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Dr. Alyssa Quimby discusses: acupuncture basics

Acupuncture – what’s up with those needles?!

By Alyssa Wittenberg, MD

Acupuncture has become the most accepted “alternative therapy” by Western medicine practitioners and most likely you know someone who has had it done.
So what is acupuncture all about and how can it help you?
This will be a series of posts exploring what acupuncture can do to help our lady parts…so if you’re intrigued…keep reading!

The history:
Acupuncture comes from the Latin words “acus” and “punctura” which means “needle penetration”.  It originated in China over 2000 years ago and first became popular in the US in the 1970s.  Acupuncture is based on the Chinese medicine theory that in order for the body to function at its best, it must be balanced.  In order to maintain this balance our internal energy called Qi, (pronounced “Chi”) needs to flow freely through channels in our body called meridians.  Kind of like a garden hose with a kink in it, if our Qi is blocked, our energy can’t flow as efficiently which can manifest as aches, pains, or other ailments.  By using acupuncture needles at up to 365 points corresponding to 14 different channels, our balance can be restored.  Sounds pretty great huh?!

What to expect:
Acupuncture treatments are individualized to you (ie, not everyone with pelvic pain will have needles placed in the same points).  To determine what your particular imbalance is, you will likely be asked a series of questions and be examined (including looking at your tongue and checking your pulses).  The number of treatments recommended for your particular ailment will be determined by your acupuncturist.
It may be recommended that you avoid strenuous exercise and alcohol consumption while undergoing treatment, but be sure to ask about this at your first visit.

Does it hurt?
The short answer is…no, it shouldn’t.  If you experience pain during acupuncture, make sure you tell your acupuncturist so they can adjust the needles accordingly.
There are several possible sensations during acupuncture depending on the point being stimulated and how you as an individual respond to it.
These possible sensations include:

  • Heaviness – like a weight is being placed on you and spreads through your body
  • Achy – a slight ache can occur at the needling site that usually dissipates after a few seconds
  • Electric – like you’ve just had a small shock which can be somewhat surprising but is not dangerous (some points are more likely to give you this sensation)
  • Tingly – this can occur during needle insertion or when you are resting with the needles
  • Warm – this sensation will often spread from the insertion point a few minutes after the needle is placed.  It can be relaxing and calming 

How much does it cost?
The good news is that most insurance companies are now covering acupuncture so it could cost you as little as your co-pay!  Contact your insurance company to find out if acupuncture is covered and which providers you can see.
If you don’t have insurance coverage, most acupuncturists charge between $75 and $150 for your initial visit and between $50 and $75 for follow up visits.

My next post…
Using acupuncture to help with ovulation!

For more general info on acupuncture visit the following sites:
UpToDate – Acupuncture
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)


May 26, 2013

Original post published: 

* Content reviewed annually for accuracy 

  1. The best alternatives for treating stress are traditional medicines like acupuncture, especially for women who sometimes experience hormonal imbalance. My first experience with it was in Miami and I can say that I believe in acupuncture.

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