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Medical Acupuncture

Medical acupuncture refers to the practice of acupuncture when performed by a licensed, certified physician (M.D., D.O.).  Acupuncture is only one part of a larger discipline known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  TCM encompassed various mind-body- spiritual approaches to maintain wellness.  Acupuncture is used, along with other therapies, such as herbal medicine, manipulative therapy (Tui Na), Qi Gong, and Tai Chi Chuan, to achieve this end.

The term “acupuncture” has its beginnings in the explorations from Jesuit missionaries during the 16th and 17th centuries. The term coined, acupuncture, was developed by these French Jesuits from a combination of two Latin words: acus (needle) and punctura (puncture).

When researching the history of acupuncture, this appears to be the European continent’s introduction to the healing art, however in 1991, a mummy found in the Italian Alps, known as the Austrian Iceman, Öetzi, had a series of tattoos which appear to correspond to the locations of the traditional acupuncture points used by practitioners in the current day. The mummy is believed to be over 5,000 years old. Given this finding, it has been hypothesized that Europeans may have been aware of the practice of acupuncture earlier on. From Eastern writings, our earliest understanding of acupuncture comes from the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (the Nei Jing) in the second century BC.

References to acupuncture may be found in the United States as early at the 19th century, when Sir William Osler wrote about the management of lumbago and sciatica though acupuncture in the textbook The Principles and Practice of Medicine. The use of acupuncture did not come to the Western’s public’s attention in the US until 1971 when a reporter for the New York Times, James Reston, was on assignment in Beijing, China.  While covering a story, he fell ill to acute appendicitis and required emergent surgery.  He wrote about his experience with acupuncture for his post-operative pain in the Times.  This story began a booming interest in Eastern treatments which continues to this day.

Dr. Carcione’s medical acupuncture practice uses disposable, stainless steel needles of various lengths and gauges of width.  Note that these needles are not similar to standard needles used for blood drawing or medication administration which are hollow and have a beveled edge.  Acupuncture needles are thinner, solid and are tapered to a fine point.  Given such, the treatment is essentially painless although some people may experience a slight pinch upon the needle’s insertion. In other cases, some people may report a tingling or heaviness in the needled region (the acupoint).  This is termed De Qi and makes reference to the stimulation of Qi (pronounced “chee”), the body’s energy, as understood in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Obtaining De Qi leads to a feeling of deep relaxation and an increased sense of well-being.

In ancient times, the earliest acupuncture instruments were made of sharp pieces of bone or flint called Bian stones. Later one, during the metal-working advancements of the Iron and Bronze Ages, metal acupuncture needles began to be developed. Early needles were made from iron, copper, bronze, and sometimes even silver and gold.

Are there any side-effects of acupuncture? Frankly, there are relatively few, if any, side effects. As with any needle puncture, a slight discoloration at the acupoint site may occur. This is temporary and not dangerous. Internal organ puncture and infection are remote possibilities but under experienced hands there complications are extremely rare.

Dr. Carcione’s thorough understanding of neurology, neurophysiology and musculoskeletal medicine enhances and complements the medical acupuncture treatment of his patients. 

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