Does Acupuncture Hurt?
People experience acupuncture differently and pain perception is highly individualistic. Acupuncture needles are rarely described as painful, and can be quickly adjusted if you feel any discomfort. Sensation experienced during insertion is often compared to a pricking sensation and disappears very quickly. Once the needles are inserted, they may be manipulated to obtain a mild sensation. This is how an acupuncturist engages the energy, manipulates it, and balances it. Often people describe the feeling as warm, achy, heavy, numb or tingling. All these reactions are good and a sign that the treatment is working. Pain is never considered an acceptable sensation.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Acupuncture is extremely safe when administered by a qualified and licensed professional. In fact, when practiced correctly, acupuncture is associated with no side-effects nor iatrogenic (doctor-caused) diseases. Thin, sterile needles are used and disposed of after each use, so there is minimal risk of infection. Considering the millions of people who are treated with acupuncture each year, very few complications have been reported to the FDA.
In 1997, the National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement on acupuncture which said, among other things:
"One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions. As an example, musculoskeletal conditions, such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, and tennis elbow, or epicondylitis, are conditions for which acupuncture may be beneficial."
"These painful conditions are often treated with, among other things, anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.) or with steroid injections. Both medical interventions have a potential for deleterious side effects but are still widely used and are considered acceptable treatments. The evidence supporting these therapies is no better than that for acupuncture."
- National Institutes of Health Consensus Statement on Acupuncture, 1997
Is Acupuncture compatible with my current medical treatments?
Absolutely! Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years, and has provided us with a unique and holistic approach to health care. While Chinese Medicine is a comprehensive medical system that can address many health concerns on its own, it can also work synergistically with Western Medicine and other modalities of healthcare. Each system of medicine has its own strengths, to learn more, please check out our LEARN MORE page!
What about my medication?
We have many patients that are concerned about the over prescription of pharmaceutical medication. We encourage our patients to recognize that the use of pharmaceutical medications should not be considered restoring health. This is clearly demonstrated when a patient stops a medication and their symptoms return. Acupuncture aims to reestablish healthy biological functioning. As the body heals we often see patients reduce or eliminate their need of medication. However, we advise that you consult your primary care physician before making any changes regarding your dosage or use of medication.
Do I have to believe in it?
Acupuncture is not dependent on your belief to be effective. In fact, acupuncture is highly effective on animals and children. They do not understand or believe in the process, yet they receive great benefit.
We do, however, acknowledge the power your thoughts and beliefs have over your physical health. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that positive expectations increase the therapeutic result of any treatment. Please feel free to express your questions, concerns or doubts. We love to educate and inform our patients. It is our goal that you have the greatest confidence in your health care choices.
Your Questions Answered
Below you will find the most commonly asked questions regarding treatment. If you find that your questions have not been addressed, please contact us. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have. If you are wanting to learn more about what acupuncture is, how it works, and Chinese medical theory, please see the section entitled, "What is Acupuncture".
Do you treat children?
We have found that children respond amazingly well to acupuncture. We assume a minimalist strategy when working with children, allowing the child's body to rebalance itself with as little intervention as possible. We take a fun, lighthearted approach to treating children, allowing them to express their natural curiosity, and respecting any fear they may exhibit. Treatments are never forced and extra time is allowed for building trust. If needle fear cannot be overcome, there are alternative means of treatment that can be utilized.
Common childhood conditions we address:
stomach and digestive disorders
depression/sadness/lack of interest
Do you treat healthy people?
YES!! Chinese medicine was traditionally practiced with the intention of maintaining health. While we have good results treating pain and disease, it is far better to maintain the strength and integrity of the body, preventing pain and disease from occurring.
We find this topic addressed in the Classical Chinese Medical text - Ling Shu chapter 55.
"The superior physician treats that which is not yet ill. The inferior physician treats that which is already ill."
In response to this statement, Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi explains:
"For this reason, sages treat before the disease declares itself and assure peace before problems manifest themselves. Therefore, to wait for the disease in order to apply medicines or to wait for problems in order to impose peace is like waiting for thirst in order to dig a well or like waiting for war in order to forge arms."
These ideas are foreign to our culture; we generally see health care as only necessary when illness arises. It is far more fulfilling to pursue the maintenance of health than to struggle to limit a disease process. Acupuncture is a powerful tool to enhance and maintain health. Assuming you are feeling well, we advise a treatment at each seasonal transition for health maintenance.
Your appointment time has been reserved for you. Other patients have been declined in order to honor our commitment to you as a patient. If you need to change or cancel your appointment, please notify us at least 24 hours in advance. This may be done by phone, or email. With less than 24 hours notice, you will be charged for your office visit. Please be respectful and understanding of this policy.
What should I look for in an acupuncturist?
Be sure that your acupuncturist has received their certification through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and that they are licensed by your state to practice. They should be "Clean Needle Technique" certified and hold a Masters Degree in Acupuncture or Traditional Oriental Medicine. It is a good idea that your practitioner carry malpractice insurance. If you seek treatment from an uninsured/unlicensed individual, there is no recourse in the event you are injured during treatment.
How long will my visit take?
Your first visit will generally take 1.5 hours, all subsequent visits will be 1 hour. Needles are typically left in your body for 20-30 minutes. If you have any time constraints, please let us know when you arrive. We will do our best to get you out of treatment right on time.
How many treatments will I need?
The nature, severity, and history of each individual's complaint determine the number of treatments necessary. In addition to this, many other variables affect your healing process: diet, exercise, age, state of mind, stress level and available energy. Given the myriad of factors affecting how quickly people recover from pain or illness, it is very difficult to give a simple answer to this complex question.
As a matter of clinical experience, most would say that five to fifteen treatments are adequate for the majority of chronic complaints. Many acute conditions may only require a single treatment, while some degenerative conditions may require continuous treatment.
The primary focus of Chinese Medicine is on correcting the underlying cause of illness and thus producing a lasting cure. Symptoms can often be relieved in a relatively small number of treatments; however, the curing of illness itself is a much longer process. If we only treat the symptoms and fail to address the underlying cause, it is sure that the symptoms will quickly return.
Please keep in mind, this is not pharmacological medicine. We do not force the body into a false state of submission. Instead, we allow the body to return to a natural state of health. Many disease processes develop over the course of years, the undoing of the illnesses will not occur overnight. We remind our patients that pharmaceuticals do not create health, they manage your illness and make it more bearable. It cannot be seen as a "solution" and in most cases you are bound to these medications for as long as you desire their effects.
We do not seek to make patients dependent on our treatments, to the contrary, we look forward to the day your body is once again remembering how to function with health and ease.
Another point to consider.... Many people come to acupuncture wanting a cure or relief from disease or pain. In the process of treating their “chief complaint” they find unexpected improvements in other areas. For example: a patient seeking relief from back pain may first see improvement in their sleep, their heart burn, energy levels, and depression. These beneficial "side-effects" of acupuncture are all evidence that health is being restored, and are themselves, valuable results of acupuncture.
How often should I come?
This is perhaps one of the more difficult questions I am asked. It is my goal to be sensitive to my patient's time and financial limitations and at the same time maintain a consistency of treatment that renders that fastest resposne to treatment. After your first visit, we will discuss your treatment plan and I will give a recommendation for your followup. Your frequency of treatment may be weekly, bi-weekly, or “as needed”, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Follow-up appointments will last approximately one hour. Each treatment builds on the previous one, therefore, it is important that you do not miss follow-up appointments. Acupuncture treatments train the body, reminding it of health. These “reminders” may need to be more often at first, but they become more ingrained and lasting with each subsequent treatment.
Please be assured, it is our goal that your body be independently healthy!
How should I prepare for my appointment?
Please wear comfortable clothing, having access to your knees and arms is helpful but not necessary. Robes and drapes are available if needed, and your modesty will be ensured at all times during the treatment. Please be sure to eat before your treatment- but do not overindulge. Please no alcohol or recreational drugs before or after treatment. Arrive early and allow ample time in your schedule for your visit. Feeling rushed or worried about deadlines does not lead to a relaxing experience.
What should I expect during my treatment?
Many things will be similar to a traditional medical office. You will be asked to fill out an in-depth medical history form (available in the new patient area of this site). Chinese medicine recognizes the smallest details as being an essential piece of your unique puzzle. Please think carefully when filling out your history as it will make your diagnosis more certain and your treatment much more effective.
Upon arriving we ask that you be comfortable and relaxed. If you need anything, please ask us. You will be taken to a private treatment room where we will discuss your particular concerns. Questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health and lifestyle. Please be as open and detailed as you feel comfortable.
We will examine your pulses and tongue – both of which reveal information as to how the internal organs are functioning. We will examine areas of pain, conduct range of motion tests and assess problem areas. This information is then organized to create a comprehensive diagnosis specific to your needs.
Several therapeutic modalities may be utilized during your treatment. Each will be carefully explained to you before being used. Possibilities include:
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is the gentle insertion of very fine needles at specific points on the body. This process stimulates movement of energy within the body, allowing natural healing to take place.
Tui Na- a method of medical massage unique to Chinese Medical Traditions.
Guasha- Gua Sha is another technique used to release muscle tension, tightness and constriction. A specialized tool is used to gently scrape or rub the skin over a problem area. This may leave some slight redness that will quickly dissipate.
Cupping- Cupping is a therapy designed to stimulate the flow of Blood and Qi within the superficial muscles layers. It is used for sore muscles, tension, neck pain and the common cold. In this therapy, a small glass cup is placed over specific areas on your body. A vacuum is created under the cup using heat. Discoloration is a common side-effect of cupping that fades within days of treatment. Please advise if you take medications that cause you to bruise easily or if you have a bleeding disorder.
Thai Yoga Massage- while Thai yoga massage techniques are best utilized in a separate session, certain elements of this healing massage may be incorporated into your treatment.
Moxibustion - an herb called mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris-L.) is burned to warm acupuncture points in order to bring energy and nourishment, in the form of increased blood flow, to the area. Most patients enjoy and even request “moxa.”
During a treatment, patients may experience: clarity of thought, burst of energy, drowsiness, a peaceful calm, hyper-awareness and sometimes emotional releases. These feelings are natural and indicate that energy is moving and a re-balancing is occurring.
What should I expect after a treatment?
You may feel deeply relaxed or energized. A brief exacerbation of symptoms is possible as the body begins the task of “cleaning house”. If you are concerned about what you are experiencing, please feel free to contact us. We ask that you abstain from massage, hot baths or showers, vigorous exercise, excessive stress, heavy meals, drugs, alcohol, and sexual intercourse for the remainder of the day. These can easily influence the movement of redirected qi and disrupt the healing processes.