Acupuncture- Let’s Get to the Point
By Megan Clowers, OMD at Saint Mary’s Center for Family and Integrated Medicine.
Have you ever been curious or perhaps even skeptical about acupuncture?
You’re not alone. In recent years, acupuncture has been gaining
in popularity…we’ve seen it on the news, on the Instagram
feeds of celebrities and yes, even major health systems are adopting integrative
and alternative approaches to healing.
While the practice of acupuncture dates back to ancient times, it is becoming
more commonly incorporated into today’s modern medicine techniques.
Here are some basic things to know if you are considering acupuncture
for the first time:
First and foremost, it is important to find a licensed acupuncturist in
your area if you are interested in scheduling an acupuncture appointment.
Licensed acupuncturists are required to receive upwards of 3,500 hours
of training and pass multiple national, and in some instances, state licensing
exams before they can treat patients. As acupuncture has become more widely
accepted in our healthcare system many practitioners are working closely
with physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants to ensure
patients get the best and most thorough care. At Family & Integrated
Medicine, we take a team approach to patient care and are always available
to each other as needed for consults, giving family medicine a holistic
approach and our patients’ excellent care.
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of what acupuncture is and what it
does I want to answer one of the most common questions patients ask me….Why
did I decide to become an acupuncturist?
The answer is easy, experience. I have lived an adventurous life and am
no stranger to injuries. I’ve torn ligaments, broken bones, and
had many sprains that have kept me from enjoying my hobbies. To get back
on my feet and continue to enjoy my many interests acupuncture has helped
me tremendously! In addition, I have always known that I wanted a career
in medicine. Being an acupuncturist allows me to help patients in a non-traditional
way, yet still pursue my dreams of working in the medical field.
So, what exactly is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a treatment in which very small, fine needles are inserted
through the skin at strategic points on the body, called acupuncture points.
There are more than 300 of these acupuncture points in the body that are
all connected by pathways called meridians. Due to a variety of factors
like disease, illness or injury, these meridians can become blocked and
lead to pain and discomfort. The purpose of acupuncture is to free meridians
that are blocked. The needles work to stimulate muscles, nerves and connective
tissue to release chemicals like endorphins to promote healing and provide relief.
The benefits of acupuncture:
In my experience, I’ve seen acupuncture help those who are suffering
from acute and/or chronic pain throughout the body. I’ve also seen
it alleviate stress and anxiety, menstrual irregularities and some digestive
issues. Additionally, it’s been increasingly popular to consider
acupuncture in connection with fertility treatments, and once pregnant,
acupuncture can be a great tool to alleviate some of the side effects
that come along with expecting a child. Note that it’s important
to notify your acupuncturist if pregnant, so treatment can be modified
What to expect during your first treatment:
While most acupuncturists have their own unique ways of assessing a first
treatment, you can typically expect an initial evaluation to discuss any
symptoms, your medical history, lifestyle and behavior. From there, we
will determine which areas to treat and get started. Treatments involve
lying on a massage table or sitting in a comfy chair and are typically
comprised of the following steps:
- Needle placement, where the thin needles are inserted.
- Needle manipulations, which involves gently moving the needles after placement,
or applying mild electric pulses or heat to the needles.
- Needle removal, usually after 10 -20 minutes.
- Asian body work, such as shiatsu or tuina, which is a type of massage,
may also be used before, during, and/or after the treatment to enhance
the acupuncture effect. I may also prescribe an herbal formula for the
patient to take home with them in order to prolong any work done during
What acupuncture feels like (a.k.a. does it hurt?!)
While I can’t speak for everyone, the general consensus is: no,
acupuncture needles do not hurt. The needles used in acupuncture are so
extremely thin, quite unlike needles used to draw blood or for injections.
You can also request your acupuncturist to start with the thinnest needles
possible to minimize any concerns. Most often, patients tell me the sensations
they experience while receiving acupuncture feels like a warm, pulsing
sensation or a mild, but pleasant ache. These sensations mean that your
body is being correctly stimulated and is responding to the treatment.
What to expect after acupuncture treatment:
After acupuncture, I have had patients experience feelings of relaxation
and calmness as well as energy and motivation. Everyone responds to treatment
differently and results can come instantly, or it may take continued treatment
to achieve what you’re looking for. The side effects are limited
and the most common is minor tenderness at treatment sites. Considering
the numerous benefits, acupuncture can be an effective and worthwhile
As a Reno native and lover of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Megan Clowers,
OMD is passionate about bringing Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbology,
Asian bodywork and nutrition to those searching for alternative therapies
and healing throughout northern Nevada. She received her Master’s
in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental
Medicine in 2014 and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics
from the University of Nevada in 2009. Clowers’ work focuses on
the collaboration between Chinese medicine and Western biomedicine which
she practices at Saint Mary’s Family & Integrated Medicine in
If you have any specific questions or would like to learn more about acupuncture
services in Northern Nevada, contact Saint Mary’s Integrative Medicine
at (775)829-2277 or visit www.SaintMarysMedicalGroup.com.