined a course of treatment, will insert thin stainless steel needles into the prescribed acupuncture points. These points are determined by the patient’s health needs. The practitioner may gently manipulate the needles to trigger a healing response in the body. Typically there is no pain associated with the treatment. A session may use anywhere from 6-30 needles or more, depending on what illness is being treated. The needles can remain in place for 5-30 minutes, with 15 minutes being a common time. Acupuncture treatments are often prescribed in a series, based on patient need.
Acupuncture is a centuries-old traditional Chinese medicine practice that has been incorporated into mainstream Western health practices due to its proven healing powers. After a thorough health intake and diagnosis, acupuncturists insert hair-thin needles into targeted acupuncture points on the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, energy (qi) channels (meridians) run throughout the body, and when any of these meridians are blocked the body suffers. Inserting acupuncture needles frees any blocks in the meridians and allows the qi to flow once more, enabling the body to come back into balance. According to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, the scientific explanation in Western medicine is that “needling the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.” Well-designed studies have found that acupuncture can help with conditions such as back pain, knee pain, headaches and osteoarthritis.
How often you need acupuncture really depends on the health condition that is being treated. Acute issues such as a pulled groin or short-term digestion problems will likely require fewer treatments than a chronic disease such as some types of cancer. Dr. Lee Hullender Rubin, speaking with the Acupuncture Now Foundation, likens acupuncture sessions to a “dose” of medication prescribed by a doctor. If you have a condition like high blood pressure and are prescribed a medication to treat it, you wouldn’t take one dosage and be done. Likewise, for ongoing health conditions, Dr. Hullender Rubin explains that more than one session of acupuncture is likely in order. “For pain-related diseases, it seems 12 to 20 sessions is a reasonable intervention to achieve stable results,” says Dr. Hullender Rubin. For more acute (short-term) conditions, Dr. Tony Chon says that treatment might consist of two to six acupuncture sessions.