Common Acupuncture Questions
Here are some clear and concise answers to common acupuncture questions. If you have a question that you don’t see here that you would like answered, please let us know.
Acupuncture is one modality of Oriental Medicine that uses the gentle, shallow insertion of very thin stainless steel needles into specific spots on your body called acupuncture points.
Usually you do not feel a thing, though sometimes you may feel a slight pricking sensation upon insertion ‚ everyone is different. After insertion you may feel the movement of Qi energy in the form of a tingly, warm, cool, or electric sensation ‚ this is a good thing!
The next thing you will feel is relaxation as the naturally occurring opiates in your body that get released by acupuncture start to circulate. Ongoing scientific research seeks to determine what is acupuncture and how does it work.
The initial acupuncture visit will usually take you about 1.5 hours. After you complete the initial paperwork (please do this in advance or arrive 15 minutes early), I will take you into a private treatment room where we discuss your symptoms and health history in detail.
As Oriental Medicine is holistic in nature, I will ask you a whole range of questions. They range from how your energy fluctuates during the day to what your sleep and digestion are like. The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for me to diagnose and treat you.
We’ll also review the forms that you completed for your initial acupuncture visit, along with any relevant lab tests you may have. This discussion usually takes 30-60 minutes of the initial visit, depending on the complexity of your case.
Besides asking you questions, I’ll be also be gathering information by observing, listening, and touching.
At some point I will ask to see your tongue (please don’t brush your tongue for a day before your visit). I’ll be observing the size, shape and color of the tongue body, the color of the tongue coating, the location of any abnormalities on the tongue, and the spirit of the tongue. All this provides additional information for your Oriental Medicine diagnosis.
I will also feel your pulses on both wrists. This provides detailed information on the state of energy in your body and may reveal additional issues to discuss. I may also touch other areas of your body to examine injuries, levels of muscle tension and tenderness, and press points on your abdomen as well.
After observing and talking with you, I’ll formulate an Oriental Medicine diagnosis that will provide the basis for your treatment plan and prognosis. Your treatment plan will include acupuncture and other types of treatment. Over the course of the treatment plan, usually 3-6 weeks, you should start feeling significantly better.
I’ll then perform an acupuncture treatment. Patients usually lie comfortably on their back and get treated on the front of their body. If needed, you may also lie on your stomach with comfortable cushioning and get a treatment on your back.
The treatment room will be warm; the massage table is heated, and there’ll be pleasant music playing in the background. Most people experience a nice relaxation effect as the their body releases natural endorphins in response to the needles. After the needles are in you’ll rest for about 30 minutes. Patients often have a nice restorative power nap. I’ll check on you during the treatment to see how you are doing, and remove your needles at the end of the treatment.
Besides acupuncture, I may do bodywork and manual therapy in the form of acupressure, suction cups, or scraping (guasha). I also use Chinese herbal medicine, heat including moxibustion, therapeutic exercises, lifestyle counseling, nutritional supplements, and nutritional counseling to help you heal and get back into balance more quickly.
During and after the treatment I’ll review and discuss any recommendations I have for you along with your prognosis and treatment plan.
Yes, in the hands of a licensed and skilled practitioner acupuncture is very safe. Before I treat you with acupuncture you’ll need to read and sign an Informed Consent Form. This form describes all the very rare things that can go wrong with acupuncture, so read it carefully and let me know if you have any questions. By signing this form, you give me permission to give you an acupuncture treatment.
Occasionally (1 out of 20 times or so) there may be a drop of blood when I take a needle out. If this happens, I immediately wipe with a sterile cotton ball. Acupuncture needles are so thin you won’t be able to see where the needle was located. Very rarely there may be a bruise caused by an acupuncture needle.
The most dangerous events, pneumothorax or organ puncture, almost never happen with a licensed professional. Infection is non-existent – I only use sterile disposable needles in my acupuncture practice.
Perhaps the most convincing fact that describes why acupuncture is safe – our malpractice rates are extremely low compared to other health professions – about $700/year!
I usually use anywhere from 5-15 acupuncture needles, with an average of 12 needles per treatment. Your body’s sensitivity to acupuncture and the types of problems I’d be treating determine how many acupuncture needles are needed.
Acupuncture needle retention lasts for about 30 minutes. This gives your body’s qi or energy enough time to finish one complete circuit of the body. This does, however, depend on your body type – it could take more or less time. The treatment tables are heated; there is soothing music in the background – it’s all very relaxing and patients often fall asleep and experience the ultimate power nap.
Chinese Herbal Medicine (2)
As part of your treatment under my care, I may prescribe a Chinese herbal formula for you to take, usually as tablets or capsules.
Chinese herbal medicine is a highly refined system of natural medicine that uses plant, animal, and mineral products to bring your body’s physiology back into balance. It supports the acupuncture that you are also receiving.
The Chinese herbal formula you take usually has anywhere from 5 to 20 herbs in it. Each herb in the formula has on the average about 5 active chemical substances that affect change in the body. So if a formula has 15 herbs in it we’re looking at 75 active chemicals. Because the actual dosage of a particular single chemical in a traditional Chinese formula is so low, the chance of side effects is also very low. This makes Chinese herbal formulas very safe.
In contrast, a Western medicine drug is composed of a single, pure, active chemical that may cause side effects. An analogy I like to use compares how a sledgehammer makes change versus many small levers.
The herbal formula I give you will most likely be in tablet or capsule form. If your case is complex and requires a custom formula, I would write you a prescription. You would either pick up directly from an herbal dispensary or I could have it drop shipped to you. There is an additional cost for herbal formulas.
The question ”Are Chinese herbs safe?” is legitimate, given that there are thousands of animal, vegetable, and mineral products used within Chinese herbal medicine. The short answer is “Yes!”. Chinese herbs are extremely safe in comparison to Western medicine, where drugs are the third leading cause of death.
Some traditional substances are no longer used. For example at one point in Chinese history it was popular use lead and mercury as part of longevity formulas. We now know that these elements are harmful to our health and no longer used.
There has been a lot of change in China over the past couple of decades as its economy grows dramatically with very little regulation of pollution. These changes may affect the medicinal herb industry, and I’m careful to make sure that you are receiving the highest quality Chinese herbal medicine preparations.
I only purchase herbs from companies that do independent testing for pesticides and heavy metals. I only use herbs from companies that are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified. I only order from companies that track their lots of herbs, so that if there ever is a problem it can be traced and customers notified. While these procedures do increase the expense, they ensure that you are getting the highest quality products.
Oriental Medicine (5)
Oriental Medicine has roots in China that go back 2000-3000 years. It is based on the philosophy of Daoism (aka Taoism), which views health, life and the universe through the interaction of Yin and Yang energies. In this paradigm, health is defined by balance.
Oriental Medicine is a system of medicine that helps your body find balance without resorting to harsh/dangerous drugs or surgery. Using acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and other treatments, it is a safe, gentle, and subtle but powerful force for positive change.
As a practitioner of Oriental Medicine and a Licensed Acupuncturist, my goal is to apply the principles and practices of Oriental Medicine to help you regain balance, heal yourself, and, if necessary, find deeper meanings to what health and wellness are for you.
Acupressure is a method for stimulating your acupuncture points with pressure from fingers. I often use it as a gentle way to prepare your body for acupuncture, and can be helpful with diagnosis and acupuncture point selection.
Moxa is another technique for stimulating your acupuncture points that uses heat. A burning herb called artemesia in the form of a cigar or cone is placed close to an acupuncture point. You’ll feel a pleasant warm sensation as the heat slowly penetrates the skin and activates the acupuncture point.
Cupping (or decompression) uses glass suction cups that stick to your body from a vacuum inside of the cup. The cup sucks in and resets your body’s tissue (skin, fascia, muscles, nerves, veins, and arteries), and the relief is often immediate. This treatment became very popular at the last Olympics in Brazil.
From an Oriental Medicine perspective, the cups are sucking out stagnation and dampness from your body, and increasing circulation to help your body heal more easily.
Cupping may leave circular bruises on your skin (like hickies) that go away after a few days. It’s also become very popular in Beverly Hills, where Hollywood starlets are often photographed leaving their acupuncturist’s office with purple circles on their back.
Guasha, also known as scraping or dermal friction, involves the use of an instrument with a rounded edge such as a Chinese soup spoon that is scraped along your skin after your skin has been coated with oil. This technique is a form of deep tissue therapy and the results can be dramatic. Like suction cups, this technique may leave bruises on the skin that disappear after a few days.
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