Interview with Susan Dembo, Acupuncturist
What is acupuncture and how does it work to treat injuries or as a method of well care?
Acupuncture is based on the principles of Chinese Medicine and it is believed to be about 5,000 years old. This ancient medical system is practiced in most parts of the world and is now one of the fastest growing health care fields in the United States. The goal of acupuncture is to restore and maintain health by activating the body’s innate capacity to heal.
Acupuncture relies on the insertion of extremely thin, flexible needles into specific points on the body in order to regulate the flow of energy (Qi) and establish a balanced state.
Although acupuncture is recognized for pain management and stress reduction, it has a wide range of therapeutic benefits. It is an effective therapy for treating headaches, migraines, depression, asthma, sinusitis, allergies, fatigue, arthritis, low back pain, sciatica, muscle spasms, sports injuries, joint pain, TMJ, carpal tunnel syndrome, insomnia, menstrual disorders, infertility, hot flashes, digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, nausea, tinnitus, dizziness, post-stroke paralysis, hypertension, substance abuse and addictions. Acupuncture helps regulate the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system. It increases blood flow and microcirculation bringing oxygen and nutrients to all the cells, tissues, and organs. It strengthens the immune system, regulates hormone levels, enhances sleep, increases energy and vitality, reduces inflammation, releases natural pain-killing hormones, and activates the relaxation response.
Since acupuncture boosts the immune system, it can be used as part of a wellness program to prevent the occurrence of future disease and maintain optimal health.
How do you explain the essence of acupuncture to potential patients who may be nervous about undergoing treatment?
Acupuncture views each person as a unique individual with their own unique set of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors that affect their state of health. Acupuncture examines all of these aspects to create a tailored treatment plan that meets the specific needs of each person.
Acupuncture is a gentle and safe healing experience and it is important for the patient to feel safe and comfortable during the treatment. In addition to explaining the procedures and techniques that will be used, I try to educate the patient about some of the underlying principles of Chinese Medicine. Many people are hesitant to try acupuncture because they have a fear of needles and assume that the treatment will be painful. Typically a slight pinch or prick is felt when the needles are inserted, but the sensation is not painful or uncomfortable. Once the needles are inserted, most people are pleasantly surprised at how comfortable they feel.
The needles usually remain in place for 20-30 minutes, and since acupuncture calms the brain waves, many patients feel quite relaxed during the session and may even fall asleep with the needles in place. The effects of acupuncture are cumulative so a typical treatment plan usually calls for a series of 6 to 12 weekly sessions.
For people with chronic pain who cannot obtain enough relief from prescription pain medications, acupuncture is an effective treatment that can alleviate pain and reduce the need for medication.
Describe the different modalities of Chinese medicine that you use in treating your patients.
There are several different modalities that can be used when treating a patient however needle therapy is the primary method. Acupuncture needles are ultra-thin and flexible with a diameter no bigger than a piece of thread. The needles come in sterile packaging for one-time use only. There are a wide variety of acupuncture needles making it easy to find a good match for each patient.
Moxibustion is another therapeutic technique that I frequently use. During moxibustion, heat is applied to specific parts of the body by burning the herb mugwort (moxa). When moxa is burned, its radiant heat penetrates into the body to relieve pain, expel cold and damp, increase blood circulation, relax muscles, stimulate the flow of Qi (energy), regulate digestive system function, and boost the immune system. It is believed that regular moxa treatments are helpful in preventing disease. Patients receiving moxibustion generally enjoy the feeling of penetrating warmth and find it very relaxing.
Cupping is a technique that involves placing glass or plastic cups on the skin at strategic places. A vacuum is created in the cups causing the skin to be pulled upwards. The cups are left in place for about 10 minutes and then removed. Cupping is used to stimulate the circulation of blood, relieve muscular pain, and ease respiratory disorders such as asthma and the common cold.
Electro acupuncture is a modality that is used to relieve pain. Needles are inserted and then stimulated with a low level of electric current.
There is even a pediatric modality called Shonishin. This is a non-insertive technique utilizing a variety of instruments that are pressed, rubbed, tapped or scraped on the skin to give different kinds of gentle stimulation.