Posted: May 28, 2012 8:00 AM
Everyone has a friend who swears by acupuncture, but most people are scared to try it out. Find out what acupuncture can relieve and why it may be worth confronting your fear of needles.

Worried that acupuncture is a fad? You may be surprised to learn that acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years. It’s a form of complementary medicine that’s recognized by conventional medical practitioners as a way to treat health concerns such as headaches, depression, pain and nausea. The National Institutes of Health estimates that over 3 million adults in the U.S. report having tried acupuncture over the past year.

How do you find an acupuncturist?

If you’ve been diagnosed with a health issue or you’re experiencing chronic symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider about seeking treatment from a licensed acupuncturist. Most doctors and dentists can recommend licensed, reputable acupuncturists. You can also ask friends and family for recommendations. Always research your acupuncturist's credentials and ask about her medical background and training.

What is the first visit like?

Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine. If you’ve never visited a practitioner of this type of alternative medicine, you may be surprised by how much detail and time is put into your initial visit. Expect a long talk about your medical history and your current symptoms. After asking you questions, the acupuncturist will take your pulse from both wrists, and will look closely at your tongue. Many acupuncturists practice in a calming, spa-like atmosphere that may remind you of a massage therapist’s office.

What about the needles?

Acupuncture doesn’t feel anything like an injection or blood draw. The acupuncture needles, which are regulated by the FDA, are hair thin. Each needle is one-time use and sealed in a sterile package. The needles are applied to various points in the body with a quick tapping motion. Most people don’t feel anything, though some people feel a warmth or mild buzzing sensation. If you’re scared of needles, try not to think about acupuncture needles as needles at all.

Does acupuncture work?

Your acupuncturist will recommend a specific number of visits to help you with your symptoms. According to Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT, "Six to ten sessions is a fairly reasonable number." You may not feel relief or change after your first visit, but some people do. Black reports, "Many of my patients rest or even fall asleep during their first visit." Talk to your health care provider and insurance provider about the possibility of having your acupuncture visits covered.

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