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Understanding Acupuncture: How It Works and What to Expect

Acupuncture is an ancient technique that involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body. The needles we use today are tiny, sterilized, and disposable. As far as we know, acupuncture originated over 2,500 years ago in the part of the world that is now known as China.

The Basics of Acupuncture

At its core, acupuncture works by engaging your body’s natural ability to regulate and heal itself. The health and function of the organism are at the top of nature’s to-do list, so we have evolved with feedback loops that ensure if something goes wrong, these self-regulating feedback loops will get you back on track in a very short time.

These feedback loops regulate everything from your heart rate to your hormonal balance and immune response. Acupuncture can help to recalibrate these feedback loops, promoting a state of harmony within your body.

How Does It Work?

When we insert these fine needles, we’re targeting specific points known to influence various functional systems of the body. These points are part of a network of pathways called meridians, which, according to traditional Chinese medicine, are channels through which “Qi” flows. I wrote an article here about how we can think about the concept of “Qi” in a modern context.

Modern science has shown that these points often correspond to areas of the body rich in nerves, muscles, and connective tissue. By stimulating these points, we can relax tight muscles, promote the release of natural painkillers, reduce stress in the nervous system, increase blood flow, and activate the immune system.

Personalized Treatment

Each patient’s journey with acupuncture is unique. During your first visit, we’ll have a thorough discussion about your health concerns, lifestyle, and medical history. This allows us to tailor the treatment specifically to your needs. This holistic approach ensures that the acupuncture treatment you receive is aligned with your specific health goals.

Recently a patient came in with chronic migraines that had plagued her for years. After a few sessions, she reported a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of her migraines. By addressing her specific imbalances, we were able to find a treatment plan that worked for her, something she hadn’t achieved with other methods.

A Holistic Approach

At Balance Acupuncture and Natural Medicine, acupuncture is more than just a treatment; it’s part of a holistic approach to health. We integrate acupuncture with other elements of Chinese medicine, such as herbal remedies, dietary advice, and lifestyle recommendations. This comprehensive approach aims to support your body’s natural self-regulating processes and help you achieve long-term wellness.

Scientific Evidence

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of acupuncture for various conditions. For instance, research published in the Journal of Pain found that acupuncture can significantly reduce chronic pain, outperforming standard care. Another study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that acupuncture is effective in treating chronic pain and improving overall function. These studies support what I see in my practice every day: acupuncture works.

The Experience

Many patients are curious about what they will feel during acupuncture. The needles are incredibly fine, much thinner than those used for injections, and most people find the insertion to be painless. You might feel a slight pinch or tingling initially, but this usually fades quickly. Often, patients report a sense of relaxation and well-being during the session, with many even falling asleep.

One recent patient, for example, came in for treatment of anxiety. She was initially nervous about the needles, but after her first session, she described feeling a deep sense of calm and relaxation, something she hadn’t experienced in years. This transformation is something we see often, and it’s incredibly rewarding.

Addressing Common Myths and Misconceptions

There are several myths and misconceptions about acupuncture that I’d like to address. One common myth is that acupuncture is only for pain relief. While it’s true that acupuncture is excellent for managing pain, it’s also effective for a wide range of conditions, including stress, digestive issues, fertility, and hormonal imbalances. Another misconception is that acupuncture is painful. As mentioned earlier, the needles are very fine, and most people find the experience to be quite comfortable.

Integration with Other Treatments

Acupuncture can be effectively combined with other treatments, including conventional medical treatments, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. In my practice, I often integrate acupuncture with herbal medicine and dietary recommendations to enhance the overall therapeutic effect. Informing all your healthcare providers about the treatments you’re receiving allows them to support your overall health and well-being.


Acupuncture is a powerful tool for supporting your health and well-being. By stimulating your body’s natural regulatory systems, it helps restore balance and promote healing. Whether you’re dealing with pain, stress, or other health issues, acupuncture offers a gentle and effective path to better health. If you’re curious about how acupuncture can help you, I encourage you to schedule a session and experience the benefits for yourself.