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  • Learn how acupuncturists create an effective treatment plan for patients
  • Find out if acupuncture is a good match for you and your family
  • Personalized treatment = better results

Alaska Center for Acupuncture
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Will Acupuncture Work for Me?

BySamanth Berg M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
Kevin Meddleton M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

Article originally published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman Newspaper

As acupuncturists, we're often asked, "How does acupuncture work?" A quick search on the Internet reveals a variety of theories ranging from the simplistic to the overly complex. What's important to know is that Acupuncture is premised on a holistic view of the body. This means that symptoms are viewed in relationship to the whole person. Woven within the medicine is the knowledge that the human body exists as a complex, interconnected organism where each part influences and supports the whole.

And, the really good news is that understanding how acupuncture works is not required in order to benefit from treatment. Indeed some of the most taken for granted tools of western medicine are not completely understood. For example, medical science has yet to truly understand and explain some of the effects of aspirin, yet that doesn't stop people from taking aspirin, since there is ample evidence that it does work. Similarly evidence demonstrating the efficacy of acupuncture treatment for a wide range of health issues continues to grow as research dollars pour into this expanding field of medicine. In our experience most people who ask, "How does acupuncture work" actually want to know, "Will acupuncture work for me?" The short answer, in most cases, is yes, absolutely. But the longer answer is that outcome of treatment depends on several factors: How long have you had the condition? What is the state of your health besides this specific condition? How willing are you to make diet or lifestyle changes that will support your health? Are the life circumstances in place for healing to occur?

Before we design a treatment plan, we spend an hour and a half getting to know our patients. We take an extensive medical history and we check into the workings of the person's body systems (sleep, digestion, urination, temperature regulation, menstruation etc.). We also perform a physical exam that includes some familiar procedures - like taking blood pressure and structural evaluation. And we include some less familiar techniques like reading your pulses, examining your tongue and palpating areas of your abdomen that correspond to different organ systems and functions.

All the information we gather yields a constellation of signs and symptoms that we use as a basis for treatment. Our intent is to understand and treat the root cause of an individual's condition, not to simply mask their symptoms.

The person experiencing a health concern is more important to us than the medical diagnosis they have been assigned. If five different people come into treatment for asthma, each will be treated uniquely. Despite the fact that they share common symptoms, the underlying cause can vary dramatically. While treatment success can vary between clients with identical diagnoses, it's heartening to note that results are not dependent on the client's age or personal beliefs. In fact, we've seen people in their seventies and eighties flourish with minimal amounts of treatment. We have successfully treated people who walk into our office saying, "I don't believe in this but my sister, brother, father, mother, girlfriend, etc. wants me to try it."

In response to the increasingly rare person who asks if they have to believe in acupuncture for it to work, we say the following: "To the best of our knowledge, animals don't believe in anything, yet it's well documented that acupuncture works for them too."

There is an overwhelming body of evidence - both scientific and anecdotal - that supports acupuncture's effectiveness for a variety of conditions. Since we are clinicians, not researchers, it is the application of the medicine that is most exciting to us. In future columns we will address how acupuncture can help you with common health conditions.

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