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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice that involves puncturing the skin with hair-thin needles at particular locations, called acupuncture points. Acupuncture is believed to help reduce pain or bring a body function into balance. Needles can be placed or they can be twirled given a slight electric charge or warmed (moxibustion).

Acupuncture is part of Chinese Medicine which incorporates a number of different healing modalities, although acupuncture has also been practiced as a stand-alone practice for over 2,000 years.s at particular locations, called acupuncture points. Acupuncture is believed to help reduce pain or bring a body function into balance.

How old is Chinese Medicine?

Chinese medicine goes back over 3,000 years.

What is the difference between Chinese medicine and acupuncture?

Chinese Medicine encompasses acupuncture, along with herbal medicine. Other aspects of Chinese medicine include Qi Gong (combines movement, breathing, sound and visualization for healing), Tui Na (gentle rocking massage), Gua Sha (rubbing technique using a jar cap or plastic spoon), moxibustion (applying heat with an herb called mugwart, I Ching (ancient Chinese numerology system) and diet (based on the Chinese 5 elements and energy characteristics of different foods).

What is the Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory?

The Classical Chinese explanation is that energy (Qi) flows in channels (meridians) throughout the body and over its surfaces. These channels are rivers of energy, which are referred to as meridians. The Chinese have identified 71 meridians in the human body, which is a basic energy map for all people. The meridians are often compared to a series of interconnected highways. Each of the major organs in the body is associated with its own meridian. Through the network of meridians the internal organs are connected to certain areas and parts of the body including the muscles, bones, joints, and also other organs.

The Chinese believe that health is a manifestation of balance, both within the body itself and between the body and the external environment. When the body is internally balanced and in harmony with the external environment, Qi flows smoothly through the meridians to nourish the organs and tissues. If an obstruction occurs in one of the meridians, the Qi is disrupted and cannot flow properly. When the Qi cannot flow smoothly or is forced to flow in the opposite direction, the body's innate balance is disrupted and illness results.

Acupuncture points are the specific points on the meridians where the Qi is both concentrated and accessible. Acupuncture engages the Qi by inserting needles at these specific points, the goal being to restore the proper flow of Qi. As the body regains its natural balance, well-being returns.

How does it work?

Chinese medicine uses tiny needles and herbs to help nurture the body back to health by helping resolve energy imbalances. (See history of Chinese medicine for more information).

What are the needles like?

Only sterile, disposable needles are used so there is no risk of infection. We use a needle once, then dispose of it.

Acupuncture needles are small and hair-thin. They are solid, not hollow like needles used by doctors. The end of an acupuncture needle is smooth and rounded. Acupuncture needles are not designed to cut the skin. Instead, when an acupuncture needle is inserted, the round edge pushes the tissue aside without cutting it. Acupuncture needles are so thin it's as if they can glide through the spaces between the individual cells of the body.

US FDA Regulation of Acupuncture Needles

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 as it does medical devices such as surgical scalpels and hypodermic syringes. Acupuncture needles must now be manufactured according to single-use standards of sterility.

What is the NIH Consensus Statement on Acupuncture?

In 1997 the U.S. National Institutes of Health published a Consensus Statement on the use and effectiveness of acupuncture for a variety of conditions.

The World Health Organization

In the hands of a well-trained practitioner, acupuncture has much broader applications beyond pain relief. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of common illnesses including:

  • Upper Respiratory Tract
    • Acute sinusitis
    • Acute rhinitis
    • Common Cold and Flu
    • Acute tonsillitis
  • Respiratory System
    • Acute bronchitis
    • Bronchial asthma (Most effective in children and uncomplicated conditions.)
  • Eye Disorders
    • Acute conjunctivitis
    • Central Retinitis Myopia (in children)
    • Cataracts (without complications)
  • Mouth Disorders
    • Toothache
    • Post Extraction Pain
    • Gingivitis
    • Acute and Chronic Pharyngitis
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders
    • Spasms of esophagus
    • Hiccough
    • Gastroptosis
    • Acute and Chronic Gastritis
    • Gastric Hyperacidity
    • Chronic Duodenal Ulcer (pain relief)
    • Acute Duodenal Ulcer (without complications)
    • Acute and Chronic Colitis
    • Acute Bacillary Dysentery
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea
    • Paralytic Ileus
  • Neurologic and Musculoskeletal Disorders
    • Headache and Migraine
    • Trigeminal Neuralgias
    • Facial Palsy (early stage, i.e., within 3-6 months)
    • Pareses Following a Stroke
    • Peripheral Neuropathies
    • Sequelae of Poliomyelitis (early stage, i.e., within 6 months)
    • Meniere's Disease
    • Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction
    • Nocturnal Enuresis (bedwetting)
    • Intercostal Neuralgia
    • Cervicobrachial Syndrome
    • Frozen Shoulder
    • Tennis Elbow
    • Sciatica
    • Low Back Pain
    • Osteoarthritis
    • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • Back and Knee Pain
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Chronic Fatigue
    • Sports Injuries and Pains
  • Reproductive & Gynecological Conditions
    • Premenstrual Syndrome
    • Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps)
    • Spotting and Excessive Bleeding
    • Amenorrhea (Loss of Menstrual Period)
    • Impotence
    • Infertility
    • Incontinence
    • Prostatis
  • Mental Emotional Problems
    • Stress
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Insomnia

    The World Health Organization Interregional Seminar compiled the above list of illnesses that may benefit from acupuncture treatment. The list is only a partial list and is based on clinical experience, and not necessarily on controlled clinical research. The inclusion of specific diseases are not meant to indicate the extent of acupuncture's efficacy in treatment, since all conditions may vary in severity and response.

    Source: World Health Organization. Viewpoint on Acupuncture. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, 1979.

    Does it hurt?

    There are different styles of needling. If any sensation is experienced during insertion, it is often compared to a mosquito bite and disappears very quickly. Once the needles are inserted, they may be manipulated to obtain a mild "Qi" sensation. This is how an acupuncturist engages the energy in your body in order to help balance it. Often people describe their sensations as warming, heavy, numb or tingling. Acupuncturists take great care to make their clients very 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 it is common to feel a tremendous sense of relaxation and calm.

    Is acupuncture safe?

    It is very rare for any complications to occur as a result of an acupuncture treatment. If the practitioner follows the basic standards of care taught in the schools, then it is very unlikely problems associated with a treatment would occur. The fact that needles are immediately disposed of after each treatment helps ensure safety.

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

    No. Chinese medicine works whether or not you think it will. Acupuncture is even used successfully on animals and children. They do not understand or believe in the process yet they get better anyway. A positive attitude helps with any type of therapy but it is not necessary for treatment to work.

    Since positive expectations and belief in a particular therapy help to increase therapeutic results, patients are encouraged to raise any concerns or doubts you may have about acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Practitioners like to help you to better understand acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine so that you may have the most positive healing experience possible. You are invited to contact any of our practitioners listed under the referral section today, and they will personally respond to any questions or comments promptly

    Are herbs used as a primary treatment in Oriental Medicine?

    Practitioners of oriental medicine have varied backgrounds. Some practitioners specialize in herbs only, some combine herbs and acupuncture, while others use acupuncture only. Chinese herbal medicine is a powerful healing part of oriental medicine.

    How do herbs differ from western medicine?

    Chinese herbal formulas tend to be much gentler than western medicines, and work to not only help relieve symptoms, but to help return the body to balance and equilibrium, so that herbs will not be needed further. That is why herbal formulas are modified often during a course of treatment. As one's body starts to shift towards, herbs are modified accordingly.

    Can I take Chinese herbs when I am on medication?

    It depends on the medications you are taking. This would have to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

    How quickly can I expect to feel better?

    In general, patients should start to feel the benefits from treatment within 2-3 sessions. If the problem is acute, sometimes improvement is felt after 1 treatment, and may only need 3-5 treatments to resolve. IF the problem is chronic and long term, it may take a many treatments to help improve.

    How often should I be treated?

    Typically treatment is once a week. If the condition is acute and painful, the practitioner may want to do treatments 2-3 times per week for the first couple of weeks.Benefits of treatments tend to hold longer as you receive them, so what typically happens is that patients start to need to see their practitioner less and less. Often what occurs is that patients eventually only return periodically for maintenance.

    Does Oriental medicine/acupuncture always help?

    No, but it usually does. If you do not feel any benefit after 3-5 treatments, then acupuncture may not work for you.

    What should I wear for the treatment?

    Just wear loose fitting clothes that can be easily rolled up above your elbows and knees.

    What is Moxibustion?

    Moxibustion uses dried herbs. The herbs are placed on top of acupuncture needles and burned. This method is more effective at treating some health conditions than using acupuncture needles alone.

    What can acupuncture treat?

    Acupuncture can treat a variety of illness such as muscular pain, injury due to trauma, headaches, digestive disorders (crohn's disease, IBS, constipation), allergies, problems and gynecological complaints and stress, infertility, menstrual pain, insomnia, migraines and low energy. It also treats many problems ignored by Western medicine because there is no underlying problem that appear in conventional western testing.

    For example, tinnitus (ear ringing), plum-pit (chronic feeling of something being stuck in the throat), fatigue, difficulty sleeping, frequency of getting colds, cold hands and feet, excess sweating, vision problems, mouth sores and many other frustrating chronic problems not easily resolved. Contact your local practitioner with any questions (see referral section at homepage).

    Does insurance cover acupuncture?

    Some insurance does. You need to check with your insurance plan and then see if your local practitioner accepts that plan.

    How do I find a skillful practitioner?

    This is always a difficult question to answer. Practitioners of Oriental Medicine are licensed by their respective States they live in. Licensing typically is given after a practitioner completes a 3-4 year accredited college of oriental medicine and passes the NCAAOM national exam. Referrals are an excellent way to find a skilled practitioner. You are welcome to search our database of practitioners, and you will be able to read all about their practices, philosophy and professional background from their websites.


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