By Mara Benner
Acupuncture, a 4,000-year-old healing modality, has had a significant resurgence as consumers and healthcare providers seek new ways to approach everything from the opioid epidemic to fertility issues.
A recent National Health Interview Survey study found that more than 14 million Americans have tried acupuncture, and that number is growing fast. To keep up with the demand and efficacy of the services, some healthcare insurance companies are providing reimbursement for acupuncture.
Despite its popularity, many people shy away from seeking acupuncture services because they are unsure how it might help, they are skittish about the use of needles or they think it requires a doctor’s order. Here is what you need to know:
The benefits of acupuncture
Casey Corridan, with the Alexandria Acupuncture Center, has been offering acupuncture and herbal medicine remedies for 11 years.
“While I was studying and working in the field of psychology, I was faced with my own personal health issues,” Corridan said. “I decided to try acupuncture and Chinese medicine as an alternative to medications. I loved how acupuncture included physical medicine, touch and energy work along with emotional support to heal a patient.”
Corridan decided to pursue a three-year master’s program in traditional Chinese medicine that provided education and training in acupuncture and herbal medicine. She now specializes in women’s health with a specific focus on issues including fertility, menopause, hormonal imbalances, fibroids and cysts. She offers acupuncture to clients of all ages, from teens to seniors.
“There is a long list by the National Institute for Health that has identified over 40 conditions well suited for acupuncture including pain,” Corridan said. “Each person receives a tailored treatment plan, using different points and needling methods to help them find relief. Most people report that acupuncture feels extremely relaxing.”
While people often go to Corridan for help with a specific health issue, she said acupuncture is also meant to be used as a prevention technique. The practice has had proven success with harmonizing the whole body when practitioners work to bring excessive or deficient organ systems back into balance.
Corridan said acupuncture has withstood the test of time as an effective, non-pharmacological healing technique. It also does not require a doctor’s orders, although Corridan advised informing your physician. She also recommended discussing any hesitation or concerns about the acupuncture needles with your doctor.
How to choose a practitioner
In the Alexandria area, there are more than 20 acupuncturists, with even more located throughout the D.C. region.
To help you consider acupuncture for prevention, healing and wellness, the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health provides the following recommendations:
Don’t use acupuncture to postpone seeing a healthcare provider about a health problem.
If you decide to visit an acupuncturist, check his or her credentials. Most states require a license, certification or registration to practice acupuncture; however, education and training standards and requirements for obtaining these vary from state to state. Although a license does not ensure quality of care, it does indicate that the practitioner meets certain standards regarding the knowledge and use of acupuncture.
Some conventional medical practitioners – including physicians and dentists – practice acupuncture. In addition, national acupuncture organizations may provide referrals to acupuncturists. For instance, the NCCAOM has a database of more than 17,000 board-certified acupuncturists. When considering practitioners, ask about their training, experience and expertise.
Ask the practitioner about the estimated number of treatments needed and how much each treatment will cost. Some insurance companies may cover the costs of acupuncture, while others may not. See NIH-NCCIH’s website, www.nccih.nih.gov, for more information.
Help your healthcare providers give you better coordinated and safe care by telling them about all the health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health.
Corridan also recommends asking the acupuncturist for a complimentary phone consultation prior to your first session. You should also read reviews and pay close attention to comments that have a common theme – positive or negative – regarding the practitioner.
Mara Benner is the founder of Four Directions Wellness, intuitively connecting body, mind, emotions and spirit. The organization is affiliated with the GW Center for Integrative Medicine and offers individual sessions, classes and consulting. Learn more at www.fourdirectionswellness.com.