Greater Houston Acupuncture Alliance
By Jo Nell Norcini, L.Ac, MAOM
Cypress Area Acupuncture

Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years; however, its debut into the United States did not occur until the early 1970s when President Nixon made a trip to China. He was accompanied by a journalist named James Reston, who had to undergo an emergency appendectomy while they were visiting the country. His appendix was removed using conventional methods, but his post-operative pain was managed with acupuncture.  He was so amazed at its effectiveness that he wrote an article about it in the New York Times, thus generating significant interest in our country.

Even though many Americans are interested in acupuncture, the fact that is has only been offered in the United States for approximately 45 years causes this modality to be shrouded in myths and misnomers.  I would like to dispel some of these at this time.

  1. Acupuncture is not real medicine – Acupuncture is real medicine. As mentioned before, it has been utilized by many eastern countries for thousands of years.  It originated in China and is a major part of their health care system.
  2. Acupuncture has not been scientifically proven to work – Acupuncture has been proven to work.  It is difficult to prove under the western model of a double blind study, but another scientific method is observation.  Acupuncture has been proven and documented to work for thousands of years through observation.
  3. Acupuncture only works for pain – Acupuncture works great for pain, but it is also effective for many other types of internal disorders.  The World Health Organization has recognized that acupuncture is an appropriate treatment for over 200 clinical conditions.
  4. Acupuncture only works as a placebo – Acupuncture may indeed have some sort of placebo effect; many pharmaceutical drugs have this effect as well.  The fact that acupuncture works on animals proves that its effectiveness goes far beyond the placebo effect.
  5. Acupuncture is painful – Acupuncture is not painful.  Let’s face it, nobody likes needles. The needles used in acupuncture are .25mm in diameter compared to a medical syringe which is 28.5mm in diameter.  You will feel a slight sensation, such as heaviness or achiness, but nothing like an injection.
  6. Acupuncture is dangerous and unhygienic – Acupuncture is perfectly safe if you go to a properly trained practitioner.  Also, a properly trained practitioner is required to be certified in “Clean Needle Technique.”  and only uses single-use disposable needles.
  7. All acupuncturist are created equal – Not so. A licensed acupuncturist in the state of Texas is required to have a Master’s degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  This is a four-year, year-round program, which includes clinical observation and an internship.  This is over 3,700 hours of training. They are also required to pass a four-part board exam that is administered by the NCCAOM.  Acupuncturists are licensed by the Texas Medical Board.
  8. Acupuncture and dry needling are different- Dry needling is a type of acupuncture.  The term was coined by some professions to bypass training and licensing.  Dry needling simply means that the needle does not contain a substance.  Many chiropractors and physical therapist practice dry needling, but they are not licensed acupuncturist!
  9. Acupuncturists have to be of Asian descent – Learning to be a good acupuncturist is not in your DNA. With proper education and experience, anyone can become a good acupuncturist.
  10. Acupuncture has side effects and will conflict with conventional medical treatments – The only negative side effect of acupuncture may be slight bruising.  It integrates well with other medical modalities.
From a western perspective, I realize that there is still a lot of mystery surrounding acupuncture and how it works.  Scientist need to be able to see and measure things before they believe, and as they once thought the world was flat and that bacteria and viruses did not exist, they will one day come to terms with the medical marvel that is acupuncture.

*This article by Jo Nell Norcini, L.Ac, is featured in 'What is the “Point” of Acupuncture?' - a monthly article
with the purpose of raising awareness about the benefits of integrative medicine, specifically Traditional Chinese 
Medicine (TCM).*  

By Monica Mathews
TCM Student and Yoga Instructor

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) for Adults is characterized by the National lInstitute for Mental Health as “excessive worry about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months...Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18% of the population.”

Anxiety is a modern term that does not have an exact equivalent in Chinese Medicine, but could be loosely defined as unresolved fear. Strong emotions, like fear, cause stress in the body which disrupts the flow of energy, or Qi. If you have ever had issues with feeling anxiety, you may have experienced heart palpitations (an unpleasant and sudden awareness of your heart beating- not necessarily faster), frequent sighing, insomnia, feeling of heat in the face, feeling of tightness/distention/discomfort or pain in the chest and/or abdomen.

To learn more...

As a patient with anxiety in Chinese medicine, you are evaluated holistically. Whether it is a complex combination of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events known or unknown to the patient, the therapies used in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) work with the body on reestablishing harmony and balance from the inside out.

A licensed acupuncturist and herbalist/TCM practitioner will decipher the diagnosis after careful observation of the patient’s tongue, pulse, and body, plus a complete medical history intake, and then develop an individualized treatment plan. In the case of anxiety, the treatment plan will surely include acupuncture points 
to calm the Shen (Mind), perhaps in combination with other TCM therapies such as herbal medicines, cupping, tuina, and moxibustion.

If you experience anxiety...

See if you can find these acupoints at home! Among some of the acupuncture points commonly used to calm the Shen are PC6, Du24, Ht7, and YinTang, which have the physiological functions of lowering blood pressure, calming the heart rate, and subduing an overstimulated nervous system. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of anxiety, you may want to try acupressure at home in between your acupuncture sessions. It’s easy! Just gently press with your thumb or index finger to stimulate these points 2-3 times a day for about 20-30 seconds. Talk to your local acupuncturist for more ways to deal with symptoms of anxiety such as deep breathing exercises, Qi Gong, or Tai Chi.

By Jo Nell Norcini, L.Ac.
Cypress Area Acupuncture

Acupuncture and Back Pain

A simple search on the Internet for “acupuncture and back pain” will bring up over six million hits, thus making it quite evident that there is a lot of information on the web about this subject. Even in America, where acupuncture is not the first choice for medical care, people associate acupuncture with pain relief.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. It is one of the most frequent 
causes of missed workdays and one of the most expensive conditions in the United States.  Half of all adults will experience some form of lower back pain during their lifetime. The fact that humans walk upright puts a great deal of pressure on the spine and the muscles that support it. Over time, factors such as disease, accidents, poor posture and overexertion can lead to back problems.  The most common type of back pain is muscular in nature. Pain causes the muscles to spasm, which then causes distortion in the discs, joints and nerves of the spine. The nerves can then become inflamed and cause pain to radiate down the side or the back of the leg.  This condition is what is commonly referred to as sciatica.

In most cases, people who experience an episode of acute back pain will recover in 3-12 weeks. For those 
who don't recover, however, chronic back pain can be a significant source of suffering. Acupuncture can play an important role in the reduction or elimination of back pain by reducing recovery time and preventing a chronic condition from developing. Research has shown that acupuncture helps the body to produce natural steroids, which reduce inflammation, and endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Both substances can play an important role in reducing pain.

By reducing acute back pain, acupuncture can also help prevent chronic back pain from developing. It can 
help avoid the need for invasive surgical procedures, steroid injections and the use of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, which can carry with them unwanted side effects and can even prolong the patient’s healing time.

If you have ever tried acupuncture for back pain and felt that it did not work for you, remember that, “not all acupuncture is created equally.” Some modalities such as physical therapy and chiropractic employ what is known as “dry needling”. Many people think that this is the same as acupuncture because the same types of needles are used.  Dry needling involves putting needles into areas of knotted muscle fibers causing the muscle to “jump” or contract due to reflex signals sent from the spinal cord. This type of treatment may provide temporary relief, but is in fact traumatic in nature and can be quite painful.

Acupuncture, provided by a licensed acupuncturist, is quite different. We are able to relieve pain by stimulating points along specific meridians; often the site of needle insertion is far away from the painful area.  Dry needling does not take into account meridian theory, which is a fundamental aspect of Chinese Medicine.  An acupuncture treatment is not only very effective at relieving back pain, it is also relaxing As with any other form of medical care, patients will respond to acupuncture at different rates.  Some people may only need one treatment while others would require 10-20 treatments.  Make sure to discuss your condition thoroughly with your acupuncturist before undergoing treatment and as always, make sure they are properly trained by visiting

JoNell Norcini specializes in pain management. She has post-graduate advanced training in Dr. Tan’s Balance Method, which is extremely effective. 

*This article was feature in "What is the “Point” of Acupuncture?"- a monthly article with the purpose of raising awareness about the benefits of integrative medicine, specifically Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).


Greater Houston Acupuncture Alliance