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  • Writer's pictureCassandra

What is Acupuncture, Anyway??

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

You've heard of it. Some of your friends have tried it. But what the heck is it?

Boy, do I get this question (and similar ones) often. One of my great joys in life is giving people their first acupuncture treatment and answering all their questions.

I'll save you the long, sorted history (4000 years of it) and get to the things you really want to know - what is an acupuncture needle and how is it different than the one the MD uses? Where do you put them and why? Does it hurt? What do you treat?

First things first - what the heck is it??

ac·u·punc·ture /ˈakyo͞oˌpəNG(k)(t)SHər/ noun

a system of integrative medicine that involves pricking the skin or tissues with needles, used to alleviate pain and to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions. Originating in ancient China, acupuncture is now widely practiced in the West.

There you have it. We stick you with needles and you get better. Pretty sweet, huh?

Did you say needles?

Yep! But before you turn and sprint away, let me explain.

The needles we use as acupuncturists are NOT the same as the ones they use to draw blood or give shots. They are MUCH smaller. Like, a lot smaller. For example, if you had a typical syringe used for a blood draw, 18 to 20 acupuncture needles could fit inside of it! Doesn't sound so bad now, does it?

Where do you put them and why?

In short - all over and reasons.

There is an acupuncture point for every day of the year (and then some) spanning from head to toe, front to back. We have a lot of options. Most often the points are in easily accessible places and don't always require much more than adjusting your clothing slightly.

We don't use all of the points each time. Typically we pick 6-10 acupuncture points, which means anywhere from 6-20 acupuncture needles. Often the points are done on both sides of the body, but that isn't always necessary.

And before any worries start sneaking in, acupuncture needles are sterile and NEVER reused.

Now for the why.

If you've see my post about cramps, you read about the tons of questions we ask. If not, here's a quick explanation.

We (acupuncturists) are probably some of the nosiest people you will meet. We want to know everything and ask a million and three questions. Each of these questions help us get a better understanding of you and your body. This gives us better insight as to why your body has been responding the way it has and directs us on how to help it.

Need an example? Let's say you come in with some insomnia. These are a few of the questions we may ask:

  • How long have you been experiencing this?

  • Is it more difficult to - Fall asleep? Stay asleep? Do you wake early?

  • When you fall asleep, any vivid dreams?

  • Do you tend to have night sweats?

The answers to these questions will help us ask further questions to narrow down our Chinese Medicine diagnosis. And they won't always seem like they have anything do to with your sleep, but there is a method to our madness.

These questions help us pick the most appropriate points for you and your body.

Does it hurt?

This is probably the most common question I get. And the answer - no!

Sometimes you will feel different sensations - heaviness, throbbing (but not painful), achy (again, not painful). If there is pain and it doesn't pass within a few seconds, we just remove the needle, give it a little rub and move on. No biggie.

What sort of things does acupuncture treat?

I thought you'd never ask!

Truth is, we can help with a lot. There is more and more research coming out showing just how awesome we are and I am living for it!

Here is list of a few things we can help you with straight from the NIH (National Institutes of Health - aka super smart people). Buckle up because the list is long.

Effective alone or in combination with other modalities

  • Nausea due to surgical anesthesia and chemotherapy

  • Dental pain after surgery

  • Addiction

  • Headaches

  • Menstrual Cramps

  • Tennis elbow

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Myofascial pain

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Low back pain

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Asthma

  • Stroke rehabilitation

Other conditions that may benefit from acupuncture:


  • Gastritis

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Hepatitis

  • Hemorrhoids


  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Insomnia

  • Nervousness

  • Neurosis


  • Rhinitis

  • Sinusitis

  • Sore throat




  • Headaches

  • Migraines

  • Neurogenic bladder dysfunction

  • Parkinson's disease

  • Postoperative pain

  • Stroke


  • Allergic rhinitis

  • Sinusitis

  • Bronchitis


  • Irritable bladder

  • Prostatitis

  • Male infertility

  • Some forms of impotence

  • Addiction

Whew! I told you it was long!

It is important to say, we are not curing anything. I want to make that clear (you hear that malpractice and regulatory entities?!). But we can really help manage and provide substantial relief.

Did I answer all your questions? Anything on the list hitting a little close to home?

Edina Minnesota Acupuncturist

Edina Minnesota Acupuncturist

Edina Minnesota Acupuncturist

Edina Minnesota Acupuncturist

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