Interested in recieving Acupuncture Therapy in Portland?
Our acupuncture specialists at Portland Wellness Care will provide professional therapy to address and improve the medical conditions you are experiencing. We have years of experience in alternative treatment methods, designed to relieve pain and tension within your neck, back, shoulders, legs and more. Learn how our acupuncture experts can treat your illnesses or injuries.
Portland Wellness Care offers a variety of acupuncture services for you or your family’s health and wellbeing. Contact us today to learn more about all of the acupuncture therapy services we offer. We create the right treatment plan that will address and improve any injuries or illnesses that require medical attention.
Call us today at 503-249-9000
Portland Wellness Care is known for providing patients with a treatment program that is designed to heal them with proven, natural techniques. We bring decades of experience in offering modern medicine alongside alternative approaches. When combined, they produce the best results altogether.
Call us today at 503-249-9000
or call us today at (503) 249-9000
Frequently Asked Questions
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese approach to encouraging your body to heal itself by triggering specific points on the skin with needles. The treatment involves using hair-thin filiform (i.e. not hollow) needles into specific places within the body to address symptoms and the root causes of discomfort, pain, and illness. Many studies have found acupuncture to be effective for various conditions.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, very thin needles are inserted into the skin to help balance the flow of energy. This flow of energy, or life force, is referred to as chi, or prana, and connects to all parts of the mind, body and spirit via pathways called meridians within the body. These meridians are analogous to rivers and streams. By placing needles into points along the meridian, the body can increase energy flow to rebalance imbalances. When there is pain or dysfunction within the body it is said that there is a blockage or dam within the river that needs to be unblocked so the flow of energy can be resumed and maintained.
Western practitioners view the procedure as a way to stimulate nerves, muscles, connective tissue, increase blood circulation locally and within the brain, and that it can help stimulate the body’s natural regulatory system to correct internal problems and reduce pain.
There are so many things that acupuncture does that it could literally fill tomes and require multiple degrees to fully understand. There are a few things that stand out though. Acupuncture helps to balance and regulate our highly sophisticated body and mind. It can treat the physical aspect of our self by relieving pain and dysfunction such as a low back injury, knee injury, car accident trauma, etc.
It can also treat the mind by alleviating symptoms related to mental and emotional conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, ADD/ADHD, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, poor memory, difficulty with focus and concentration, worry, obsessive thoughts, etc.
At the highest and most subtle level, acupuncture can work with the soul of our being and help us come to new states of consciousness and new levels of awareness by combining acupuncture practice with guided meditation, breathwork, active imagination and visualization, and with mindfulness practice.
There are many ways that acupuncture relieves pain. Actually, the research into acupuncture’s mechanisms of action has actually helped modern medicine understand the neurophysiology of pain and how it is perceived and relieved. A simple description is that stimulation of the acupuncture points interact with and communicate directly with the nervous system.
The sensations that are elicited during acupuncture stimulation are mediated via the nervous system. When this sensation is felt it is immediately perceived by the brain and we know that a response is being generated. Additionally, during acupuncture a mild electrical stimulation may be added to the points in order to enhance the therapeutic effects of pain relief and a greater sense of well-being. Some of the added benefits of this are the ability to stimulate and release various neuropeptides such as serotonin, noradrenaline, endorphins, enkephalins, dynorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. These are powerful aids to relieve pain and provide regulation within the body-mind.
Most often patients will feel an immediate sense of calm, relaxation and greater overall sense of well-being and euphoria due to the natural release of neuropeptides during acupuncture such as endorphins, serotonin, noradrenaline and oxytocin. If someone is in acute pain, then the immediate effects of acupuncture seem to wear off around 36-48 hours. This is why in the beginning treatment is prescribed 2-3 times per week in order to ensure that patients are getting the maximum benefit and overlap of the therapy.
This is similar to other physical medicine therapies such as chiropractic and physical therapy. Once a patient’s pain levels begin dropping and their function is increasing the treatment frequency can be reduced. In general, it usually takes between 4-8 visits for patients to start having longer-lasting effects after the acupuncture that is noticeable.
Acupuncture is a very safe and effective modality of treatment when practiced and performed by a licensed clinician. The risks and side-effects are so minimal and rare that the American College of Physicians (the largest organization of physicians in the country) recommends acupuncture as a first-line therapy for pain-related conditions over NSAIDS (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin) and opioids.
The most common minimal side-effects that are okay include mild bruising at the site of stimulation due to a rupture in a small capillary, lightheadedness or a vasovagal response due to low blood sugars (which is alleviated by a tasty juice or energy bar), transient mild nerve irritation if a nerve is nicked, and lastly a potential feeling of achiness or soreness in the muscles after a more sports style of acupuncture where myofascial trigger point or motor point needling was performed. This last effect though is totally normal, expected, and is seen as a beneficial response. It is similar to post-workout muscle soreness. A very rare potential negative side-effect is a pneumothorax, which is the accidental puncture of the lung which could result in a medical emergency. This is very rare though and should not be of concern if you are being treated by a licensed professional as they are highly trained to successfully avoid this type of injury.
Acupuncture is a gentle, safe and very relaxing treatment modality. Most of the time, patients fall asleep and take a little nap during their treatment. This is because the mind and body go into a deep meditative state similar to the state I often refer to as the “snooze zone” which is the sleep that we enter into after we push the snooze button and fall back to sleep again. That is a great state!
With that said, most commonly acupuncture just feels “weird.” That’s because we have not often felt these sensations before and so the brain and body do not entirely understand how to make sense of the sensations. More often patients will feel a heavy, achy, pressure sensation, similar to the sensation when you get a massage and they find that “good spot,” except the sensation is much milder. Other sensations though might be feeling like wind is blowing on the skin, a water drop on the skin, it might feel like it is vibrating, pulsing, or maybe it feels cool or warm. These are just some of the many sensations that the body and brain might utilize to understand what is happening and give that information to the conscious mind so that we can interpret what is happening.
For the most part, acupuncture needles are only inserted around 2-4mm or less than ¼ of an inch. The approach of our acupuncturists is to do the least invasive and most subtle stimulation possible to elicit a healing response. Sometimes, an acupuncture needle may be advanced deeper than ¼ of an inch if a specific tissue is being targeted, such as in trigger point therapy. In the case of a myofascial trigger point, or knot, within the muscle, the muscle and trigger point is identified and an acupuncture needle is advanced to the depth of the trigger point in order to stimulate a release response. This is most often painless and is sometimes accompanied by a heavy sensation in addition to a mild flex or twitch of the muscle as it releases and returns to its normal position. After this, a huge flood of endorphins is released from the muscle and greater pain relief and wellbeing are achieved.
It is best to arrive at your appointment early and without rush. This will help your body to relax more easily during your treatment. Additionally, it is advised to eat before your treatment around 1-2 hours prior, but perhaps not a large meal within 30 minutes.
After an acupuncture session, your body and mind are very relaxed and calm. It is a great euphoric feeling of well-being. With that said, it is best to not engage directly in stressful or very physical activities, such as fast cycling, heavy lifting, rush hour traffic, etc. These activities might disrupt the ordered and calm state of mindfulness that has been established during the treatment. Afterward, it is best to take a nice light walk, eat mindfully, and enjoy the gift of life.
This is probably the best part of acupuncture. After your treatment there is a great sense of euphoria, calm and bliss. The world seems to be much slower. You are more calm, aware and mindful. Oftentimes when we enter into this state of being during acupuncture we are in the alpha/theta liminal state of consciousness and brain activity and lose your sense of time due to being so present in the moment. It is definitely a great and welcomed part of an acupuncture treatment.
Sometimes it may be difficult to know if acupuncture is working because its effects can sometimes be very subtle. When you have a chiropractic treatment, massage or therapeutic exercise you are much engaged and active in the process and very physically aware of things happening. With acupuncture, it is most often a much more passive, calm and relaxed state of being that we enter into which doesn’t ask us to “do” anything other than just be. You will know that acupuncture is working if the body starts to get heavy and feel like it is sinking into the table, the mind starts to calm and relax, you fall asleep during the treatment
Acupuncture has been used for millennia to treat not only conditions of the physical body, but also the emotions and psyche. Acupuncture is an effective modality to treat anxiety and its various manifestations. For some individuals there anxiety may present as digestive disturbances such as butterflies in the stomach, stomach/abdominal pains, irritable bowel, or gastric reflux. Others may suffer from more chest and heart symptoms including difficulty with breathing or feelings of constriction and tightness in the chest, difficulty with deep inhales, palpitations, racing or rapidly beating heart, or feeling lightheaded. Another manifestation of anxiety symptoms may be “in the head” and present as worrisome thoughts, overwhelming emotions, brooding a racing mind and thoughts especially before bed, deep concern or fear, fear of the future, apprehension, a general feeling of uneasiness, tension or restlessness, difficulty concentrating, or insomnia. Because acupuncture is effective at helping to regulate the whole mind-body it is able to help bring an individual back into balance and calm so they can feel like their normal self. Additionally, at PWC we combine acupuncture with other modalities including biofeedback, guided meditation, and visualization, herbal medicine, movement arts such as yoga, taichi, and qigong, and mindfulness practices to help address anxiety in the most holistic way possible.
In addition to acupuncture helping to regulate and relieve anxiety, it has also been utilized for thousands of years to alleviate depression. As in the case of anxiety, acupuncture as a modality seeks to re-establish balance and regulation between the body-mind and its various systems. If any of these systems is off, whether it be too low or too high, then the other systems will be adversely affected. Many people think that acupuncture is only capable of treating physical conditions such as injuries, pain, digestive disturbance, or cardiac conditions. However, acupuncture can also address conditions of the mind or psyche, such as depression. While acupuncture has demonstrated great effectiveness in treating mild to moderate depression, it is also an excellent and preferred adjunct modality in the treatment of severe depression in conjunction with psychotherapy and medication. In order to get the best benefits for the treatment of depression, acupuncture may be combined with biofeedback, guided meditation, and visualization, herbal medicine, movement arts such as yoga, taichi, and qigong, and mindfulness practices.
Acupuncture is a great modality to help reduce inflammation, whether from an injury, arthritis, or digestive in nature. There are a few different ways that acupuncture is beneficial ain reducing inflammation.
The first is when acupuncture is utilized at a local injury, such as in tennis elbow. In this case, acupuncture may be performed at the site of local inflammation and tissue irritation, which is often at the lateral epicondyle of the elbow. By stimulating and activating the local hyperirritable locations within the tissue, the acupuncture needles are able to create a “soup” of various biochemicals that aid in increasing local blood flow, bringing in more oxygen, increasing the production of nitric oxide, enhancing the immune system and increase the turnover and regeneration of new cells. This results in a quicker recovery and a resolution to the inflammatory process locally.
Another method utilized by sports acupuncturists in a physical injury, such as in tennis elbow, is to restore function to dysfunctional muscles that are creating irritation and inflammation to begin with. A common muscle group that is dysfunctional in tennis elbow is the extensor digitorum communis muscle of the forearm. This muscle group extends the 1st through 5th fingers and attaches at the lateral epicondyle. If there is an overuse or repetitive injury to these muscles, small microtears and/or trigger points may develop within the myofascial unit of the muscle. With this increased tension on the muscle, inflammation is produced at the muscle attachments. If the injury is sustained or prolonged this will continue to cause inflammation and dysfunction until resolved. By reducing these myofascial trigger points and lesions, the function can be restored and inflammation reduced.
Additionally, acupuncture modalities can treat the body holistically to prevent the development of inflammation systemically via acupuncture itself and other modalities such as myofascial release, cupping, herbal medicine, and diet and nutrition.
This is a common question that people have about acupuncture. The answer is a little difficult, but is better understood through an analogy.
The human body has various vessels such as the blood vessels, which carry nutrition and nourishment for the body’s tissues, and the acupuncture meridian vessels, which carry information and energy for the body’s tissues and mind. When we have an injury, say in the ankle due to an ankle sprain, it is similar to a tree falling in the forest across a stream. This tree may cause a dam across the stream, however, in the beginning water is still able to flow under and around the stream because the tree is not able to completely occlude its flow.
Over time though, debris such as leaves and other branches will get caught by the tree and start creating more of a dam in the stream. This will result in a greater deposition of sediment and soon the water upstream from the tree will begin to swell and back up, while downstream from the tree the flow is much smaller than before and only trickles. In this example what is needed is to remove the tree from the stream in order to re-establish the normal flow to the area. When this is done all of the debris and sediment that was collected behind the tree will then flow downstream and cause a lot of dirty water filled with debris. Once the stream is able to flow again though, this debris will clear itself out naturally and the proper color and flow of the stream will be restored. This debris, sediment and “mud” in the water being released in this scenario would be an example of toxins being released after treatment. So bringing our analogy back to the body, if our ankle is injured and is swollen, it is as if a tree has fallen and blocked our blood and meridian vessels causing swelling and a buildup of debris and inflammatory sediment.
When treatment is performed to remove this obstruction these materials are released into circulation which may be described as a “detox reaction” due to the feelings of soreness, achiness, headaches, sweating, digestive disturbance, or nausea. These symptoms are totally normal and part of the process of healing and recovery. As in the example of the stream, once the proper flow is restored, the stream will clear itself and homeostasis will return.
This is a question that I get often as an acupuncturist. Acupuncture as a modality and theoretical orientation works to restore balance and regulation to the body and mind. In short, acupuncture alone is not capable of completely promoting weight loss.
However, when combined with the four primary activities of life, it can help give someone the extra edge needed in order to help someone achieve their optimal state of health and body composition. The four primary activities to ensure that we are maximizing are nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mental/emotional health.
Once we are incorporating and enhancing these primary four activities, acupuncture can help identify where we tend to be out of balance and to restore normal function to these areas, such as do we tend to emotionally eat; do we have more weight overall; do we tend to be more fearful and carry our weight lower; do we tend to be “skinny fat” and have anxiety and worry; do we tend to have more of a metabolic syndrome presentation of more visceral fat and larger midsection with irritability? All of these are different ways to look at what may be the underlying mind-body symptoms that may be contributing to one having extra weight.
Acupuncture has been utilized as a treatment for addiction for several decades. In fact, the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) began utilizing acupuncture as primary treatment modality for addiction recovery back in the 1970s at the Lincoln Detox Center in the Bronx, New York.
The NADA protocol was implemented to treat drug and alcohol addiction and produced great results. In order to maximize the efficiency, efficacy and to streamline the training, the founders of NADA establish a 5 needle point combination that utilized powerful points located within the ears. This would allow for an easy treatment with minimal requirements of the individual and did not need one to undress.
A simple group therapy model was introduced with individuals sitting in chairs in a circle while the treatments were being commenced followed by group psychotherapy. This protocol was so successful that the program grew rapidly and spread across the United States and across the world. Additionally, because the primary points treated are located in the ears with little side-effects or risks, the NADA program has successfully trained and certified non-acupuncturists to perform the services in order to maximize its applications in various treatment centers.
For more information on the NADA protocol of addiction treatment and recovery, talk to your Portland Wellness Care acupuncturist or visit the NADA website.
Dr. Scott A. Cathcart, DC, MS
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