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Acupuncture: So Much More Than Just Sticking People with Needles

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Acupuncture is becoming more main stream. However, many people still do not know the entire scope of Chinese medicine, which includes so much more than just inserting a needle.

Acupuncture treatment for a variety of illnesses

The practice of Chinese medicine starts with a diagnosis. This is not the type of diagnosis that you would receive at your primary care office. You will never hear an acupuncturist say “you have Hashimoto’s”. The practitioner will ask you many questions. Some are about your chief complaint while others are not. You can expect to be asked questions around digestion, appetite, diet, sleep patterns, bowel movements, urination, pain, lifestyle, and stress level. It is important to note that during this detailed intake the practitioner will also be observing voice pitch, hair luster, skin color/tone, as well as posture, mood, and any type of abnormal odor (for example a sinus infection tends to give off a certain odor).

Once the initial intake is finished your acupuncturist will do a pulse and tongue analysis, that will help to further differentiate what Chinese medicine pattern you fall into. Finally, blood pressure might be measured and other applicable tests might be done, including palpation of the body. Once all of this is done, a Traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment plan is determined. The acupuncturist will then review both with you, and answer any questions that you might have.

Example of a Typical Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment Plan


Acupuncture needles are very fine, sterile, painless and safe. Some say that at most they may feel a sensation of a mosquito bite if anything at all. The needles are the primary component of an acupuncture treatment. However, with NAET Allergy Elimination acupressure is also available.

They are placed into certain acupuncture points on the body, either locally (at the pain site) or distally (away from the pain). The needles are retained anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes and most find the treatment to be relaxing and calming. Many people take this opportunity to take a nap, regroup, and recharge.

treatment using acupuncture needles at Calandra Acupuncture Chicago
acupuncture treatment using fine needles

Herbal formulas

Chinese medicine includes could also include herbal formulas. The herbs and acupuncture needles work together to bring the body into harmony naturally.

  • Herbal formulas are a great way to continue healing at home.
  • Herbal formulas come in either patent formulas (pills), or the practitioner will make you your own formula.

Many herbal formulas were originally created thousands of years ago, and still apply today. The thing that makes them so unique is that they are specially designed to not overdo the amount of one herb that might cause harm in another part of the body. They are perfectly harmonized. It is for this reason that many herbalists cringe at the idea of someone taking a random herb, or many random herbs that someone read is good for one symptom. When someone does this they are not creating a harmonized formula. They are essentially throwing a dart at a board and hoping it will stick.

Here is an example: if you are trying to drain damp, there will be herbs to drain damp (by promoting urination perhaps) but also herbs to mitigate the strong effects a damp-clearing herb might have on other organs. By draining to much damp you could cause dehydration. In this way, there is always a balance. Herbal formulas treat not only the symptoms but also the root cause.

Nutritional counseling

In Chinese medicine food is medicine. It is very common that you will receive tailored dietary advice to help your specific constitution.

For example, if someone has a pale tongue with a white coating, and it is puffy with teeth marks on the side, and a slimy tongue coat, this might indicate this person has too much damp, which is hampering the digestion. This person would also have gas, bloating, belching, possibly acid reflux. Chinese medicine rates food according to its temperature, season, color, shape and whether it’s right for your individual body.

For this type of presentation, it would be recommended to limit cold raw foods (including iced drinks and smoothies). A food such as ginger might be a nice addition to one’s diet in this case.

Cupping and Gua Sha

Cupping uses glass cups heated with a small flame to create a suction on the skin. This dissipates stagnation of blood and lymph fluid, promotes blood flow, eases stiffness, encourages better circulation to muscles and tissues, and feels great. It may leave a red to purple “cup” mark, only temporarily.

Gua sha uses a flat edged tool that is scraped in one direction on the skin, usually on large areas such as the back. Gua sha is used for many ailments, but especially for pain and stiffness. It removes blood stagnation and promotes the smooth flow of oxygen and blood. Waste and toxins are removed, and the scraping helps circulate fluid and nutrients, encouraging microcirculation in soft tissue. Gua sha can be used on the face for health and beauty, as well.


Moxibustion is heated mugwort and comes in many forms. Usually this smoky herb is held over an area of the body to warm and circulate. It’s great for menstrual cramps and chronic pain.

As you can see, the wide practice of acupuncture is much more than just needles. In addition to the above mentioned supplements to treatment, some practitioners use massage techniques, a form of manipulation called Tui Na, or acupressure.

Calandra Center for Health & Wellness is located in Chicago’s South Loop and Arlington Heights Illinois. Contact us to request a complimentary 15 minute acupuncture phone consultation.

About the author

Teri Calandra

Teri Calandra Dipl.Acu, MSTOM, L.Ac., LMT, RMT

Teri began her studies in energy medicine as part of her own personal development journey, and continues to to learn and integrate that knowledge into her practice. Teri is the founding practitioner of Calandra Center for Health & Wellness in Schaumburg, Illinois. She is licensed by the State of Illinois in acupuncture (L.Ac.), and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

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