Linda M. Smith, MD
                                                Family Practitioner

                                    Dr. Smith and Associates
                                                2 Narrows Road, Suite 101A
                                                Westminster, MA 01473
                                                (978) 874-1180


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Table of Contents

  1. What is medical acupuncture?
  2. What is acupuncture and how does it work?
  3. Can acupuncture be used in addition to another type of treatment?
  4. What types of medical problems can acupuncture help?
  5. How many treatments will I need?
  6. What are the needles like?
  7. Do the needles hurt?
  8. Is there a problem if the "wrong" point is needled?
  9. Are there any side effects of acupuncture?

What is medical acupuncture?

Medical acupuncture is acupuncture performed by a physician trained and licensed in Western medicine, who has also trained in acupuncture.

Dr. Smith attended medical school at Boston University and is a licensed Primary Care Physician. She trained in acupuncture at Harvard Medical School and attends ongoing training in osteopathic techniques at the University of New England.

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What is acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is a method of unblocking obstructions in the flow of the body's energy, helping the body to heal itself and function to improve. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise points on the body.

The conventional Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in patterns - or meridians - throughout the body, irrigating and nourishing the tissues. Stress to the body can cause the flow of energy to be obstructed. Acupuncture helps correct the flow of energy in the body so the body can heal itself.

One modern scientific theory of how acupuncture works is that it stimulates the release of chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, brain, and connective tissue. These chemicals change the experience of pain and trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones that influence the body's internal regulating system.

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Can acupuncture be used in addition to another type of treatment?

Acupuncture treatments can be effective as the only treatment used, or they can be given at the same time as other treatments, such as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic techniques, massage therapy, and homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions.

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What types of medical problems can acupuncture help?

While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, acupuncture can be used to treat a wide range of medical problems.

Some of the conditions Dr. Smith has treated with acupuncture include:

  • Digestive disorders -- irritable colon, GERD, colitis, diarrhea, nausea, constipation, gastritis, hemorrhoids
  • Respiratory disorders -- allergies, asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis
  • Neurological and muscular disorders -- migraines, osteoarthritis, neck pain, tennis elbow, back pain, facial tics, spinal stenosis, Multiple Sclerosis
  • Urinary, menstrual, reproductive problems, and menopausal symptoms
  • Tension and stress
  • Also -- hypertension, side effects of chemotherapy, diabetes, scars
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How many treatments will I need?

Every patient's condition is unique, and the number of treatments needed differs from person to person.

Most patients with complex or longstanding problems start to experience improvement in four to six weekly treatments. As improvement starts to last longer between treatments, visits are spread out over longer periods of time.

For acute problems, fewer but more frequent treatments are usually needed.

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What are the needles like?

Acupuncture needles are very thin, hair-like needles. The needle most commonly used by Dr. Smith is only 0.18 mm in diameter. The point is smooth, unlike the needles with beveled cutting edges that are used for vaccinations or drawing blood.

Dr. Smith uses sterile, disposable needles approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so they pose no risk of contamination.

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Do the needles hurt?

Patients report that they are not even aware of most of the needles being inserted. Sometimes they experience a pricking sensation with a few of them.

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Is there a problem if the "wrong" point is needled?

No. The body will ignore a needle it doesn't need.

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Are there any side effects of acupuncture?

Usually not. As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Occasionally, the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work.

With the first one or two treatments, it is quite common to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. These pass within a short time and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.

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