Acupuncture FAQ


Dr. Cowan, DC CAP DACBN,  has performed acupuncture for over 25 years.  He answers the most commonly asked questions about acupuncture treatment in this section.


How does acupuncture work?

AcupuncturePractitioners believe that energy moves through the body in channels called meridians. There are twelve principle meridians linked to twelve organs, and the harmonious flow of energy through these is necessary for the body to function properly, and for a person to enjoy good health.

Internal and external influences can disturb or block energy flow and cause organ dysfunction, which is responsible for the symptoms of illness. Acupuncture removes the blocks to your energy flow.


Does acupuncture hurt?

Some people are frightened by the thought of acupuncture, but you can relax in the knowledge that acupuncture is not a painful experience.

The needles that are inserted into the skin are very, very fine—about the width of a human hair. In fact, it would take several acupuncture needles to match the diameter of just one typical injection needle. Also, the needles are not inserted as far as an injection needle; acupuncture needles are only inserted from 1/4 to one inch in depth.

Most people who receive acupuncture feel some sensation, but do not describe the sensation as painful. Many people feel energized by acupuncture treatments, while others experience a sense of deep relaxation.

Sometimes it’s necessary for the acupuncturist to obtain a ‘needling sensation’ after the needles have been inserted by slightly moving or flicking the needle while it is in the skin. If this occurs, the patient may experience mild cramping, heaviness, distention, or tingling around the area of the needle or traveling down the leg or arm.


Do you re-use your needles?

The answer here is a resounding “no.”

By law, we are required to use sterilized, individually packaged disposable needles.

The needles are not saved and reused for later treatments, but are instead disposed of in a medically sound manner.


I’m not sure I “believe” in acupuncture. Should I try it anyway?

Acupuncture is a medical practice, not a faith practice; no “belief” is needed for it to work.


How many treatments will I need?

As with any medical treatment, results can vary depending on the individual, their health history, and their current maladies.

Sometimes, one treatment is all that is required; other people need a number of sessions to achieve the same results for the same disorder. The typical number of treatments needed before seeing improvement is six to 10.


Is there research that shows that acupuncture is effective?

Yes, there is.

Since 1997, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM] has funded extensive research to advance the scientific understanding of acupuncture.

Recent NCCAM-funded studies have explored

  • Whether acupuncture works for specific health conditions such as chronic low-back pain, headache, and osteoarthritis of the knee
  • What happens in the brain during acupuncture treatment
  • Ways to better identify and understand the potential neurological properties of meridians and acupuncture points
  • Methods and instruments for improving the quality of acupuncture research

Research has also shown that acupuncture can provide relief of symptoms for high blood pressure, asthma, sinus, female health issues, emotional conditions, the functioning of the gastrointestinal system, and the activity of the endocrine system.

According to the National Institutes of Health, researchers are studying possible Western medicine explanations for how acupuncture works:

  • Opioid release.
    During acupuncture, endorphins that are part of your body’s natural pain-control system may be released into your central nervous system — your brain and spinal cord. This reduces pain much like taking a pain medication.
  • Spinal cord stimulation.
    Acupuncture may stimulate the nerves in your spinal cord to release pain-suppressing neurotransmitters. This has sometimes been called the “gate theory.”
  • Blood flow changes.
    Acupuncture needles may increase the amount of blood flow in the area around the needle. The increased blood flow may supply additional nutrients or remove toxic substances, or both, promoting healing.


If you have interest in learning more about the effectiveness of acupuncture in disease, we recommend The Scientific Bases of Acupuncture by Bruce Pomerantz. It is written at a fairly technical level, but is quite readable.


Do you have other questions about acupuncture that were not addressed here? Please contact our Pensacola acupuncture office. We would be happy to address your questions.

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