FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
WHAT IS IT?
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote the body's natural ability to heal and to improve its functioning. Inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at precise acupuncture points does this.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy or (chi) run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues.
An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others. Needling the acupuncture points can influence the meridians; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians.
Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption and energy production activities and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians. The modern western scientific explanation is that needling the acupuncture points stimulated the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain.
These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones, which influence the body's, own internal regulating system. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well being.
WHAT IS CHI OR QI?
Many people describe it as energy on the verge of becoming matter or material. Because this may be considered "intangible" or
"immeasurable" some people have a harder time relating to this term.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY QUESTIONS TO COVER IN THE FIRST TREATMENT?
Chinese medicine looks for patterns or imbalances in the system, and there are several ways to find this i.e. observing the patients tongue and overall appearance and complexion, feeling their pulses and getting the patient medical history.
These questions may not seem related to the primary complaints but Chinese medicine has a different way of looking at the body and diagnosing than traditional allopathic medicine does.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED?
The number of treatments needed differs for each person. For complex or long standing/chronic conditions, one or two treatments a week for several months may be recommended. For acute problems, usually fewer visits are required, and for health maintenance, four sessions a year may be all that is necessary.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO THE TREATMENTS?
Usually not (rare). As energy or chi is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place. Occasionally the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urinary patterns, or emotional state may be triggered.
These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work. It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment, this passes within a short time, and never requires more than a bit of rest.
WHAT ARE THE NEEDLES LIKE? DO THEY HURT?
People experience acupuncture needles differently. Most patients feel minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all. Once the needles are in place there may be a tingly, or slight achy sensation that dissipates after a few seconds.
Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are most are made from stainless steel, some are made from silver or gold. The point of the needle is solid and smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling.
The risk of bruising and skin irritation is rare and less than using a hollow needle. Because your acupuncturist uses disposable needles there is no risk of infection from the treatments.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE REALLY WORK?
Yes. In the past 2000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined. Today acupuncture is practiced widely in Asia, the Soviet Union and Europe. Acupuncture treatment is now growing rapidly in North America.
Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time other practices are being used, such as conventional Western allopathic medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments, and homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions. It is important that your acupuncturist know everything that you are doing, so he or she can help you get the most benefit from all of your treatments. It is also important to inform other medical professionals that you are getting acupuncture as well as their treatments.
DO I HAVE TO BELIEVE IN ACUPUNCTURE FOR IT TO WORK?
No. Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses and other animals. These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them to get better. A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of most any type of treatment received, just as negative attitude may hinder the effects of a treatment. A neutral attitude ("I don't know if I believe in this") will not hinder or lessen the treatment results.
ARE THERE ANY "DO'S AND DON'TS" FOR ME ON THE DAY OF THE TREATMENT?
Yes. To enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:
Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after your treatment.
Do not over-exercise, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hours before or after the treatment. Plan your activities so that after the treatment you cannot be excessively stressed or over worked, this may be more important for the first few treatments.
Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your primary doctor.
Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) may interfere with the effectiveness of the treatments.
It is good to remember to keep mental or written notes of what your response to the treatment. This can help your practitioner with follow up treatments to be more effective.
IS ACUPUNCTURE COVERED BY HEALTH INSURANCE?
Several insurance companies cover acupuncture costs; some other companies do not yet recognize the value of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Each health policy must be reviewed to determine the acupuncture benefits. Many acupuncture associations are working to inform insurance companies and the public in order to standardize payment practices and accessibility to this type of treatment. You can help by insisting that your insurance company offer you reimbursement for acupuncture treatments before you accept their policy.
IS IT IMPORTANT WHICH ACUPUNCTURIST I CHOOSE FOR TREATMENT?
Like other professions the training can vary widely. The laws for who can be an acupuncturist in each state can make a difference as well. Some states require an acupuncturist to also be an MD or chiropractor, yet may require them to have no additional training or a very minimal i.e. 100 hours of training with acupuncture.
Many states require being a licensed or registered acupuncturist to have at least 1800+ hours of training and a diploma from an accredited acupuncture school, as well as nationally or state board certified. Also there are different types of lineage for acupuncture training, like traditional Chinese medicine, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese based teachings, Five Element acupuncturists and others: so it is a good idea when looking for an acupuncturist to ask them for more details about their training.