Understanding Acupuncture Needles: What You Need to Know

Understanding Acupuncture Needles: What You Need to Know

Acupuncture is a time-tested therapeutic practice that offers numerous health benefits, from pain relief to stress reduction. If you’re considering acupuncture in Brentwood or Nashville, TN, it’s essential to understand the tools involved, especially the needles. This blog will answer common questions about acupuncture needles, including their size, whether they are reused, if they hurt, and sanitation practices, helping you feel informed and confident in your treatment choice.

What Are Acupuncture Needles?

Acupuncture needles are specifically designed for the practice of acupuncture. Unlike hypodermic needles used for injections, they are thin, solid, and flexible, typically made of stainless steel. Their unique design allows for a painless and effective treatment experience. The needles are incredibly fine, often as thin as a human hair, making them much less intimidating than traditional needles.

Needle Sizes and Uses

Acupuncture needles come in various sizes, tailored to different treatments and areas of the body. Common needle lengths range from 0.5 to 2.5 inches, with diameters varying from 0.16 to 0.46 millimeters.

Acupuncturists select the sizes based on several factors, including the treatment area, the addressed condition, and patient comfort. For instance, shorter needles might be used for facial acupuncture, while longer ones are preferred for deeper muscle treatments. The choice of needle size ensures that each treatment is both safe and effective.

Do Acupuncture Needles Hurt?

One of the most frequent questions is, “Does acupuncture hurt?” The sensation experienced during acupuncture is generally mild and quite different from the pain associated with hypodermic needles. Patients might feel a slight tingling, warmth, or pressure at the insertion site.

Many describe the sensation as relaxing rather than painful. Skilled acupuncturists use gentle insertion techniques and guide tubes to minimize discomfort. Testimonials from patients often highlight the surprising ease and comfort of the experience.

Are Acupuncture Needles Reused?

A common concern is whether acupuncture needles are reused. The answer is a resounding no. Modern acupuncture practices adhere to strict hygiene standards, utilizing single-use, disposable needles. These needles are pre-sterilized and sealed in individual packaging, ensuring they remain uncontaminated until use.

Regulatory bodies such as the FDA and acupuncture associations mandate these practices, prioritizing patient safety. Using disposable needles eliminates the risk of cross-contamination and infection, providing peace of mind for patients.

Sanitation and Safety Measures

Sanitation and safety are paramount in acupuncture practice. Before each use, acupuncture needles are sterilized, and clinics maintain rigorous hygiene protocols. Treatment rooms are kept clean, and practitioners use gloves and hand sanitizers to prevent any form of contamination.

It’s crucial to choose a licensed and certified acupuncturist to ensure these standards are met. Look for credentials such as certification from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) or state licensing, which indicate a commitment to professional and safe practices.

Additional Information

Here are some frequently asked questions about acupuncture needles:

How many needles are used in a typical session?

  • The number of needles used can vary widely depending on the treatment plan, ranging from a few to several dozen.

Can acupuncture needles cause infections?

  • When administered by a certified acupuncturist who follows proper sanitation protocols, the risk of infection is extremely low.

Understanding acupuncture needles can alleviate many concerns and enhance your treatment experience. Remember, acupuncture is a safe and effective method for addressing various health issues, especially when performed by a qualified professional.

Conclusion

Acupuncture needles are a critical component of this ancient healing practice. Knowing about their sizes, single-use policy, minimal discomfort, and stringent sanitation measures can help you make an informed decision about seeking acupuncture treatment. If you’re in Brentwood, TN, and considering acupuncture, rest assured that you’re choosing a safe and beneficial path to wellness.

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What Problems Does Acupuncture Treat?

What Problems Does Acupuncture Treat?

Acupuncture, a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, has traversed centuries, evolving from ancient art to a modern-day therapeutic practice recognized globally. This technique involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to stimulate healing and wellness. Despite its historical roots, acupuncture has gained widespread acceptance in Western medicine due to its effectiveness in treating a variety of ailments. Below, we explore what problems does acupuncture treat.

Pain Management

One of the most common applications of acupuncture is in pain relief. Numerous studies have demonstrated its efficacy in treating chronic pain conditions, including:

Chronic back pain: Acupuncture can help reduce the intensity and frequency of back pain by promoting blood flow and triggering the release of natural painkillers in the body.

Arthritis: Particularly for osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, acupuncture has shown promise in reducing pain and improving mobility.

Headaches and migraines: Regular acupuncture sessions can decrease the frequency and severity of migraines and tension-type headaches.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

Acupuncture is known for its ability to reduce stress and improve emotional health by balancing the body’s energy or Qi. The practice is believed to stimulate the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain, which can change the experience of stress, and promote physical and emotional well-being.

Stress: By reducing stress hormone levels, acupuncture can help mitigate the physical and psychological impacts of stress.

Anxiety and depression: Several studies suggest that acupuncture can have a positive effect on anxiety and depression, making it a complementary treatment for these conditions.

Digestive Disorders

Acupuncture has been found useful in managing various gastrointestinal disorders by enhancing digestive functions and alleviating symptoms of discomfort.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and irregular bowel movements can be effectively managed with acupuncture.

Nausea and vomiting: Especially postoperative nausea and chemotherapy-induced nausea, acupuncture at specific points has been shown to be particularly beneficial.

Respiratory Conditions

Traditional Chinese medicine uses acupuncture to treat and manage symptoms of several respiratory conditions.

Allergic rhinitis: Acupuncture may help improve symptoms of nasal congestion, sneezing, and runny nose associated with seasonal allergies.

Asthma: While not a substitute for conventional asthma treatment, acupuncture can be used as a complementary therapy to help manage symptoms and reduce flare-ups.

Fertility and Women’s Health

Acupuncture has been touted for its role in enhancing fertility by improving blood flow to reproductive organs and balancing hormone levels. It is often used in conjunction with other fertility treatments.

Menstrual cramps and PMS: Regular sessions can help alleviate the severity of menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome.

Menopausal symptoms: Acupuncture can help manage symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.

Conclusion

Acupuncture is effective for many health issues. Patients interested in acupuncture should seek treatment from a licensed practitioner to ensure safety and effectiveness. As with any medical treatment, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to see if acupuncture is right for you and how it might fit into your overall health plan.

If you are ready to see how acupuncture can benefit you, schedule a consult today by contacting Affinity Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine at 615-939-2787 and discover how acupuncture can transform your approach to managing ailments, paving the way for a healthier, more vibrant life.

4/17/2024

By Dr. William Alexander

Keeping Your Cool

Keeping Your Cool

It’s walk outside and sweat season here in Tennessee and other parts of the world – the pavement is literally melting in parts of Europe. Staying locked indoors isn’t an option for most of us, so we need to be able to keep our cool when the mercury is near 100.

Eat for the Heat

Get creative with meals that don’t require the stove, like salads, fresh fruits, and sandwiches. Or, make a large batch of something that doesn’t require reheating, like pasta salad, so you only have to cook once.

Also, keep portion sizes small. Digestion uses a lot of energy, and the fuller you are, the more heat is produced in the process. Foods with a lot of sugar and stimulants, like caffeine and alcohol, also impact temperature regulation.

Eat foods with a high water content – cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, cucumber, and celery.

Add peppermint to your iced tea – menthol produces a cooling effect.

Get Plenty of Water – In and On the Body

Drink water before you’re thirsty to help avoid heat stress.

Focus on pulse points – wrists, neck, the inside of your elbows and knees, and the tops of your feet. A cold, wet towel or bandana on these areas, or running them under cold water, helps lower body temperature.

Keep a water bottle nearby for a spritz. You can even add cucumber juice or aloe vera juice to the water, which each have cooling properties.

Know the Signs of Heat Illness

Dizziness, weakness, nausea, pale skin, and a rapid pulse can indicate heat illness. If someone with these symptoms goes from heavy sweating to dry skin, that could indicate an escalation from heat exhaustion to heat stroke.

Improve Heating and Cooling Measures

Caulk any gaps around doors and windows
Keep the blinds closed, especially at mid-day
Run ceiling fans counter clockwise to pull the cooler air up from the floor and down toward you
Put a bowl of ice in front of standing fans

Grab Some Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera gel has naturally cooling properties, and can help lower the body’s temperature when applied to the skin, especially on pulse points.

 

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Acupuncture and Gut Health

Acupuncture and Gut Health

 

In a recent post, Trust Your Gut, we talked about the importance of gut health, and how a healthy gut is important to the immune system and balancing the gut-brain axis and nervous system. We have gotten so used to tummy troubles that a lot of people suffer daily, even without a diagnosed digestive disorder; at times, it can be hard to pinpoint the source of the discomfort. Americans are inundated with articles about food sensitivity, overconsumption, and other factors that lead to gastrointestinal problems. The good news is, acupuncture is a safe, effective approach to improving overall gut health, which has a positive impact throughout the body.

Acupuncture can help improve the performance of the different organs in the abdomen, as well as the nervous system, and balance hormonal imbalances – all of which impact gut health. An overactive nervous system alone decreases digestive function, which has a negative impact on how effectively our bodies absorb nutrients and process waste.

The Major Players

Generally, when we think about gut health, the stomach gets all of the attention. There’s more to how the digestive system works.

OrganFunction
MouthChewing, beginning of food breakdown through saliva
EsophagusPeristalsis – the movement of organ walls, allowing food and liquid to move through the GI tract
StomachWhere food and digestive juices meet
Small intestinePeristalsis
PancreasProduces digestive juices that help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
LiverProcesses nutrients absorbed by the small intestine
Large intestinePeristalsis

Recent studies show that acupuncture can help promote or decrease peristalsis and reduce certain acid outputs.

Some of the areas acupuncture can impact:

Acid Reflux

Colitis

Crohn’s Disease

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Constipation

Weight Fluctuation

Fatigue

Bloating

Diarrhea

Nausea

Sour Stomach

Cramping

Abdominal Pain

Nashville’s Best Acupuncturist

Acupuncture has been effective in treating areas of digestive distress for thousands of years. Your acupuncturist will look at the body as a system, rather than a sum of individual parts, in developing a treatment plan specific to you and your needs.

Contact Affinity Acupuncture for Nashville Acupuncture treatments and techniques.

Acupuncture for Allergies

Acupuncture for Allergies

It’s May, and everything in Nashville is covered in a layer of pollen. We go through it every year, but the scratchy throat, itchy eyes, and runny nose are still an unpleasant harbinger of spring. Some allergens are around us all the time in the form of dust mites, pet dander, or food sensitivities.

Allergies trigger histamines, which are incredibly helpful for the body – they help the body get rid of something bothering you, like an allergy. They’re part of the body’s defense system and want to get rid of the stimulant, which is why you might sneeze, tear up, or itch. When your body is triggered by an allergen, your immune system signals mast cells in the skin, lungs, nose, mouth, gut, and blood to release histamines. The histamines boost blood flow in the affected area, causing inflammation and inviting other parts of the body’s defense system to engage.

Sometimes, the histamine response is dramatic and prolonged, such as when a tick bite triggers an Alpha Gal response and an allergic response to animal products. Acupuncture is one of the only techniques that can effectively reduce the severity of an Alpha-Gal response – there are no drugs, vaccines, or allergy shots available.

Acupuncture Treatments with Affinity Acupuncture

Acupuncture treatments can help with other environmental, seasonal, and food allergies also – by up to 80-95%. A simple protocol involves an exam, one visit, and one needle. We help identify the allergen, place a small needle in the ear for several weeks, and then allergens can be carefully and systematically reintroduced. For allergies severe enough to anaphylactic shock – the goal is not to intentionally reintroduce, but to lessen the severity of response if the body is exposed to the allergen. If you’re interested in finding out if you’re a good candidate for acupuncture to help relieve your allergy symptoms, call 615-939-2787 today, or click on this link.

Contact Affinity Acupuncture for Nashville Acupuncture treatments and techniques.

Trust Your Gut

Trust Your Gut

Trust Your Gut

 

In recent years, “gut health” has become a popular buzz phrase with scientists, physicians, and on social media. The idea isn’t new – Hippocrates once said that “all disease begins in the gut.” Improving digestive health has been a foundational ethos of Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. As a society, we’ve strayed from prioritizing health and nutrition over convenience, and are seeing the ramifications in increased obesity, heart disease, and other ailments that weren’t as prevalent before processed foods became a mainstay in our diets.

So why does the gut matter? Does having a drive-thru meal once a week really make that much of a difference? Your immune system, mood, sleep, digestion, heart, and brain all say yes.

Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at why gut health is important, and the roles of some of the unsung heroes of the digestive system.

 

Why it Matters

 

More than 100 trillion bacteria live in the gut.
That’s not a typo. There are more bacteria than human cells in the human body. Gut bacteria help our esophagus, stomach, and intestines work together to comfortably digest foods. When the biome is thrown off, it can lead to heartburn, bloating, constipation, nausea, and loose stools. The little bacteria can’t ward off infection or communicate well with the brain through nerves and hormones.

Roughly 70% of the immune system (by weight) lives in the digestive tract.
Without getting too technical, the Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT) is the largest mass of lymphoid tissue in the body, and helps protect the body from infection in the gut. The gut’s mucosal surface is thin – it to be in order to allow food absorption. That also means that it’s vulnerable to infection. GALT helps protect the body from a large population of plasma cells (which produce antibodies) – larger than the spleen, lymph nodes, and bone marrow combined.

90-95% of serotonin (the body’s mood boosting chemical) is produced in the gut.
You read that right. You’re probably familiar with serotonin as a brain neurotransmitter, right? A recent Caltech study shows that certain bacteria in the guy play a pivotal role in serotonin production. The foods we eat impact our moods beyond what we refer to as “comfort food.”

Up to 90% of diseases can be traced back to the gut microbiome.
An estimated 70 million Americans have digestive diseases, and almost 1 in 5 have IBS. Those little bacteria strengthen the digestive tract’s wall, protecting us from pathogens. When the pathogens get through, it leads to inflammation and digestive disorders.

 

Help a Gut out Already

 

There are some easy things you can do to help give your gut a break (while avoiding any allergens):
1) Eat a variety of whole grains and legumes
2) Minimize eating out
3) Stop eating when you’re full
4) Eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day
5) Have a handful of nuts each day
6) Drink lots of water
7) Avoid artificial sweeteners and minimize candies and confections
8) Keep a food diary. If you get heartburn, feel bloated, or experience other digestive distress after eating certain foods, try eliminating or minimizing them in your diet.
9) Get some exercise
10) Sleep
11) Be careful with antibiotics. If you need them, add yogurt to your diet for the duration of the prescription.

Contact Affinity Acupuncture for Nashville Acupuncture treatments and techniques.