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Shape Up: Acupuncture Basics

It's not all pins and needles -- we asked Stacey Van Gorder, a licensed acupuncturist, certified herbalist, and owner of Healing and Prevention Center in NYC, to give us the basic scoop on acupuncture.

What is acupuncture?

A licensed practitioner uses sterilized, stainless steel needles to cause an immune response in the body to reduce stress and treat an array of illnesses.

What are the different types of acupuncture? What's the most common?

There's Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Five Element, and Japanese-style acupuncture. Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture is very common and dates back 2,500 years; it's the oldest continually practiced medicine in the world. TCM treatments include and incorporate acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, dietary therapy, and breathing exercises.

Acupuncture is great for bringing down stress and anxiety, increasing energy, and aiding in better sleep.

What are the benefits of acupuncture?

Acupuncture is great for bringing down stress and anxiety, increasing energy, and aiding in better sleep -- perfect for a weary bride or groom. Besides being a great stress-reducer, acupuncture is also used to successfully treat a number of ailments, including gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, and dermatological disorders.

Does acupuncture hurt?

The feeling caused by acupuncture needles varies from person to person, but it's common to feel some cramping, heaviness, distention, or a sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected area. This feeling is referred to as bu tong, or painless, and is considered part of acupuncture's healing effect.

What are some good resources for finding a good acupuncturist?

Check out PsychologyToday.com, AcuFinder.com, or CitySearch.com for recommendations and reviews on acupuncturists in your area. When you do find one, be sure to ask which ailments the acupuncturist works with regularly and then check his or her background at NCCAOM.org.

Any tips for getting the most out of acupuncture?

Be open-minded and honest with your acupuncturist. The key to successful treatments is pinpointing stress and ailments. And ask questions! If you don't see or feel results, tell your acupuncturist so that adjustments can be made. Also, keep in mind that acupuncture isn't magic, and it's not a feel-good pill. It takes the patient and practitioner working together to heal the body and the mind, which means breaking bad habits and striving to live a life that's healthier and happier.

-- Tia Albright

See More: Getting in Shape