Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Acupuncture is an ancient practice of inserting fine needles into specific points on the body to stimulate different effects, thus moving the person towards a state of health. To read more about how acupuncture works, click HERE.
DOES IT HURT?
Acupuncture is largely painless. Patients often remark that they didn’t feel much or even anything as the needle was inserted. Sometimes a small pinch or a heavy sensation can be felt upon needle insertion, but even this hurts far less than getting a shot at the doctor’s office. (Hypodermic needles are far thicker than acupuncture needles, which are almost hair-thin).
We find that even the most nervous patients are happily surprised after the first needle is inserted, finding that there is only a tiny bit or no pain.
(Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy results in more sensation, which is described as a 'Muscle Twitch Response' which occurs when knotted, spasmed muscle fibers release. This can feel like a 'jump' as the spasm releases, allowing the muscle to return to it's healthy state.)
The biggest takeaway should be this: You are control. You decide how much sensation you want to feel. Each patient is different. Some patients are very sensitive and, thus, thinner needles and lighter techniques can be used. It's up to you. Don't hesitate to let the acupuncturist know if you'd like a lighter needling technique.
IS IT SAFE?
• Acupuncture is very safe. As a matter of fact, acupuncturists enjoy one of the lowest malpractice insurances of any medical profession due to acupuncture’s safety.
• Licensed Acupuncturists are specially trained in “Clean Needle Technique” and use only sterilized, single-use, disposable needles - therefore, risk of infection is next to nil.
• Licensed Acupuncturists are also taught to needle safely around areas of potential harm, such as the chest or upper back or kidney area. Using safe needling angles and depths keeps the needle far from causing any potential harm.
(NOTE: It is the patient’s responsibility to avoid excessive movement, shifting or reaching while needles are in place. If you need to move or get up during a treatment, simply notify your acupuncturist so that he or she may remove the needles.)
CAN ACUPUNCTURE HAVE SIDE-EFFECTS?
An acupuncture treatment can result in several different reactions. Most people become very calm and relaxed during an acupuncture session. Afterwards most people remark that they feel lighter and more balanced - even energetic. Some patients may feel a little off kilter or light-headed due to the fact that a considerable amount of blood and nervous system activity has flowed into regions that were previously dys-regulated. This is usually very temporary and is rectified by waiting a few minutes or having a snack or meal. (It is recommended not to receive acupuncture treatment when very hungry or overly tired).
Another effect is that patients can sometimes feel a little tired or drained the day of or after a treatment session. This can be the case when an underlying disease mechanism is addressed in a treatment session and the body shifts its energy to address the pathological condition and correct it. When this occurs, we encourage our patients to honor the intelligence of the body and the healing event and TAKE IT EASY. Rest and nutrition are an essential part of healing.
Another phenomenon that can possibly occur after treatment is an emotional release. As the body’s structure and organs store ‘memory’, acupuncture treatment can release unresolved physical and emotional trauma. Sometimes old feelings or emotions (even tastes and smells) can come to the surface that were long-forgotten by the conscious mind. We encourage our patients to let these stuck emotions gracefully pass and resolve on their own. Patients are NOT encouraged to make major life decisions when going through such releases of emotions and stress until they pass and the patient is feeling grounded and stable mentally and emotionally. Many times, our patients remark about how much they learn about themselves going through the process of reclaiming the dysfunctional parts of their body. Read what patients say.
It should also be mentioned that acupuncture infrequently can cause a bruise. These bruises will clear on their own and are generally considered positive in that they prolong the therapeutic effect to the acupuncture point and associated areas. (Cupping and Gua Sha, by their nature nearly always causes bruising, which is part of its therapeutic value).
ARE THERE ANY CONDITIONS OR DISEASES IN WHICH A PERSON SHOULD NOT GET ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture treatment can be supportive of many diseases, even those under the care of Western Clinical Medicine. You should tell your medical doctor that you are receiving acupuncture and/or herbal remedies so that he may assess and adjust medications and treatments accordingly. (For example, diabetics often need to adjust their insulin levels or medications as their blood sugar levels may improve).
You should tell your acupuncturist if:
• You are pregnant - as some points are contraindicated to needling during pregnancy. (Though acupuncture is perfectly safe for pregnant women and can treat many issues like morning sickness, nausea, and help facilitate the delivery process)
• You have a pacemaker - as electro-acupuncture is contraindicated. (Regular acupuncture is fine, though.)
• You have a bleeding disorder or are on blood-thinning medications.
• You are on any pharmaceutical prescriptions - as some herbs have similar or counteractive effects to drugs and need to be taken into account.
IS ACUPUNCTURE COVERED BY INSURANCE?
Increasingly, Acupuncture is covered by insurance carriers. Currently our office is not taking insurance, though we can take .
DO I HAVE TO BE SICK TO BENEFIT FROM ACUPUNCTURE?
Absolutely not. Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine is a remarkably preventative medicine that addresses pathogenic factors, including stress and circulatory stagnation, BEFORE they manifest into organic disease processes. (Please see How Acupuncture Works to understand how acupuncture is best BEFORE you get sick.)
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED TO COME AND WHEN WILL I BE BETTER?
These questions are always asked by new patients and their answers depend upon several factors, including: the seriousness and duration of the disease or condition, the patient’s lifestyle and diet, the patient’s other underlying health problems and complications, etc.
Your acupuncturist can tell you more after assessing your condition. In treating chronic problems, usually after the third or fourth treatment, a reassessment and evaluation will be discussed with the patient to determine the probable course of treatment. (However, sometimes by the third treatment, the treated pain or condition has drastically improved or disappeared altogether. To keep the problem away more permanently, though, further treatment may be required.
Depending on the severity of the condition and recovery strength of the patient, courses of treatment can vary. Ideally, the patient will need to come once per week (twice per week in severe / acute conditions) for the first few weeks and then treatments can be spread out to once every 1-3 weeks until resolution. After that, an optional, yet highly recommended, practice is for patients to come for maintenance and preventative care once every month or so.
Seeing a professional holistic acupuncturist on an ongoing basis can be one of the most powerful things a person can do for their longterm health and quality of life.
"A FRIEND OF MINE GOT ACUPUNCTURE AND SAID IT DIDN'T WORK..."
This can occur for a few reasons:
• It may be that the patient was not patient. Sometimes patients expect immediate, miraculous results even when nothing else has worked and they have had a chronic problem for years. For example, if a patient has had internal health problems and chronic disease for 10 or 20 years, eats a poor diet, and never exercises, it is unrealistic to think that an acupuncture treatment or two is going to clear up all of their pain and concerns. It can take repeated treatments to finally release layers of dysfunctional tissues and myofascial trigger points, resolve pathogenic factors and stimulate healthy internal organ function. The condition may also require a change of lifestyle from the patient if they are doing something that is in fact causing or exacerbating a condition.
• There can be many hidden factors affecting the patient’s condition. For example, a patient can live in a toxic, moldy environment that is giving them a respiratory illness or can have heavy metal toxicity from old, amalgam dental fillings. In such situations, no amount of acupuncture (or any other therapy for that matter) will effect a cure or, in some cases, even a significant improvement. We do our best to detect these hidden factors and help you eliminate them so that you can recover and enjoy vibrant health and a fulfilled life.
• Not all Acupuncturists and Acupuncture styles and approaches are the same. This is not meant to put anyone down, but just as with all professions, not all practitioners are equally aware or skilled. Acupuncture treatment and practice is not completely standardized. Like with modern Western medicine, there are many differing opinions and approaches to treatment. Therefore, I constantly seek to understand the most accurate model of human health and disease. Beyond that, I am results-oriented: The greatest theory in the world is worthless if it doesn’t have practical application and, more importantly, get results. This is our philosophy and this is why we constantly seek to understand a more accurate and functional model of human health and healing. (Click HERE to view the credentials and ongoing education of our Licensed Acupuncturist)
HOW DO I GET THE MOST OUT OF TREATMENT?
It is best to be well rested and not overly hungry before an acupuncture treatment. Being overly hungry or tired can limit the healing response of the body.
Living according to a balanced lifestyle and healthful eating principles serves as a great foundation for health and is a great foundation for getting the most out of acupuncture as well. Also, using the properly prescribed herbal formulas and medicated diet as ‘homework’ can go a long way in speeding up results. Your acupuncturist will recommend the appropriate herbs, nutrition, diet and possible lifestyle changes during consultation.
ARE ACUPUNCTURE RESULTS JUST PLACEBO EFFECT OR 'ALL IN YOUR HEAD'?
Many critics of acupuncture state that acupuncture is unscientific or merely a type of placebo effect. It is hard to believe that people still think this way since acupuncture has been proven legitimate on many levels. Here are a few facts to illustrate:
• Acupuncture has shown great effectiveness with infants as well as in veterinary applications with dogs, cats, horses and other animals. (It is doubtful that these babies and animals are ‘pre-convinced’ that acupuncture will help them : )
• Acupuncture is commonly used as an anesthetic in surgery in hospitals in Asia and now increasingly in certain situations in Europe and America. (Try sustaining a placebo effect throughout a surgery!).
• Acupuncture can be used to release ‘Trigger Points’ in the myofascia of the musculo-skeletal system. This is the whole foundation of “Trigger Point Therapy”. (Click HERE for more.) This form of treatment has a long and documented track record of effectiveness in medical literature. (See Dr. Janet Travell’s landmark work in trigger point and myofascial release therapies)
• Exciting new research in the field of ‘bio-photons’ (light particles emitted from living organisms) have clearly illustrated the existence of the acupuncture channels. (See the work of the brilliant late biophysicist Dr Fritz-Albert Popp of Germany)
• Total skeptics often report improvements or resolution of their problems after acupuncture.
• Many Acupuncture points have been proven clinically to have specific effects on the body and organs. For example, a landmark study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth (the fetus's head up and butt down) had their fetuses rotate to the normal position after receiving moxibustion (burning an herb) over a acupuncture point on the foot. (Think of the millions of dollars that could be saved and the unnecessary C-section surgeries that could be avoided by this single point and technique alone.)
• Stimulation of other points have been shown to activate and stimulate the function of the gallbladder, heart, kidneys, immune system and other organs and bodily systems.
• Scientific studies have shown that acupuncture strengthens the immune system, naturally increases formation of (killer) T-cells, helps regulate serotonin, and releases endorphins which help relieve pain and regulate and improve mood. There are many other biochemical and healing effects that are set into action from the "current of injury" produced by acupuncture.
• By and large, Acupuncture has stood the test of time. It has been around for at least 2500 years and, in more primitive form, for as long as 5000+ years. Other systems of medicine and medical theory have come and gone, but acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has remained a system of medicine throughout the ages for a reason: It works.
• See the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of conditions that acupuncture has been proven to address through controlled clinical trials by clicking HERE