Good health is a group effort
This effort starts with you. Traditional Chinese medicine is a holistic system based on the balance of complementary forces of Yin and Yang working together. Let Lighthouse help you on your path to balance.
Acupuncture assists the body in maintaining good health, or in the case of acute and chronic ailments, by finding its way back to health. We may be unhealthy because we are born with imbalances, or we may develop them over time through our lifestyle, environment, or any combination thereof. Ailments are imbalances of the body’s qi, or life energy, which circulates throughout the body along meridians. When there is an interruption, depletion or stagnation, the system is disrupted and illness or pain can result. Acupuncture works by stimulating certain points with very fine needles along the meridians to rectify the flow of qi and let the body restore itself.
Acupuncture can be utilized in combination with Western treatments, as well as on its own. Many turn to acupuncture and Chinese medicine as a last resort when they have exhausted all other treatment options. This is unfortunate because acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are not only effective in resolving chronic issues, but they’re also extremely useful in maintaining good health and boosting your immune system. In short, acupuncture treatments can act as tune-ups to keep your system balanced and healthy.
Originating in the third century BC, Chinese herbal medicine focuses on using plants, flowers, and minerals for healing. Herbs have highly specific properties with which they target different characteristics of a condition.Throughout its history, Chinese herbal medicine has continually developed in response to changing clinical conditions and has been bolstered by research into every aspect of its use.
Herbs are classified as hot or cold, bitter or sweet, and more. When your illness is warmer in nature, cooling herbs are appropriate. The common cold, for example, may have heat signs such as fever, yellow phlegm, and a sore throat. Accordingly, your herb formula would include herbs of a cooler nature to clear the heat from you. This is a simple example, but it’s one that demonstrates how herbal formulas are determined to the individual needs of each patient. Herbs come in many forms, such as pills and teas. When used correctly under the guidance of your TCM practitioner, they are generally safe and rarely have side effects.
What should I expect on my first visit?
Your first visit is a very exciting time; you’ve chosen to approach your health holistically! Beginning with a thorough intake, I will ask you a series of questions to understand your current health. Please share any relevant information that you may have, such as diagnoses given to you by your primary care physician or specialist as well as any test results. I will check your pulse and take a look at your tongue, which are two major diagnostic tools in Chinese medicine. These give me indicators to the current state of your organ systems and qi. Practitioners of Chinese Medicine also double as detectives; the body, mind, and soul are being evaluated together and I want all pertinent information in order to accurately diagnose your condition.
Your diagnosis will determine where needles will be inserted and whether accessory techniques such as electrical stimulation, gua sha, cupping or moxibustion will be utilized (scroll down for accessory technique descriptions). Once inserted, needles will be left in place for roughly 30 minutes. You can expect your first visit to last about 90 minutes from start to finish.
How should I prepare for my first visit?
After you have made your appointment and filled out the initial paperwork and health history, you’re basically all set. It’s a good idea to have eaten within a couple of hours of your appointment, and give yourself time to arrive at Lighthouse free of stress. Avoid any rigorous activity before and after the appointment and refrain from alcohol or drug use; they disrupt your qi and can result in an inaccurate evaluation. If you include tongue brushing when cleaning your teeth, please refrain from doing so on the day of your appointment; tongue diagnosis is an integral part of the evaluation.
How many treatments are necessary?
The amount of acupuncture treatments needed depends entirely on the duration, severity and nature of your condition. Acute conditions tend to be resolved faster than more chronic conditions. If an ailment has had a very long onset, it may respond more slowly. Resolution of acute knee pain, for example, in an otherwise healthy person may take one treatment, depending on the severity of the symptoms. On the other hand, it may take months to achieve pregnancy in a woman with long-standing fertility issues.
A reasonable estimate can be given once the nature of the issue is understood. It is best to assess your progress over the first several visits and give the process at least four to six treatments.
Appointments are generally scheduled further and further apart once the desired results have been achieved. Once the chief complaint has resolved, you may want to return a couple of times per year for a check-up and slight rebalancing, especially around flu season when immune systems are easily compromised.
What can I expect after an acupuncture treatment?
Responses to acupuncture vary. Many people feel very relaxed after their treatment. Depending on the symptoms for which you are seeking treatment, you may experience immediate relief on the first visit, or you may notice slight improvement that will build with each visit. On very rare occasions, some patients will feel no change, their pain may have traveled slightly, numbness may be replaced with tingling, etc. In all of these instances, there is no cause for concern. This is the body’s response, and you can be confident in knowing that things are moving and changing in order to improve. Your body is on its path to fixing itself, and we have to be patient with it. Just as it took time for you to get to a state of imbalance, it can take time to restore it.
What conditions have been effectively treated by acupuncture? What is it used for?
The World Health Organization has stated that acupuncture has shown and/or proven to be effective in treating the following:
- Abdominal pain (in acute gastroenteritis or due to gastrointestinal spasm)
- Acne vulgaris
- Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
- Alcohol dependence and detoxification
- Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
- Bell’s palsy
- Biliary colic
- Bronchial asthma
- Cancer pain
- Cardiac neurosis
- Cholecystitis, chronic, with acute exacerbation
- Competition stress syndrome
- Craniocerebral injury, closed
- Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
- Diabetes mellitus, non-insulin-dependent
- Dysentery, acute bacillary
- Dysmenorrhoea, primary
- Epidemic haemorrhagic fever
- Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
- Epistaxis, simple (without generalized or local disease)
- Eye pain due to subconjunctival injection
- Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
- Facial spasm
- Female infertility
- Female urethral syndrome
- Fibromyalgia and fasciitis
- Gastrokinetic disturbance
- Gouty arthritis
- Hepatitis B virus carrier status
- Herpes zoster (human (alpha) herpesvirus 3)
- Hypertension, essential
- Hypotension, primary
- Induction of labour
- Knee pain
- Labor pain
- Lactation, deficiency
- Low back pain
- Male sexual dysfunction, non-organic
- Malposition of fetus, correction of
- Ménière disease
- Morning sickness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck pain
- Neuralgia, post-herpetic
- Opium, cocaine and heroin dependence
- Pain due to endoscopic examination
- Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
- Pain in thromboangiitis obliterans
- Periarthritis of shoulder
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (Stein-Leventhal syndrome)
- Postextubation in children
- Postoperative convalescence
- Postoperative pain
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Prostatitis, chronic
- Radicular and pseudoradicular pain syndrome
- Raynaud syndrome, primary
- Recurrent lower urinary-tract infection
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Renal colic
- Retention of urine, traumatic
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sialism, drug-induced
- Sjögren syndrome
- Sore throat (including tonsillitis)
- Spine pain, acute
- Stiff neck
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
- Tennis elbow
- Tietze syndrome
- Tobacco dependence
- Tourette syndrome
- Ulcerative colitis, chronic
- Vascular dementia
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
There is a constantly growing pool of studies and data substantiating acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating many other ailments, but the above is a short list to give you an idea of its beneficial scope.
How does it work?
For over 3000 years, acupuncture has been practiced in China and is still relied upon as a valuable healing tool. In TCM, no symptom or complaint is viewed in isolation. Rather, the body as a whole is treated. When there is an imbalance, shortage or blockage in the body’s normal, free-flowing qi, people develop signs and symptoms that point to a problem. The Pharmacopoeia of Acupuncture Points is then used to resolve the imbalance. For example, certain points on the spleen meridian are used to regulate water passages in
the body when someone has edema. Or a point on the liver meridian may be used for a headache caused by liver qi stagnation. The names of diseases Western medicine could actually have several different diagnoses in TCM. It is a very specific and tailored medicine precisely because it addresses the body’s entire system, and not just the immediate system(s) showing symptoms.
Here is a brief video explanation of how acupuncture works.
From a Western standpoint, many studies have shown that acupuncture releases endorphins (our body's natural morphine). A release of endorphins would help explain how acupuncture treats pain and also the extremely relaxed feeling most people have after an acupuncture treatment. This alone, however, does not explain how it may help with depression or autoimmune conditions or fibroids as random examples. But it does. Studies show that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Extensive research has been done in China, as well as the USA, Europe, and Australia proving the therapeutic effects of acupuncture. When tempted to analyze TCM from a Western point of view, one needs to reconsider the TCM theory and the fact that TCM has a completely different way of thinking and viewing the body and its balance than Western science does. No two people are alike, and therefore no two disease-states are alike.
Is acupuncture painful?
When the needle is first inserted, you may feel a slight, sharp prick at the point of insertion. This can be described as someone accidentally poking you with a sharpened pencil. Most people receiving acupuncture for the first time are surprised at how minimal the initial sensation is of the needle insertion.
Once the needles are in place, some people experience a feeling of warmth, heaviness, pressure, aching, tingling, or a feeling of the qi moving through the meridians. This is all very normal.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is incredibly safe when administered by a licensed acupuncturist; risks and injuries are very rare. High-quality stainless-steel acupuncture needles are used that are single-use and sterile. Needles are never re-used.
In the state of Illinois, it is a requirement for acupuncture licensure that an acupuncturist pass the Clean Needle Technique (CNT) exam. Training is extensive in blood-borne pathogens, the importance of having a clean and controlled work environment, and practice in using the tube-insertion technique, which assures specific and sterile contact with acupuncture points. Passing the exam demonstrates professionalism, skill, and competence.
“There are currently 30,000 acupuncturists and 8,000 acupuncture students in the U.S. Each sees an average of 50 patients per week. This equates to roughly 1.5 million treatments per week and 78 million acupuncture treatments per year. This does not include the multitude of acupuncturists in Europe, Australia or the Far East. The claim of 50 disparate infections worldwide over a 40-year period comes to approximately one infection per year globally.”
—Clean Needles for Acupuncture Safety by Michael Jabbour, MS, LAc, William Morris, DAOM, PhD, LAc, and Steven Schram, PhD, DC, L.Ac, at www.acupuncturetoday.com
What is electro-acupuncture?
Once the needles have been inserted, small clips are attached to the needles, and they are electrically stimulated by a battery-powered machine. Low- to high-frequency stimulation is administered depending on the condition. The feeling is never painful; it is similar to a twitching or vibration, and works to increase the circulation of qi and blood and to ease muscle tension.
What is gua sha?
Gua sha relieves the stagnation of blood that obstructs surface tissues and inhibits organ function. Literally in Chinese "gua sha" means "to scrape away fever.” The gua sha tool is usually made of a stone such as jade, or ceramic and is used to firmly apply pressure while being moved across a specific area of treatment; usually the neck, shoulders, and back. Gua sha is especially helpful in cases of acute colds as well as muscle tension.
Read this article to learn more about gua sha and its therapeutic effects.
What is cupping?
In a typical cupping session, glass or plastic cups are used to create suction on the skin by either vacuuming out the air with heat or a special tool. The vacuum created attaches the cup to the skin and pulls it upward into the glass. Drawing up the skin opens up the pores, which helps to increase circulation, balance and realign the flow of qi, break up obstructions, relieve pain, and encourage the release of toxins and pathogens out of the body.
Depending on your condition, the cups will be left in place from five to ten minutes. Several cups may be placed on your body at the same time. On some occasions, small amounts of medicated oils or herbal oils will be applied to the skin just before the cupping procedure. This allows the cups to be moved up and down particular areas being treated. This acts as a sort of massage called “sliding cups.”
Cupping is used primarily to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and congestion, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and certain types of pain. Fleshy sites on the body, such as the back and stomach and, to a lesser extent, the arms and legs, are usually areas where cupping is applied.
Cupping causes the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially if there is an energetic blockage under the cups. The skin discoloration may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. It is important to keep the area covered after it has been cupped, and not to take a shower until the next day. The pores have been opened and care should be taken to not expose them immediately.
What is moxibustion?
Moxibustion involves the burning of mugwort or “moxa” (artemisia vulgaris), a small, spongy herb. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years; in fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture, translated literally, means "acupuncture-moxibustion." The purpose of moxibustion is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health. It is generally used on people who have a cold or stagnant condition. In this case, the burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians, which leads to the smoother flow of blood and qi.
There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect. Direct moxibustion is where, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned, the moxa is placed on the point and lit, sometimes over salt or ginger but is extinguished or removed before it comes too close to the skin. You will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, and no pain whatsoever.
Indirect moxibustion is a process where the needles are heated by attaching and burning a piece of the rolled up herb on the needle handle, or by holding a cigar-shaped piece of tightly-packed ‘smokeless’ moxa near the handles of the needles.
In Western medicine, moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the bladder meridian. Other studies have shown that moxibustion increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.
What is tui na?
Tui na literally means “push grasp” and is different from a typical massage in that it is guided by TCM theory and the meridians on the body and it is usually more rigorous. It can be used for joint and muscle problems as well as internal disorders.