Q. What is acupuncture?
Answer. Acupuncture is a system of medicine developed in Asia thousands of years ago to correct illness and to keep healthy people well. Despite how long it has been used and tested throughout the world, including Europe, it still raises eyebrows in some areas because its premise is so different from medicine in this country.
Acupuncture works by affecting the body's vital energy, called qi by the Chinese (pronounced chee). This qi runs throughout the body in channels, like rivers, creating a vast network that determines everything about our physical body, our mind and our emotional life. Sometimes problems arise in these channels and the qi becomes weak or blocked or insubstantial or aggressive. We may then find ourselves feeling listless, or angry, or depressed, or vulnerable to many colds and other illnesses. The tools of acupuncture work with correcting problems with the qi and thereby helping restore harmony to this network of energy.
Q. Can acupuncture help with health issues related to teenagers?
Answer. Yes. Acupuncture is excellent for issues germane to teenagers because it is a powerful yet minimal intervention and does not require medications. The growth that young people experience through high school and teen years is rapid and dramatic--often traumatic, in an energetic sense--and the pressures upon them are great, and so the body's energy can become easily tangled and knotted and out of balance. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, alienation or depression, to weight issues and skin problems, to menstrual periods that are difficult or painful, or to an inability to focus on studies or life, or to feel joy. And because teenagers have a good deal of vitality, they generally respond very readily to the subtle work of acupuncture.
Q. Can you explain how acupuncture helps. For example, does it soothe your nerves?
Answer. Acupuncture smoothes the flow of qi in the body so that one actually feels a cessation of tension or pressure or irritability. This smoothing of qi helps resolve symptoms. One of the major side effects of treatment -- and a reason why so many people come to love receiving acupuncture-- is the sensation of deep relaxation. Some people leave my office expressing amazement because they have never felt calm on that level. This is not always immediate, and the degree varies from person to person. Some clients experience dramatic results but more often acupuncture works as a gradual restoration.
Q. Are the effects long-term?
Answer. They can be. It all depends on the person, the situation, the length of time the problem has existed and the amount of treatment. For some, one or two treatments are all that is needed. I treated a senior who was a very competitive tennis player with the beginnings of tennis elbow. Two treatments later the problem was gone. Other people have health issues that are more complicated or deeper in the body, and that takes more time. I always suggest a course of treatment.
Q. What would be a treatment course that would be appropriate for teenagers?
Answer. I tell prospective clients that they should commit to a course of treatment of four or five weekly sessions. Because while some people respond dramatically and completely to one acupuncture session, my experience shows me it generally requires a number of treatments to alter patterns of disharmony within the body. And I usually find clients' symptoms have changed substantially or completely within four or five sessions. After that, clients often go on a maintenance kind of schedule where they return monthly, or seasonally, or only when they feel a need.
Q. Any other comments?
Answer. You didn't ask the number one most frequently asked question: does it hurt? And the answer is, not really. Acupuncture needles are very fine. They are about the width of a few hairs on your head. Often people don't feel a thing, but I'd be lying if I said there was never any discomfort. But if there is, it is minimal, and very momentary. Ask a friend who's had it!