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FAQs – Acupuncture, Acupressure and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are the cornerstones of a system of health care originating in China more than 3000 years ago. They comprise a comprehensive system for the diagnosis and treatment of hundreds of acute and chronic disorders. An art and science based on natural law, its philosophy is to effectively heal safely, gently, and without side effects.

Central to the philosophy of Chinese Medicine is the premise of the self- healing mechanism active in the body. The goal of Chinese Medicine is to promote this mechanism from within. With this in mind one can observe the body as a self-healing dynamic whole, a network of interacting tissue, fluid and vital energy. This unimpeded energy flow promotes and maintains health, while any stagnation leads to disease.

The realignment of the energy field is based on the concept of Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is the underlying energy of life. It flows throughout the body to regenerate and nourish. It is generated by the internal organs and flows along specific pathways called meridians. Along the meridians are points where Qi can be affected by acupuncture needles or finger pressure. In this way Qi is invigorated and its functions of nourishing, transforming, and protecting are enhanced.

The ageless wisdom of Chinese Medicine is keen to observe the relationship between mind, body and spirit. With this premise in mind, it is a holistic approach and promotes healing on many levels. Clinically it has been time tested to be a safe, natural way to treat disease and restore and maintain health. It surely proves that the wisdom of yesterday, is the promise of tomorrow.

What is acupuncture?

The practice of acupuncture began at the very early stages of human history, and, like all the other components of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), its techniques have undergone more than 3,000 years of development and refinement. Acupuncture, one branch of TCM, is itself a complete medical system that is used as a means of treating and preventing diseases through the application of needles to specific points on the body. It operates upon the understanding that there is vital energy or qi (pronounced “chee”) that flows throughout the body along specific pathways or meridians that traverse the entire body. Acupuncture needles are inserted at acupuncture points to unblock congested energy or strengthen weakness, which in turn improves vitality and helps the body to heal itself naturally. A sound and safe medicine, acupuncture is general medicine that is effective in healing a wide range of specific problems and diseases without side effects. Any conditions you would go to an M.D. for, you may go to an acupuncturist for. It is especially effective for chronic pain, reducing or eliminating the need for pain medication. The practice of TCM in California also includes herbology, acupressure, moxibustion (heat therapy), cupping (suction therapy), exercise, nutritional counseling and other modalities to improve health and wellbeing

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture stimulates the body’s innate ability to heal itself by promoting a balanced flow of energy. The body’s vital energy, Qi (pronounced “chee”), flows through energy pathways called meridians throughout the body. Excessive or deficient qi in these channels or their pertaining organs may result in illness or disease. Acupuncture restores health by promoting a balanced flow of qi through the channels, increasing its strength where it is weak and releasing excessive accumulation where there is congestion. According to Western scientific observation, acupuncture has been shown to have a number of well-documented effects including the release of endorphins and eckanephlins, neurochemicals that decrease stress and diminish pain. Acupuncture also has well-documented effects on increasing the function of the systems of the body, endocrine, circulatory, respiratory and digestive to name a few.

L.Ac., is printed after your name. What does this mean?

L.Ac. means Licensed Acupuncturist. This is the State of California’s license required to practice acupuncture and prescribe Chinese herbal medicine.

What kind training does an acupuncturist need to practice?

Acupuncturists, in a 4 year Master of Science program, receive training in both western medical sciences (anatomy, chemistry, physiology, biology, pharmacology, etc.) and Chinese medicine including acupuncture, herbal medicine, acupressure, Tai Ji, and a variety of other subjects. Training is given at colleges of Chinese medicine, which are accredited by the State of California and the national certification organization. Additionally, acupuncturists are required to complete 50 continuing education units every two years to maintain their acupuncture license.

How widely is acupuncture used in the U.S.?

According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey–the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults to date–an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

Are treatments uncomfortable or painful?

No. Acupuncture needles are typically not much thicker than a hair and patients often do not even feel them when they are inserted. At most you may feel a brief pinch when they go in. After the needles are placed a patient will experience a sensation referred to as the arrival of qi or “de qi”. This is generally a dull or heavy sensation with other possible sensations including fullness, movement of energy in the meridian, warmth or coolness at the point. Proper arrival of qi sensations are sometimes perceived as unusual for the first-time patient but are not painful. Most people find acupuncture extremely relaxing, so much that many fall asleep during their treatment and remark that they leave the clinic feeling calm, collected and grounded.

How long does an acupuncture treatment session take?

At Middle Path Acupuncture Clinic we allow 90 minutes for the initial session that includes gathering a detailed health history, physical exam– if necessary– diagnosis and acupuncture treatment. Follow-up appointments generally take 45 to 60 minutes.

How safe is acupuncture?

When performed by a competently trained, licensed professional, acupuncture is extremely safe. Each point on the body is first swiped with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball to clean dirt and oil from the skin prior to inserting needles. Today all licensed acupuncturists, in accordance with The California State Acupuncture Board’s requirements, use individually packaged, sterile, single-use disposable needles. So, in short, there is virtually no chance of infection or contagion.

Are there any side effects to acupuncture?

The most commonly noted side effect is relaxation and a sense of calm and wellbeing. Occasionally upon removal of needles, a point may shed a drop of blood. Very rarely do points bruise or have a temporary, mild swelling after treatment.

I am not sick. Can I still benefit from acupuncture?

Yes. Anyone can benefit from an acupuncture treatment as part of a health maintenance program. Living as we do in a noisy, fast-paced society, the effects of environmental stresses alone tend to build up over time. Acupuncture is an effective way to rebalance the body and reverse the effects of these stresses. Just as you would go to your general practitioner for a check up, you can come for seasonal acupuncture treatments as a sort of “tune up” to stay healthy with the seasonal changes and prevent getting sick.

What should I expect at my first acupuncture treatment?

Visiting an acupuncturist is not unlike visiting any other health professional. You will receive forms to fill out covering your current and past medical history, questions about your diet and lifestyle and a consent form. During the interview you will be asked questions relating to the nature of your health status. What makes an acupuncture exam different is the detailed examination of the tongue and feeling of the pulses located at both wrists. These examinations both reveal information about your overall state of health. After diagnosis, you will be lead to the treatment room where you will lie down to receive an acupuncture treatment tailored to your body’s needs that day. Most treatments involve the insertion of anywhere from a few to a dozen needles into specific acupuncture points on the surface of the body. They are generally left in place for 15 to 30 minutes while you rest.

How do I prepare for an office visit/treatment? Do I need to undress?

On your first treatment, if you are taking any supplements or pharmaceutical medications, bring a list of those with you. It is not usually necessary to undress as most of the commonly used acupuncture points are located between the elbows and the hands and from the knees to the feet. It is best to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. If loose clothing cannot be worn, then we encourage you to bring a pair of shorts to change into. Please arrive after eating a normal, substantial meal. We strongly discourage coming to your appointment on a totally empty stomach. To allow the effects of treatment to sink in and receive maximum benefit, we recommend you do your best to not engage in any stressful activity after an acupuncture treatment.

Will my health insurance pay for acupuncture?

I bill many insurance companies for my patients’ treatments. Because each plan with each health insurance company is different, my office will call to check how much acupuncture is covered under your specific plan and do all the billing for your treatments.

How many treatments are necessary to benefit from acupuncture?

This varies from person to person and depends on the condition an individual is seeking treatment for and how long he or she has had it. Some people get complete relief from a single session, while, more commonly, a series of treatments may be necessary to get the desired results. Generally, patients will feel noticeable results after four treatments.

What types of conditions can benefit from acupuncture?

Some conditions that can benefit from acupuncture are:
* Acid Reflux
* ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
* Allergies–seasonal
* Anxiety/Depression/
* Arthritis
* Asthma
* Autoimmune Disorders
* Back Pain
* Bell’s Palsy
* Bladder/Kidney Problems
* Bronchitis
* Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
* Constipation/Diarrhea
* Common Cold and Flu
* Cough/ (chronic or acute)
* Dental Pain
* Depression
* Digestive disorders (Crohn’s Disease, IBS)
* Dizziness
* Elbow pain (Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow)
* Emotional problems
* Eye problems
* Facial Paralysis
* Fatigue/Malaise
* Fibromyalgia
* Gastritis
* Gynecological Disorders
* Hand and wrist pain such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
* Headaches
* Hiccough
* High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
* Hip pain
* Infertility
* Incontinence
* Insomnia/Sleep disorders
* Irritable Bowel Syndrome
* Knee pain
* Low back pain
* Menopausal syndrome
* Menstrual problems
* Migraine headaches
* Morning Sickness
* Nausea
* Neck Pain or Stiffness
* Osteoarthritis
* Pain–acute and chronic
* Rhinitis/Nasal disorders
* Sciatica
* Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
* Sexual Dysfunction
* Shoulder Pain
* Sinusitis
* Smoking Cessation/Drug and Alcohol Detox
* Stress reduction
* Tendonitis
* Tennis elbow/Golfer’s Elbow
* Trigeminal neuralgia
* Urinary Tract Infection
* Vertigo
* Vision Problems
* Vomiting
* Wrist pain

Where can I get more information about acupuncture?

Please refer to the Resources section.

What can acupuncture treat?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes acupuncture and Oriental medicine’s ability to treat more than 43 commonly encountered clinical disorders: Gastrointestinal Disorders Food allergies, peptic ulcer, constipation, chronic diarrhea, indigestion, gastrointestinal weakness, anorexia, and gastritis Urogenital Disorders Stress incontinence, urinary tract infections and sexual dysfunction Gynecological Disorders Including irregular, heavy or painful menstruation, PMS, and infertility in women and men, menopausal symptoms, childbirth and lactation support Respiratory Disorders Emphysema, sinusitis, asthma, allergies and bronchitis Disorders of the Bones, Muscles, Joints and Nervous System Arthritis, neuralgia, migraine headaches, insomnia, dizziness, tendonitis, tennis elbow and low back, neck and shoulder pain, sciatica, whiplash, sports injuries Circulatory Disorders Hypertension, stroke, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis, anemia, edema Emotional and Psychological Disorders Depression including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), mania, anxiety, stress and grief. Addictions Alcohol, nicotine, and many types of drug addiction General Medicine Eye, ear, and throat disorders including cold and flu relief, Immune system dysfunctions.