What is Acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is part of a medical system called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that has been in continuous use for five thousand years. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are rooted in ancient Taoist philosophy which views a person as an energy system in which body and mind are unified, each influencing and balancing the other. Unlike conventional medicine which attempts to isolate and separate a disease from a person, TCM emphasizes a holistic approach that treats the whole person. Many people have found TCM methods of healing to be excellent tools for healing disease, maintaining optimum health and preventing illness. It is effective for physical, psychological and emotional problems. The ancient Chinese believed that there is a universal life energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”) present in every living creature. Just as we have a circulatory system for our blood and lymph we also have a cirulatory system for this vital life force energy. Qi circulates throughout the body along specific pathways called Meridians or vessels. As long as this energy flows freely throughout the Meridians, health is maintained, but once the flow of energy is blocked, the system is disrupted and pain and dysfunction occur. Acupuncture works to reprogram and restore normal function by stimulating certain points on the meridians in order to free up the Qi energy.

How many treatments are required?

The number of treatments required for a given patient to resolve his or her health concern depends on several factors. These include the nature and severity of the presenting condition, the length of time the condition has existed and the underlying constitution of the person. Cupping, Gua Sha, and Moxibustion modalities may also be included in your treatments depending on what is best for you each visit. The primary focus of Acupuncture and TCM is treating the underlying cause of an illness or disease.

While the symptoms of some acute conditions, such as the common cold, can be relieved in a matter of hours or days, correcting the root of the illness itself can be a much longer process. Healing at the root is not an overnight process but happens over time. It is important, therefore, to receive an adequate number of treatments to ensure the root cause has been properly eradicated. While chronic conditions generally require more treatment than acute conditions, patients typically receive 6 to 12 sessions as an average course of treatments. The more condensed the treatments in the beginning the better; we recommend coming in 2-3 times per week for the first 2-3 weeks and then once weekly for the remainder of treatments.

What is Cupping?

As many have seen in the recent Olympic Games, Cupping is used most commonly for sore, overworked muscles and usually leaves a “bruise like“ mark. Cupping is another technique that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. The practitioner uses special glass cups, creates suction using the vacuum effect with fire and places the cups on the body. The cups do not feel hot.  In modern times we also use silicone cups that are simply pressed to expel air and placed on the body where they create suction.  One usually feels an instant relief in the area as the cups draw out stagnant blood, lymph and toxins from the deep tissues to the surface to be cleared away. The cups are left on for no more than 10 minutes. Raised redness (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis) marks may appear where the cups were placed, and these marks disappear in one to two weeks.  The severity and lasting effects of the marks depends on the individual. It is advisable to drink lots of water to flush out any toxins brought to the surface and to keep the area covered and protected for at least 24 hours. Cupping is used for many reasons including pain relief, reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow, relieving bronchial congestion, and for relaxation and wellbeing.

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is another technique used in Traditional Chinese medicine. In this procedure a lubricating medium, such as massage oil, is applied to the skin of the area to be treated. A smooth-edged instrument is used by the acupuncturist to apply short or long strokes on the skin, typically in the area of pain or on the back parallel to the spine. This stroking motion creates raised redness (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis).

Pain, both acute and chronic, is the most common indication for Gua Sha. In the TCM tradition, pain is oftentimes caused by the stagnation of blood in the area of discomfort. The guiding principle behind Gua Sha is that this technique has the ability to break up stagnation and to promote the smooth flow of blood in the area, thereby relieving pain. While Gua Sha is most commonly used to treat pain, it can also be utilized by TCM clinicians to address conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, fever, heatstroke, fibromyalgia, strains, sprains, and muscle spasms.

There are several theories that may explain why this ancient technique works - Gua Sha increases blood flow (microcirculation) in the soft tissue, potentially stimulates the body’s natural pain relieving opioid systems, and it may block the pain response pathways so you feel pain relief.

What is Moxibustion?

Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy, in which the dried herb mugwort is burned near the surface of the skin. Also known as Moxa, the mugwort plant is processed in many different ways to provide different forms of application for healing. Moxa warms and invigorates the Qi flow and expels certain pathogenic influences. There is a warming, and calming feeling when Moxa is used. It also has a distict herbal smell that most are quite fond of.

Are there any side effects?

One of the great advantages of Acupuncture and TCM is the absence of serious side effects. Occasionally after an Acupuncture treatment, patients may report feeling slightly sore, lightheaded, or tired. However, most people report a sense of pleasant relaxation. It is advisable to rest for at least a few moments after a treatment in order to stabilize the body. It is best not to eat a heavy meal or engage in strenuous activity just before or after a treatment.

How does Acupuncture feel?

At the time the needle is inserted, one may feel soreness or slight pain - some patients describe it as an "ant sting" While the needles remain inserted, for approximately 25 to 45 minutes, the patient may feel some cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling, or an electrical sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected meridian, or energy pathway. These are some normal sensations one may feel, you also may not notice much sensation at all, and that is okay too.  The needles should be comfortable enough to relax with during a treatment - many patients fall asleep while having acupuncture.


Want to know more?

If you are not sure whether acupuncture can help your particular condition, take advantage of a free 15-minute consultation with one of our acupuncturists. Please call us to schedule a time if you would prefer to have a consultation before your initial appointment.

Have a question?

Let us know if you have any questions or would like to speak with us directly.

+1 (802) 657 3700

Clinic hours:

Monday: closed
Tuesday: 8am-7pm
Wednesday: 8am-7pm
Thursday: 9am-6pm
Friday: 10am-4pm
Saturday: 8am–2pm

Schedule is subject to change.

Kind words from our clients:

Very relaxing.

"Best place in town for acupuncture/herbs hands down. That it's done in semi private, community style is unique and a bonus in some ways. Atmosphere is very relaxing and all the practitioners are skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate. Very grateful to Julie S. for bringing affordable acupuncture to Burlington.”

— T.R..

Highly recommended!

"Great service every time. I always leave feeling my very best and Julie is incredible at what she does. I highly recommend!"

— A.G.

Accommodating and gentle.

"I appreciated how accommodating the staff was on my first visit. I was afraid of needles and not sure what I was getting myself into but I had gentle assistance from Hannah and I'll be going back soon!!"

— C.L.