How old is Chinese medicine?
The origin of Chinese medicine dates back over 3,000 years. It is comprised of a very extensive body of medical literature that includes medical theory, approaches to diagnosis, and methods of treatment. Chinese medicine is supported by thousands of years of case histories that validate its effectiveness.
How does acupuncture work?
Chinese medicine uses tiny needles to access and activate the body’s built-in healing mechanism. Acupuncture promotes blood flow, nervous system signaling, and other mechanisms still not well understood by western science. Through these mechanisms, the body is able to bring itself back into a state of functional balance known as homeostasis. This is the state of optimum functioning, which we call “wellness.”
What are the needles like?
Acupuncture needles are solid, flexible, and very fine—they can literally be bent with your pinky. The mention of needles often brings back painful memories of the needles that were used to give us injections as children. Those needles were stiff and probably had a large diameter. Additionally, the tip of injection type needles is cut at an angle, like a knife, which can cause a painful sensation as it cuts through tissues. Acupuncture needles don’t “cut” tissues, but gently push them to the side. This creates a different sensation than what one might ordinarily associate with the insertion of a needle.
Are acupuncture needles regulated?
In 1996, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed the experimental status tag on acupuncture needles. The FDA reclassified acupuncture needles, regulating them in the same way it regulates medical devices such as surgical scalpels and hypodermic syringes. Acupuncture needles must now be manufactured according to single-use standards of sterility.
Does it hurt?
For the most part, acupuncture is rarely described as painful. People experience the needling sensation differently, most often describing their sensations as a feeling of pressure, or an achy or tingling sensation. If any unpleasant sensation is experienced during insertion, it is often compared to a mosquito bite or a pinchy sensation. This initial sensation typically disappears quickly; however, any persistent discomfort can be quickly adjusted away by the acupuncturist. Once the needles are inserted, they may be manipulated to obtain a mild sensation. This is how an acupuncturist engages the energetic and biochemical responses in your body in order to balance it. We take great care to make our patients comfortable so that they can relax while the needles are in place. The more you can relax during an acupuncture treatment, the better the results. Many people even fall asleep during treatment. Following treatment, people commonly feel a tremendous sense of relaxation and calm.
Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
No. Acupuncture works whether or not you think it will. Acupuncture is even used successfully on animals and children. They do not understand the placebo effect or believe in the process, yet they get better anyway. (Ask me about my dog story!) Of course a positive attitude helps with any type of therapy, but it is not necessary to believe in acupuncture for it to work.
However, since positive expectations increase therapeutic results from ANY type of treatment, we encourage you to raise any concerns or doubts you may have before you start treatment. We would like to help you better understand acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine so that you may have the most positive healing experience possible. You are invited to contact us today, and you will receive a prompt, personal response to any questions or comments.
Do you use herbs?
Yes! The use of plant extracts is a BIG part of Chinese Medicine. We have extensive training in the safe use of herbal medicine (aka botanical medicine) and frequently use herbal formulas to support an acupuncture treatment. Although acupuncture is the most well known aspect of Chinese Medicine in the West, herbal medicine is actually a more effective form of treatment than acupuncture for many conditions. We typically discuss this at the patient’s initial consultation and are quick to let patients know if herbs would be a better fit for them. If so, a treatment plan focused around herbal therapy can be a more cost effective plan than one based around acupuncture.
How do herbs differ from western medicine?
Chinese herbal formulas tend to be much gentler than western medicines and typically offer more than symptom treatment. As a type of Functional Medicine, herbal medicines look to address the “root” of the condition, helping the body return to a state of equilibrium. As this shift occurs, it is common to modify the formula to meet the body’s changing needs. Once equilibrium has been reached, the herbal medicine is discontinued. However, as most of us have some type of chronic imbalance from nutritional deficiencies, stress, or other lifestyle issues, many people continue to take small doses of herbs in order to maintain and continually improve their health.
Can I take Chinese herbs when I am on medication?
It depends on the medications you are taking. Some botanical medicines are perfectly safe to take with pharmaceutical drugs and can actually enhance their effectiveness. Others should definitely not be taken with medications. We are trained to know the difference and evaluate every patient’s needs on a case by case basis.
How quickly can I expect to feel better?
This is a tough question to answer since people respond to treatment differently. In general though, most people start to feel some changes from acupuncture in 2-3 treatments. If the problem is acute, sometimes improvement is felt after 1 treatment, and may only need 3-5 treatments to resolve. Chronic conditions may take longer to obtain a lasting effect as the body has been out of balance for a longer time. Long-term health conditions may take many treatments to help resolve. The same rationale also applies to herbal therapy.
How often should I be treated?
The answer to this question depends on the specific nature of the complaint. In general, acute, painful conditions are typically treated 2-3 times per week for the first couple of weeks, after which the condition is often resolved or greatly minimized. In cases of chronic pain or internal dysfunction, an effective protocol might call for 2 times per week for the first 2-3 weeks to establish some momentum, after which the frequency drops to once per week, and later, once per month or less. Acupuncture is cumulative, so the benefits tend to last longer and longer with each successive treatment. If you are on an herbs-only protocol, you are getting a treatment every day!
Does acupuncture always help?
No, but it usually has at least some effect. If you do not feel any benefit after 3-5 treatments, then acupuncture may not be the appropriate type of treatment for you, or we may need to combine it with Chinese herbal medicine for greater effect.
What should I wear for the treatment?
For most treatments, loose fitting clothes that can be easily rolled up above your elbows and knees is appropriate.
Does insurance cover acupuncture?
Some insurance does. You need to check with your insurance provider and ask whether your specific policy covers acupuncture. If your insurance does cover acupuncture treatment, our office will make a follow-up call to your insurance company to find out more details. Once we have verified your coverage we can discuss payment arrangements with you. Until that time, however, we will require payment in full at the time of service. If you wish to pursue reimbursement from your insurance company on your own, our office will give you a receipt you can submit to your insurance company to attempt reimbursement. However, we find that if we submit directly that more of the visit gets covered by insurance, leaving less out of pocket expense for the patient.