Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine (not much thicker than a hair) needles into specific acupuncture points that are located along meridians or channels that connect to the various organs in Chinese medicine. The thinking is that by needling these specific points you can influence the flow of qi (pronounced chee) or energy that flows to the organs and improve organ function. Western medicine research has discovered that acupuncture can alter production of various brain chemicals including neurotransmitters, endorphins, encephalins, pain killers, mood enhancers, natural anti-inflammatories etc. The meridians and points are also often in close proximity to blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic channels or specific organs.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Absolutely if it is practiced by a qualified, competent practitioner. Having practiced acupuncture for 12 years, I have found that the worst that happens is mild to moderate bruising in some patients and sometimes a lasting sensation where the needle had been for up to a day afterward. The acupuncture needles we use are sterile and disposable so there is no risk of infection.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
Because the needles are not much thicker than a hair, there is very little sensation when they enter the skin, sometimes a teeny pin prick. As the needle reaches it's destination you may feel a tingly sensation, electrical sensation or deep pressure sensation, but generally not much more than that and whatever sensation is felt usually subsides within a minute or two of the needle insertion. After that you may be aware the needle is there but not really feel much of anything from it.
What is an Acupuncture Treatment Like?
In total a treatment takes 35-40 minutes. I start by marking where the needles will go by pressing on your skin, then cleaning that spot with alcohol and inserting the needle. Once they are all in they stay in for about 20 minutes and are then removed and discarded. Each treatment consists of anywhere from about 8-18 needles. Afterward most people report either feeling energized or relaxed.
How Can Acupuncture Help Infertility?
Studies have shown acupuncture to be helpful in regulating the function of the ovaries in Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). There is evidence that acupuncture helps in pain relief for egg retrieval, improving pregnancy outcomes of in vitro fertilization(IVF) treatment, reducing ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, management of ovulation disorders, male subfertility, primary dysmenorrhea, endometriosis and menopausal symptoms. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) standpoint you are improving the function of the organs by improving the flow of energy too and from the organ. From a Western medicine point of view, you are increasing immune system activity in and around the reproductive organs to promote healing and optimal function. You are also directly stimulating nerve endings that lead to the organ to stimulate brain to increase cytokines and neurotransmitters that increase repair activity.
As a naturopathic doctor, I integrate acupuncture along with my other healing methods including diet and nutrition, natural supplements, herbs, lifestyle counseling and stress reduction for the maximum impact on reversing infertility and helping women carry healthy pregnancies to term and produce healthy babies.