What you should know if you are considering acupuncture

Dr. Anton Borja

JOHNSON CITY (Jan. 7, 2015) – The earliest evidence of acupuncture dates back thousands of years, likely beginning in the Stone Age when stone, or ‘Bian,’ knives were used in China. Today, the popularity of the eastern form of medicine has grown significantly, especially in the United States.

“The World Health Organization has a long list of diseases and conditions that have researched evidence toward acupuncture’s benefit,” said Dr. Anton Borja, director of the Integrative Medicine Clinic in East Tennessee State University’s Department of Family Medicine. “Pain – both acute and chronic -- is a huge symptom that acupuncture can benefit. It’s also used to help with osteoarthritis.”

Those suffering from headaches, depression or anxiety can also benefit from acupuncture.

“It’s also an adjunctive treatment when undergoing treatment – it has been shown to be very good for nausea,” Borja said. “And the military supports it for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to pain medicine.”

Borja began offering acupuncture at the Family Medicine clinic in Johnson City last year and says it has been well received.

“We’ve had a really great response,” Borja said, noting he has expanded to also include other forms of eastern medicine. “And we’re trying to expand even more now.”

On a patient’s first acupuncture visit, Borja will sit with the person and “chat” for a while.

“Then I’ll start asking you a lot of questions you’ve never had a doctor ask you before – questions about sleeping patterns, bowel movements, energy levels,” he said. “I also check pulses and I look at your tongue.”

The tongue, Borja explained, is seen in Chinese medicine as an internal organ that is externally visible.

“The way the tongue looks can tell you a lot,” he said, noting he checks its color and thickness as well as any cracks on the tongue.

Next comes the needles, but those with a fear of sharp objects need not panic.

“An acupuncture needle is about as thin as a hair. It’s made to slide into the skin without causing pain,” Borja said. “However, there is a sensation we try to get with acupuncture. We call it the ‘good sensation.’ It’s an aching, electrical sensation. You want that. It is telling me the needles are in the place where I want them to be.”

The needles target areas of the body where there are high levels of nerve fibers. There are nearly 400 such points that can be used in acupuncture, each one designated to help specific conditions, Borja said.

“I tell all my patients that acupuncture is not a magical treatment. By the fourth treatment, you should have seen some benefit. You’d be surprised, though, how many people see major improvement after just one treatment. I’ve had patients literally say, ‘I’ve been suffering from this pain for years and acupuncture is the only thing that helps me.’”

While acupuncture has become increasingly more common, it is important to note that most health insurance still does not cover it in Tennessee.

“We try to keep it very inexpensive for our patients because we realize this,” Borja said.

For more information about acupuncture or the Integrative Medicine clinic at ETSU Family Medicine Associates, call 423-439-6464. The clinic is located at 918 W. Walnut St.
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