Acupuncture – What Is It?

Acupuncture is a method of bodywork involving insertion of very thin needles into areas of the body identified as acupuncture points on acupuncture meridians.

Acupuncture has been practiced in the United States since at least the 1970’s. It originated centuries ago in China.

Different styles of acupuncture developed both within China and in other countries of the Far East. I practice in two traditions – a Japanese method involving no or minimal stimulation of extremely thin gauge needles, and a Chinese method involving stronger stimulation of slightly thicker gauge needles.

Stimulation of the needles is provided by several methods including gentle twirling. Which method is best depends on attributes of the person receiving. Some people will feel a slight ache, dullness, coolness or warmth at the site of insertion or along the acupuncture channels. This is normal and quite relaxing.

Description of an Acupuncture Session


Before the actual treatment I’ll be talking to you, feeling your pulses, checking your tongue, and observing qualities such as skin temperature, color and moisture, muscle tone, and strength of voice among many other details.

I will ask you questions to determine a Chinese medical diagnosis. I am not a medical doctor, so I will not be suggesting a diagnosis from a Western medical perspective.

I will routinely refer you to your physician for that information and I will routinely ask you what diagnoses or recommendations your physician has made, if any. I have found that communication among health care providers is the best possible path for the patient.


During the treatment, a person typically rests 15-20 minutes with the acupuncture needles in place in the acupuncture points. The amount of resting time can vary with the purpose of the treatment and the particular characteristics of the patient. During the resting time the patient remains comfortable, warm, quiet and calm.

Acupuncture points are chosen for their effectiveness for the condition, their location on an appropriate meridian, or their individual sensitivity. Sterilized needles are inserted at varying depths, usually between 2 and 6 millimeters, and may or may not receive extra stimulation.

Other less typical treatments might include movement of an affected joint while needles are placed safely elsewhere. Occasionally warming techniques are used when there is a cold component to the patient’s condition.

Purpose of Acupuncture Treatments

The purposes to which acupuncture is put include pain relief, stress reduction, regulation of digestion and mood, improving sleep and relaxing muscle tension. You can find a “treatment” for almost any condition in acupuncture textbooks.

The World Health Organization provides a long list of conditions for which it recommends acupuncture treatment. After over two decades of practice, I have developed a good sense of what conditions are likely to respond well to acupuncture.

It is best to contact me so I can form a sense of how beneficial acupuncture will likely be for your condition. I’ll let you know if I think it’s a good choice of treatment for you, if you are not sure.

If you already have experience and have found acupuncture to be useful, then it’s already a good choice!