What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world, originating in China more than 2,000 years ago. Acupuncture is the insertion of sterile, disposable, fine needles into specific points located near or on the skin’s surface. According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (the largest and most comprehensive survey on complementary and alternative medicine), 8.2 million Americans have used acupuncture and 2.1 million have used it in the previous year.

What does acupuncture feel like? Does it hurt?

Acupuncture needles are metallic, solid, and hair thin. The needles are so thin it is as if they glide through the pores in your skin—often the insertion is hardly felt. Most patients report feeling a sensation of warmth, tingling or pressure during the insertion of the needle with minimal or no pain. The needles can be adjusted in the unlikely event you feel uncomfortable during the needling process. Some people are energized by the treatment, while others feel relaxed. Everyone’s experience is unique, although it is quite common for people to leave the treatment with a great sense of relaxation and calm.

Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

No. Acupuncture is successfully used on animals and children, who cannot understand the theory behind it. A positive open attitude certainly helps with any type of treatment/therapy but it will work regardless. I’d be more than happy to discuss any questions or concerns you might have to help you feel more comfortable with Chinese Medicine.

Is acupuncture safe? Is it regulated by the FDA?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles be used and that they be labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only. Relatively few complications have been reported to the FDA in comparison to the millions of people treated each year by acupuncture.

Does acupuncture work?

According to the National Institute for Health Consensus Statement on Acupuncture in 1997, acupuncture has been shown to be effective for adult postoperative chemotherapy nausea and vomiting and in postoperative dental pain. Acupuncture has been found to be effective in treating addictions, stroke, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia pain, osteoarthritis, low-back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome when used as a complementary treatment.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is one of the key components of the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) system. In TCM health is achieved and disease is prevented by maintaining the body in a balanced state of yin and yang. Any imbalance leads to blockages in the flow of qi (vital energy) along pathways known as meridians. When qi flows smoothly, we are healthy. But, if the qi flow is blocked, or we don’t have enough qi, problems develop. Acupuncture finds the areas where qi is out of balance and works to restore the body’s natural healthy state. Several theories have been proposed as to how acupuncture may work from a western perspective. Acupuncture may regulate the nervous system, increase endorphins and stimulate the immune system. It is theorized that acupuncture works by regulating the nervous system through releasing endorphins and immune system cells at certain spots in the body. Some studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry causing the body to release a variety of endorphins, which have been demonstrated with modern imaging techniques.

How many sessions will it take until I am feeling better?

It is hard to predict duration of treatment until after a thorough intake and initial treatment session. It depends on your condition. Everyone responds differently. As a general rule, the longer you’ve had a problem, or the more serious the condition, the longer it will take to resolve it. However, most people start to experience relief from their symptoms fairly quickly (within 2-3treatments).

How often should I come for treatment?

It depends on your condition. Most people come once a week at first. If a condition is particularly acute and painful, you may require 2 treatments a week for the first few weeks to more quickly get the situation under control. The benefits of acupuncture are cumulative and build over time. So, the length of time between treatments will gradually increase.

Are there any side effects?

There are very few side effects to acupuncture. Most people find it extremely relaxing and rejuvenating. Occasionally people feel tired after a treatment or experience temporary dizziness. It is helpful to eat before a treatment to help prevent side effects.

What is herbal medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine is the use of 300-500 commonly used herbs (roots, flowers, bark, seeds, fruits, branches, etc) to treat a variety of medical ailments. It has a tradition over 2000 years old. Herbs have fewer side effects than many western drugs since they are natural. Combining herbs with acupuncture increases the efficacy of both significantly. Herbs are can be taken as a decoction of raw herbs, powder, or patents. Patents, the mildest form, are essentially over-the-counter medicinal in the form of little pills or liquid. The powdered herbal formulas are individualized to suit your specific needs, which makes them particularly beneficial and slightly more powerful. Although the raw herbs are the most powerful, they are more labor intensive, so most people take the powders.

Do you accept insurance? Why not?

Most insurance companies do not yet offer coverage for acupuncture or other alternative health care modalities. Some insurance plans offer a discount, which I honor. You should check with your insurance company before coming. We do not bill the insurance company or collect from them. We expect payment at the time of service. You can, however, use the receipt from us to obtain reimbursement.

What styles do you practice?

I practice Chinese style acupuncture, Japanese style acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Non-Insertive techniques (magnets, touching needle, acupressure) and Medical Qigong Energy Healing.

What is the difference between Chinese and Japanese style acupuncture?

Chinese style uses the tongue and pulse as diagnostic tools, whereas Japanese style uses the pulse and abdominal palpation. Chinese style is slightly more intense in its treatment approach. The needles are slightly thicker, although still about the diameter of a strand of hair, and are inserted slightly further with more stimulation. Japanese style is more subtle. The thinnest possible needles are used and are inserted very shallowly with minimal stimulation. Both styles generally include a front and back treatment.

What other modalities and adjunctives might be used during a treatment?

Sometimes electro-acupuncture is used, especially in cases of musculoskeletal pain, where a slight electrical current is sent through the needles. Moxa, an herb, is sometimes burned on the needles or skin to stimulate and warm an area. Occasionally a laser might be used. Magnets, pressballs, and tuina massage are also used regularly.

Is there any research on acupuncture or herbal medicine?

Most acupuncture research done in Asia has been in the form of case studies. Western research on acupuncture and herbal medicine is still in its infancy. Results are mixed because of the complexities with study design and size, as well as challenges in choosing controls and placebos such as sham acupuncture. However, the WHO lists over 20 conditions where acupuncture treatment is helpful. Further research will undoubtedly lengthen that list.

What sorts of things can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture is most well-known for providing significant pain relief of all kinds—migraines, back pain, injuries, arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, etc. However, acupuncture is effective in treating a wide variety of ailments such as asthma, infertility, depression/anxiety, insomnia, GERD/reflux, menopause, etc.

What should I expect during my first visit?

During the first visit, we will ask you at length about your health condition, lifestyle, and behavior in order to obtain a complete picture of your treatment needs. Please come prepared to tell us all medications and supplements you are taking. It is always a good idea to eat something before coming and to wear clothes that can be rolled up to above your knees/elbows.