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Acupuncture - an Individualistic Approach

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Acupuncture - an Individualistic Approach

4 min read


Do you know about an alternate treatment technique called acupuncture? Scroll down through the article below to learn about it.

Written by

Dr. Sivanath

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At September 22, 2016
Reviewed AtMay 3, 2024


Acupuncture is often projected as long needles going deep into the body. However, the world of acupuncture has progressed a lot in recent times. Several acupuncture techniques are in use these days, such as seed stimulation, direct electric stimulation, needle stimulation, color laser stimulation, and magnet stimulation of the acupuncture points.

In Chinese medicine, acupuncture is a traditional method used to balance the energy flow, called chi or qi (chee). Energy is believed to flow through specific tracks or meridians in the human body. Acupuncture practitioners insert needles at particular points along such pathways to re-balance the energy flow in the body. However, western practitioners use acupuncture points to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue to boost the body's natural painkillers.

Why Is Acupuncture Done?

Acupuncture is primarily used to alleviate the associated symptoms and discomfort of various diseases and conditions, such as:

  • Postoperative and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

  • Dental and tooth pain.

  • Fibromyalgia.

  • Various types of headaches.

  • Labor pain.

  • Lower back pain.

  • Neck pain.

  • Osteoarthritis.

  • Menstrual cramps.

  • Respiratory disorders, like allergic rhinitis.

  • Tennis elbow.

How Is Acupuncture Treatment Done?

The acupuncturist embeds fine needles into fixed spots on the body to treat a symptom or a group of symptoms through acupuncture. The needle insertion causes little discomfort to the patient. Each acupuncture practitioner has his own treatment style, usually amalgamating the Eastern and Western medicinal approaches. To determine the type of acupuncture technique most suitable for the patient, the practitioner inquires about the patient’s symptoms, behaviors, and lifestyle and also examines the following:

  • The painful body parts.

  • The shape, color, and coating of the tongue.

  • The color of the patient’s face.

  • The patient’s pulse rate and rhythm.

A single acupuncture session usually takes up to an hour. However, certain appointments may be very short. A treatment plan for a single complaint usually involves one or two weekly appointments. But, it also depends on the severity and the condition being treated. Although, it is common to have 6 to 8 appointments for a specific treatment.

What Is the Procedure for the Treatment?

Acupuncture points are present all over the body. Sometimes the treatment points are re-positioned far from the area of the pain or removed completely from its pathway. Before the treatment, the patient must inform the clinician about his medical history, like bleeding disorder, or if he is taking blood thinners. The incidence of bleeding or bruising from the needles may increase in such cases. In a patient with a pacemaker, acupuncture treatment interferes with a pacemaker's operation. In pregnancy, certain acupuncture points may stimulate labor, leading to premature delivery. Based on all the findings and history, the acupuncture practitioner informs the patient about the planned treatment's general site and whether the patient needs to remove any clothing. A patient’s gown, towel, or sheet is provided to the patient, and then he is made to lie on a padded table for the treatment, which includes:

Insertion of Needles: Acupuncture needles are embedded at appropriate depths at planned points on the patient’s body. The needle insertion is slightly painful, and the patient may experience a mild aching sensation when the correct needle depth is reached. However, certain people do not feel the insertion at all. A typical treatment session involves 5 to 20 needles generally.

Needle Manipulation: The practitioner gently moves the needles after their insertion and may even apply heat or mild electrical pulses to them.

Needle Removal: Generally, the needles are left in place for 10 to 15 minutes, and the patient is asked to lie still and relaxed. No discomfort is felt when the needles are removed.

After Completion of the Procedure: After an acupuncture treatment, a patient may feel relaxed or energized. But, rarely a patient may not respond to the acupuncture treatment. So, if the patient’s symptoms do not start to improve after a few appointments, acupuncture may not be the right option for him.

What Is Sujok Acupuncture?

There are other types of acupuncture, such as ‘sujok’ (done only on hands and feet) with further subdivision of six ki, eight ki, and tri-origin acupuncture. This form of acupuncture is much different than the traditional form as it involves:

  • Very small needles of 1 cm. The insertion depth is 1 mm to 4 mm; hence chances of infection are minimal. Only the palms and feet are utilized; hence, it is easily practiced in an office setting.

  • Since only palms and feet are involved, the acceptance is much more, especially among women.

What Is the Difference Between Protocol-Based Acupuncture and Individualized Based Acupuncture?

The science of acupuncture is more like an art. In a real sense, the choice of acupuncture points should be individualized based on the energy constitution of a person. However, at most centers, protocol-based acupuncture is practiced. For example, person A has a problem with gastritis. He is a cheerful, outgoing personality who likes adventure sports, red color, and often feels more heat than other people around him. Another person, B, also develops gastritis symptoms, but he is a depressed, introverted person, with brown as his favorite color, and feels colder than the people around him. These two people are totally different in their energy constitution, and the choice of acupuncture technique should also be based on their energy constitution.

Another instance can be: person X presents with depression, but he is crying with a loud noise that too in public, rarely gets angry, and is often involved in spiritual talks. Compare the scenario with person, who is also depressed, but prefers to cry in solitude, often gets angry, and is quite sexually active. Both these patients have the same symptoms but different constitutions. Here, the energies are reflected at an emotional level.

Ideally, the energy constitution should be determined by asking leading questions about personality and preferences. However, today acupuncture is practiced based on a protocol system, where the choice of acupuncture points is made based on the diagnosis. It is a rare situation where the acupuncture practitioner determines the energy constitution of the person and chooses the points based on that.

What Are the Risks Associated with Acupuncture?

The risks of acupuncture depend on its practitioner. Risks are low if the practitioner is competent, certified, and uses sterile needles. However, common adverse effects of acupuncture treatment are soreness, minor bleeding, or bruising at the site of the needle insertion. The risk of infection is minimal as single-use, disposable needles are used these days. However, acupuncture is not suitable for everyone.


The acupuncture treatment should be individualized according to the individual. Though results are seen, even when protocol-based acupuncture is practiced, results are often dramatic and near-miraculous if points are energetically correct.

Before starting the acupuncture treatment, the patient should discuss the energy constitution determination with the practitioner. In most cases, it is more gratifying for both patient and practitioner, for the faster relief of symptoms and the treatment becomes more intellectual and spiritual.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Is the Philosophy Related to Acupuncture?

Acupuncture works on the principle of stimulating the central nervous system. This releases chemicals into the spinal cord, brain, and muscles. These chemical changes,in turn, stimulate the natural healing of the body and promote emotional and physical well-being.


Is Acupuncture Working a Meta-Analysis?

According to meta-analysis, acupuncture is statistically superior in controlling the analyses. Acupuncture is used for pain relief and has been claimed to be effective in various other conditions.


What Are the Principle Governing Practices of Acupuncture?

Acupuncture works on the principle of the Chinese technique that directs the flow of qi or energy through the body. Other practitioners use western medicines with the help of needles to stimulate the body’s system. Some practitioners use a combination of both approaches.


Is the Working of Acupuncture Proven Scientifically?

Scientific studies prove that acupuncture is an effective method used alone or in combination with conventional therapies to treat various conditions. It is one of the forms of alternative medicine. It is effective in managing vomiting, nausea, migraine, lower back pain, and constipation.


What Are the Various Disadvantages of Acupuncture?

A common disadvantage of acupuncture includes bruising or minor bleeding where the needles are inserted. Unsterilized needles can also lead to infection. In rare cases, needles can break and damage internal organs.


How Successful Is Acupuncture in Anxiety?

Acupuncture works by assisting the nervous system in achieving balance and alleviating anxiety and stress symptoms. It works to give individuals rapid results in just one to two sessions. In addition, effective acupuncture helps to manage headaches and migraine associated with anxiety.


When Is Acupuncture Use Not Recommended?

Acupuncture is not recommended in case of bleeding diseases, such as hemophilia, or people on anticoagulants. It is also not advised in case of infection or a metal allergy. It is advised to avoid acupuncture in case of pregnancy as it can stimulate early delivery or even abortion.


What Are Three Different Benefits of Acupuncture?

The benefits of acupuncture are improving sleep, relaxing joints, and minimizing headaches. Some research suggests that acupuncture leads to the release of endorphins and promotes anti-inflammatory effects. Chemicals released during acupuncture help to promote emotional and physical well-being.


Is Acupuncture Just Any Placebo?

Acupuncture is suggested to have an enhanced placebo effect. Placebo acupuncture is usually noninvasive. According to various studies, acupuncture is considered to be a powerful placebo.


How is the Brain Affected by Acupuncture?

Acupuncture believes in stimulating the central nervous system, which leads to the release of chemicals in the brain. The biochemical stimulation is released into the brain, promoting emotional and physical well-being.


How Much Time Does It Take to Become an Acupuncturist?

It takes one to three years to become an acupuncturist. A diploma course of one year and a bachelor's course of three years can be done to become an acupuncturist. It takes a minimum of 400 hours to practice with senior acupuncturists.


Can Acupuncture Damage the Nerves?

An acupuncture needle can hit a nerve, and the person may feel a tingling and burning sensation. Once the needle is removed, the sensation should disappear, but in rare cases, it may persist. An acupuncture needle can break and damage the peripheral nerve or spinal nerve root.


Are the Results of Acupuncture Permanent?

Acupuncture gives short-term relief that lasts for about three to four days. In case of acute problems, it can stay for about a week. The session of acupuncture may take up to sixty minutes.


Does Acupuncture Change Serotonin Release Levels?

Acupuncture is responsible for stimulating the release of serotonin. It induces therapeutic effects by increasing the serotonin activity in the central nervous system and inhibits the degradation process of serotonin.


What Happens When the Vein Is Hit by an Acupuncture Needle?

When the acupuncture needle hits the blood vessel, the person may feel some intense sensation or pain. A single sensation is normal to feel. Needles on the extremities point can feel like a tingling sensation or dull aches.
Dr. sivanath
Dr. sivanath

Internal Medicine


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