Tools of the Trade

Most people think of only one thing when it comes to acupuncture: needles.  So, many are surprised by how many tricks we acupuncturists have in our bag.  Yes, there are definitely needles involved in your session, but that is only the start of what you may experience during a treatment.  Here are a few common tools that we use, along with needles, to get you on the path to health and balance:

  • Advice.  The most important factor in your healing journey is you.  In a way, we acupuncturists are simply stimulating your body to promote its own healing process.  The effects of treatment don't end in the office, and they can be enhanced by recommended lifestyle changes.  I often talk to patients about shifts in diet, movement, and other factors that will best serve our ultimate goal: keeping you feeling your absolute best.
  • Moxa.  What is this mysterious, smelly substance?  Moxa is an herb (mugwort) which is a wonderful tool for pain and other conditions.  In this medicine, we see pain as an issue of things being stuck within the body...so anything that moves the energy or blood with ease the pain.  Makes sense, right?  Moxa is both moving and warming.  It also builds the energy.  So, if you come in with pain (particularly pain that feels better when you put heat on it) or fatigue, don't be surprised if I start putting moxa on the needles and lighting them up.  Moxa gets very smoky, so be sure to let your practitioner know if you have any breathing issues!
  • Cupping.  Again, pain is the result of energy (qi) and blood being "stuck" in the body.  Cupping is similar to a deep tissue massage.  We use glass cups to create a suction along areas of pain or tightness.  As that stuck blood gets moved and pulled to the surface, the pain resolves, and muscles loosen. Most patients will get round marks where the cups were, which is completely normal, and actually a good thing-it means that blood is moving! Generally, the darker the marks, the more noticeable the results.  These marks usually last 3-5 days.
  • Gua sha.  Gua sha is another way to move the qi and blood.  It is very effective on smaller areas, such as the neck or around the scapula.  It also works well for tendonitis and tight IT bands.  During gua sha, a layer of oil is placed on the skin, and a flat object such as a stone or Chinese soup spoon is used to scrape at the area until it is red.  Like cupping, the marks usually last 3-5 days...and like cupping, it will loosen the area and alleviate pain.

So, don't be surprised if your trip to the acupuncturist consists of much more than needles.  We have lots of tricks up our sleeves to leave you feeling loose, relaxed, and balanced!