Acupuncture: How Does it Work? | MedStar Health

Acupuncture is an ancient system of healing developed as part of the traditional medicine of China, Japan, and other Eastern countries. It utilizes practiced medical treatments to manipulate the body’s energy flow, allowing the body to balance and heal itself.

The practice of acupuncture is a holistic medical approach which addresses the health and well-being of the entire body. This medical model is based on natural laws which describe the flow of life energy in nature and the body.

The concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, is believed to encompass the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of life. Channels of energy run in regular patterns through the internal organs of the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing throughout the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. When pathways become obstructed, deficient, or excessive, the body is thrown out of balance causing illness. It restores the balance.

Through the insertion of very fine needles, applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points, the acupuncturist seeks to rebalance the flow of Qi. The treatments lead the body to re-establish balance in organ function with positive effects on digestion, absorption, circulation, immunity, and energy production.

The modern scientific explanation is that needling the points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.

Acupuncture today

Acupuncture is useful in resolving physical symptoms related to tension, stress, and emotional conditions. It has also been effective in the management of addictions, including those related to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and food. It is also widely used for pain management.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more people have been treated with acupuncture in the last 2000 years than with all other health modalities combined. The WHO recognizes the effectiveness of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems including:

  • Neurological and muscular disorders

  • Digestive disorders

  • Respiratory disorders

  • Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive issues

Whom we serve?

Some of the conditions we can address with acupuncture:

  • Cervical (neck) pain

  • Back pain/Sciatica

  • Joint pain

  • Neurological problems

  • Headaches

  • Rheumatological disorders

  • Cardiovascular problems

  • Immunological problems

  • Gastroenterological problems

  • Gynecological problems

  • Digestive disorders

  • Infertility

  • Sleeping disorders

  • Asthma

  • Stress

  • Post-surgical complications

  • Stroke

  • Allergies

  • Endocrine Disorder

Length of treatment

The number of treatments needed differs from person to person. For complex or long-standing conditions, one or two treatments a week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually fewer visits are required. Health maintenance is often enhanced with regular sessions several times each year.

Needles/Side effects

Generally, there may be a sense of calm and vigor after a treatment. Occasionally, symptoms may seem to worsen for a few days and this may actually indicate that the body is responding to the treatment and should not cause alarm.

Most patients will not experience significant pain with needle insertion. Feelings of warmth, numbness, fullness, or pressure are not unusual. It is recommended to avoid vigorous activity, heavy meals, and alcohol for six hours before and after each treatment.

Our providers

Acupuncture specialist giving acupuncture therapy

Expert acupuncture care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our acupuncture specialists.

Our locations

Distance from Change locationEnter your location

NRH Rehabilitation Network at Bethesda

6410 Rockledge Dr.
Ste. 600
Bethesda, MD 20817