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What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of small needles into specific points on energetic pathways called meridians. The basis for this, is to manipulate the Qi (pronounced “chee”) which is energy. If the flow of Qi is disrupted or insufficient in the body illness may occur. Acupuncture is used to balance the opposing forces of yin and yang, and maintain homeostasis. I think of acupuncture like a reboot on a computer. The idea is to obtain balance from conditioning (ie, life patterns) and restore the proper signal.

From There have been several proposed scientific explanations for acupuncture’s effects, primarily in regards to pain. Acupuncture points are believed to stimulate the central nervous system to release chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These biochemical changes may stimulate the body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being.

Western Science supports three main mechanisms for acupuncture’s effects:

  • 1. Activation of opioid systems: Research has found that several type of opioids may be released into the central nervous system during treatment and relieve pain.
  • 2. Changes in brain chemistry, sensation, and involuntary body functions: Studies have shown that acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones. Acupuncture also has been documented to affect the parts of the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and processes whereby a person’s blood pressure, blood flow and body temperature are regulated.
  • 3. Changes in blood flow: Acupuncture and Oriental medicine alters the circulation of blood to the affected area, resulting in the removal of pain causing chemicals, and restoring normal function to the area being treated.

During the appointment, you will be asked many detailed questions about your symptoms and life style patterns. Inspection of the tongue and palpation of the pulse at the wrist will be included in the diagnostic work-up


What Should I Expect On My First Visit?

During your first office visit, we spend a lot of time getting a complete picture of your health and lifestyle. We examine the condition of your tongue (is it cracked, coated, excessively pink? etc.), and check your pulse on both wrists (the quality of your pulse gives information about possible imbalances). We’ll also ask questions about your emotional state, and specific symptoms you may have.

This is done because unlike Western medicine, we treat the whole person instead of focusing on the symptoms of your condition. Your acupuncture visits will usually last about 30-60 minutes.

During your subsequent visits, we’ll make a short review of your progress followed by an acupuncture treatment.

Do acupuncture needles hurt?

Most people barely feel a thing when needles are inserted. Some people feel a slight pinch, and others ask “Is it in yet?” The reason acupuncture needles don’t give the painful sensation you might expect is because they’re very, very thin in comparison to the hypodermic needles used to give injections. Hypodermic needles are necessarily hollow so that the shot can be injected. They also have a very blunt point (actually a wedge shape) in comparison to an acupuncture needle. 100 acupuncture needles can fit into the tip of one standard 18 gauge hypodermic needle.

There are certain sensations associated with the therapeutic effects of acupuncture, which are known as de qi (pronounced “day-chee”). These may include slight cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling or electric sensation traveling along a meridian. If any discomfort is experienced, it is usually mild.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is very safe. The average liability coverage for an acupuncturist is about $600 per year, while primary care physicians pay an average of $12,000 per year. That’s a 20:1 difference. While this may not translate into exactly a 20 to 1 difference in safety, a visit to an acupuncturist is at least as safe as a visit to your doctor, if not safer.

Acupuncture needles are extremely safe, because they are pre-sterilized, individually packaged, and disposable. Every practitioner gets extensive training in anatomy so as to avoid accidentally inserting a needle in a place that can cause damage.

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

Acupuncture and herbs work whether you believe in them or not. Good results are seen in the majority of cases. When all other treatment methods have failed, this indicates a systematic imbalance – exactly what acupuncture and herbs excel at treating.

How often would I need to come in for treatment?

Typically, acupuncture treatments are given 1-3 times per week initially, especially if the condition is acute and painful.  When the condition starts to come under control, the patient usually starts getting acupuncture treatment once every other week, then once a month, then maybe once per season. The exact duration of treatment depends on the condition, your basic level of health, and how well you respond to acupuncture.

How does acupuncture work?

In Chinese medical theory, acupuncture works by balancing the body’s Qi. Qi can be described as a form of bioenergy that runs along 12 major meridians. If Qi gets blocked, it shows up as an imbalance or illness. Basically, if you have a health condition, some part of your body’s system is out of whack. Chinese medical theory allows us to diagnose the imbalance… and balance it.

In Western medical theory, acupuncture appears to work by stimulating parts of the brain. It also stimulates the body to release natural biomolecules such as neurotransmitters, vasodilators, and hormones. The exact mechanisms which brings this about are unknown, but the effects are measurable.

A good example of this is the use of acupuncture to induce labor. One of the first things that Oriental medical students learn is that there are a few points that are absolutely forbidden to use with pregnant women. These points cause the release of oxytocin, which is the hormone that naturally induces labor. Studies have shown that using acupuncture to induce labor reduces the active (painful) phase of labor by an average of 3.6 hours.

Does insurance cover acupuncture?

Some insurers cover acupuncture.  Please call us to review your insurance policy and how acupuncture may be covered by your insurance.  We also accept Health Savings Accounts and Medical Flex Spending Accounts.

Helpful Tips

Please wear loose clothing that will allow us to access below your elbows to your wrists, and below your knees to your ankles, which is where the most potent and frequently used acupuncture points are located.

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