Central Path

Acupuncture & Wellness

Brendan Carney

Licensed Acupuncturist & Chinese Herbalist

1647 Washington Street, Newton, MA 02465
Newton / Boston Acupuncture

Appointments (617) 584-1450

An Overview of acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient form of healthcare that originated in China at least 2,500 years ago. It has been practiced throughout the East Asian world for a few thousand years. Acupuncture has been accepted into the Western mainstream culture since the 1970’s after President Nixon’s trip to China, and is currently soaring in popularity throughout many parts of the Western hemisphere. Through the use of extremely fine needles (thanks to the Japanese), acupuncture manipulates the flow of Qi in the body, which is the life force or energy force that is present in all living things.

Acupuncture theory suggests that there are 12 main meridians through which Qi flows. These meridians correspond to the major internal organs of the body. For instance, there is a stomach meridian, a lung meridian, and so on. In each of these meridians, the Qi can become stagnant or deficient. Stagnant Qi means that there is a blockage or excess of energy, much the same way a river sometimes stops flowing due to a dam. When this happens water collects – in the case of the body we call this qi stagnation, which causes a variety of symptoms including pain, inflammation, headaches, high blood pressure, depression, and menstrual imbalances. Deficient Qi means that there isn’t enough functional energy within a given organ to perform its necessary duties. For instance, chronic diarrhea and fatigue can easily be caused by deficient Qi of the spleen or stomach.

Acupuncture therapy typically involves inserting needles into several acupuncture points, which are specific locations on the meridians where Qi is said to gather. By manipulating the flow of Qi on a given meridian, stagnant Qi can be dispersed and deficient Qi can be tonified or built. As a result, the symptoms that correspond to these underlying energetic imbalances should naturally improve. There are at least 365 acupuncture points on the 12 meridians, along with numerous ‘extra points’ that are located throughout the body. There are also microsystems such as the ear, eye, nose, and hand which all allow acupuncturists to treat the hip or the arm by manipulating points in the ear or foot (such as reflexology).

From a Western biomedical perspective, acupuncture has been proven to release the neurotransmitter serotonin and beta-endorphins, opiate-like substances made by the brain. Serotonin balance is essential for emotional and mental health and has been linked to healthy eating patterns, sleeping patterns, and the degree of pain in the body. Beta-endorphins are analgesic and anti-inflammatory and are responsible for the ‘runner’s high’, which is why acupuncture can induce similar sensations.

Is Acupuncture Painful?

Acupuncture is generally a relatively pain-free experience. There are times where the initial insertion will be felt by the patient, but there is never an occasion where the patient should be in pain through the duration of the treatment. Acupuncture can cause dull achiness, heaviness, tingling, heat, and increased sensation around the area needled. Almost always, these sensations are accompanied by a deep quality of relaxation and tranquility.

Acupuncture should be a relaxing experience. In fact, this is one of its therapeutic benefits. I have had many patients who felt so relaxed after treatment that they had to drink some water and ‘get their bearings’ before they were permitted go home. This deep relaxation tends to stay with the patient longer through successive treatments. I look for this as a measurable sign of progress. Many patients feel an initial apprehension, but are shocked by how little they feel upon needle insertion.

Who Should be my Acupuncturist?

Unfortunately there are many acupuncturists who only practice on a part-time basis and treat Chinese medicine like a hobby. You should seek out the services of someone who has extensive experience in treating your condition and your practitioner should have a deep commitment to continued education and practice.

I am in practice full time and am a teacher and seminar leader within the profession of Oriental medicine. I have also trained extensively under several internationally renowned acupuncturists.

What does a treatment plan entail?

Most patients that come to me for chronic health problems plan on committing to treatment once a week for 4-6 treatments. At this time, we will assess for progress and discuss where to go from there.

Within that period of time, I expect that their symptoms are showing signs of definite improvement and that their general health is markedly better. If someone has extremely chronic and severe symptoms, it is not uncommon for me to see them weekly for 10 visits. I encourage the body to heal over a period of time, as excessively rapid progress can put the body into a state of shock. If something has accumulated over a period of years, it is only natural that it will take some time to unravel the condition and heal it at its foundation. While no therapy can help everyone, my clinical experience has been that approximately 80% of my patients undergo noticeably positive changes through their course of treatment. Compliancy is an important factor in treatment progress. Generally, patients that commit to my lifestyle suggestions will progress more rapidly.

What can acupuncture treat?

In my clinical practice, I have had great success in treating a the following health concerns:

Anxiety and Depression

While I don’t claim to be a specialist in any one area, I have helped many people with anxiety and depression get off of antidepressants. I enjoy working with this population because many people with anxiety or depression simply aren’t aware that there are alternatives to drugs and talk therapy. Nutrition, exercise, mindfulness techniques, acupuncture, and herbs can offer an incredible support system for healing these conditions.

Gynecological issues

Many women with PMS, menstrual cramps, irregular cycles, infertility, and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats benefit from acupuncture.


Headaches, back pain, neck pain, sprains, strains, etc.

Constipation/diarrhea/irritable bowel syndrome

Acupuncture and herbs can work miracles for people suffering with these symptoms.


Acupuncture alone can be very effective. With herbs and stress reduction techniques, the healing process is even more enhanced.

Other symptoms:

High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Colds and flus
Autoimmune conditions
Type 2 Diabetes
Thyroid imbalances

What are the different styles of acupuncture? Which one does Brendan Carney practice?

There are two main styles of acupuncture that have made their way to the Western world. These are called the 8 principle and 5 element approaches to treatment. Most acupuncturists use one of these approaches exclusively.

At Central Path Acupuncture we practice a Japanese style of acupuncture that uniquely treats the patient and provides real-time feedback mechanisms. Using this models enables the practitioner the ability to utilize a much broader and deeper set of skills and to effectively treat a more diverse array of patients. For more information on this topic visit my website’s FAQ section to see what differentiates our clinics from others.

We do use both 5-element and 8-principle concepts in our treatments. Below is a summary of the different 5-element treatment protocols:

The 5-element model is based on a pre-Communist tradition of Chinese medicine that treats the underlying constitutional factors that are contributing to the patient’s presenting symptoms. This model is more concerned with one’s psychological relationship with their health issues and with any underlying beliefs that are undermining their quality of life. The 5-element model offers a deeper, more truly holistic approach to treatment than does the 8-principle model. It is more concerned with healing one’s core spiritual and emotional issues rather than eliminating their physical symptoms. The 5-element acupuncturist is primarily concerned with diagnosing the patient’s constitutional type, which is the basis of their belief system, attitude, and general disposition in life. The constitutional type is diagnosed by one’s color, sound, odor, and emotion. It has nothing to do with symptoms. Below is a brief description of each element:

WATER: Organ: kidney/bladder; Emotion: Fear; Color: blue; Season: winter; Voice: groaning

WOOD: Organ: liver/gall bladder; Emotion: anger; Color: green; Season: spring;Voice: shouting

FIRE: Organ: heart/pericardium/small intestine/triple heater; Emotion: joy; Color: red; Season: summer; Voice: laughing

EARTH: Organ: spleen/stomach; Emotion: worry; Color: yellow; Season: late summer; Voice: singing

METAL: Organ: lung/large intestine Emotion: grief Color: white Season: fall Voice: breathy

The 5-Element theory suggests that each one of us is endowed with one of these elements as our primary mode of expression in life. We will always have this constitution from the moment of conception until death.

We can, however, transform dysfunctional and neurotic emotions and beliefs into their opposite virtues. This is the nature of healing within the 5-element model. For instance, an earth type who is consumed with worry can transform this dysfunctional emotion into empathy and integrity. A wood type who is habitually angry can transform this emotion into creativity and determination. By healing these deeper emotional issues, one’s physical health will make tremendous strides. The 5 element model asserts that all physical health concerns are preceded by an emotional or spiritual issue. All levels of one’s being need to be balanced in order for true and lasting healing to occur. As a patient, learning about your constitutional type can be an enriching and enlightening process. In clinical practice, these 2 models work very well together.

If you have questions about acupuncture, we are more than happy to answer them for you. Please call me at (617)-584-1450 or email me on the Contact of this website.

Brendan Carney, L.Ac., MAOM is a licensed acupuncturist, Chinese Hebalist, and Tai Chi instructor. He can be reached directly at (617)-584-1450.
Central Path Blog
Central Path - Acupuncture & Wellness
Are you interested in learning more about the powerful benefits of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Call me today at 617-584-1450 to schedule your appointment!