Author: Susan Polka, BSN, RN, CCRN.

A registered nurse with over twenty years experience in health care. She has worked long term care, community health, acute care. and liver transplant. She currently works as  a clinical educator and assistant director of an hospitable-based inpatient nursing unit

Resources
Figueira, H. A., Figueira, O. A., Figueira, A. A., Figueira, J. A., Varejão, R., Giani, T. S., & Dantas, E. H. (2010). Quality of Life of elderly outpatients
     served by traditional oriental medicine. Indian J gerontol, 24(2), 150-6.

Itoh, K., Katsumi, Y., Hirota, S., & Kitakoji, H. (2006). Effects of trigger point acupuncture on chronic low back pain in elderly patients–a sham-
     controlled randomized trial. Acupuncture in medicine, 24(1), 5-12.

Martin, C. M. (2010). Complementary and alternative medicine practices to alleviate pain in the elderly. The Consultant Pharmacist, 25(5), 284-290.

Reza, H., Kian, N., Pouresmail, Z., Masood, K., Sadat Seyed Bagher, M., & Cheraghi, M. A. (2010). The effect of acupressure on quality of sleep in
     Iranian elderly nursing home residents. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 16(2), 81-85.

Tu, B., Johnston, M., & Hui, K. K. (2008). Elderly patient refractory to multiple pain medications successfully treated with integrative East–West
​     medicine. International journal of general medicine, 1, 3.

Your guide for healthy aging

Video B: Acupuncture looked at under an fMRI. Before and after on an old knee injury.

Video A: Acupuncture performed on Dr. Oz for an audience member with back pain

Helpful Videos and Pictures

Photo A:  Acupuncture needles are so small, that 10 acupuncture needs can fit into

one tradition needle used for shots.

Now & later 

Photo B: Depth of acupuncture needles

Acupuncture 


Acupuncture is a practice used for thousands of years to restore balance and equilibrium to the body by triggering the body’s natural defenses to heal itself. The use of ultrafine sterile needles, which are generally painless, are inserted into certain points and areas in the body (see photo A). The needles are left in place approximately 30 minutes, or as little as 20 minutes for some elderly patients. The treatment room is quiet and warm to promote relaxation. ​


Shelley Dainty, LAc, licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and owner of Dainty Acupuncture in Los Angeles, explains what you can expect on the initial visit. The first visit should involve a comprehensive intake interview, assessment, inspection of the tongue and, if 55 or older, a blood pressure measurement. The visit should last about 90 minutes for an initial consultation
and approximately 60 minutes for subsequent treatments. 


Be sure to tell your acupuncturist if you have any metals in body such as pacemakers, plates, or pins from hip replacements, knee surgery, back surgery, etc. Occasionally, the acupuncturist will opt to apply mild electrical stimulation to the needles and metal may disrupt the flow. 

           

Also be sure to bring a complete list of current medications on your visit and to update your therapist on any changes to your condition since the last treatment. People who take blood thinners may have an increased chance of bruising from the insertion of the needles. Some therapists also prescribe herbs. Dainty points out that most acupuncturists in the state of California are licensed herbalists and will concurrently have patients take herbs and receive acupuncture. Dainty emphasizes patients should not choose herbs without consulting a licensed herbalist who will know what herbs are safe to take with their current medication regime. 

           

The number one reason for treatment in patients 55 or older is pain, both acute and chronic. “Acupuncture is wonderful for treating pain,” says Dainty. “Acupuncture increases the release of endorphins, serotonin and dopamine and therefore acts as both an analgesic and antidepressant” which is important because pain can lead to depression, especially chronic pain. Different causes of pain treated with acupuncture include headache, bruising, arthritis, back pain, and sports injuries. In general, it takes more treatment sessions to help patients who have chronic pain. 


According to Dainty, acupuncture treatment is an amazing complimentary treatment for cancer. It can be used to diminish the side effects of chemotherapy, particularly nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture can help increase appetite, energy and ease pain associated with burns on the lips, tongue and mouth. Acupuncture also helps to protect the immune system, which is suppressed during chemotherapy treatments. 


Other symptoms and medical conditions treated with acupuncture may include indigestion, anxiety, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, menopause, and sexual dysfunction. Acupuncture treatments may lessen side effects of medications or reduce or even eliminate the need for some medications. 


If you are considering acupuncture for yourself or a loved one, you will want to do your research. Make sure you find a therapist that is certified. The site Acufinder.com, can assist your search for a licensed therapist located near you. You can also consult Acufinder.com to find the state governing board to verify credentials and to check the status of their license. 

           

Once you decide upon an acupuncturist, you will want to discuss cost, which can vary widely. Some insurance companies will pay for acupuncture treatments. Payments range from full to partial coverage. Medicare currently does not cover acupuncture. If you use Medicare or your insurance does not pay for the treatments, check to see if your therapist offers discounted rates for multiple treatment packages or senior citizens.  Other options are treatments at community acupuncture centers or at school and colleges of acupuncture. The Yo San University of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Los Angeles, California has a specialty community center for healthy aging. Costs of treatments at these centers and schools can be as low at $30.00 and range up to $150.00, which can still be up to as much as half the amount it would cost at a private practice. Keep in mind, treatments at these centers are not private and usually take place in a ward like setting. 

 

Special thank you to Shelly Dainty, LAc, of Dainty Acupuncture in Los Angeles for lending her expertise to help with this article.  She has generously offered a list of suggested reading and additional resources to assist you in finding a licensed acupuncturist. Feel free to contact Shelly at shelly@www.daintyacupuncture.vpweb.com,or to visit her website at www.daintyacupuncture.vpweb.com. Click here for a list of recommended recommended reading.