What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of sterile, hair-thin needles at specific points on the body to stimulate the body’s natural ability to heal. The needles help circulate qi and blood, as well as redistribute the body’s energetic resources. When the body is under stress, energy and heat can stagnate and create symptoms of disease. My job is to clear this stagnation and treat any underlying vulnerability which is at the root cause of the stagnation. Compared with Western medicine, I am interested in treating the root cause of disease rather than treating only the symptoms. The symptoms are a message, a message that makes us smarter and healthier when we acknowledge it. For example, if you have chronic heartburn, would you rather take Prilosec forever or try acupuncture and herbs for a couple of months to correct the underlying cause? Often, a patient will come in for a specific condition such as knee pain and find that when the knee is better, digestion is also improved, sleep is better, and blood pressure is down – even without telling me about those symptoms! This broad reaching effect in overall health is a direct result of treating the whole person.
What is qi?
Qi (or energy) is constantly moving throughout the body in a similar way to blood circulation. As our circulatory system does, it also has pathways (or meridians and channels) in which it flows. When it is circulating properly, we don’t feel it. We are balanced and strong. When it gets blocked, stuck or deficient, it causes pain, dysfunction, depression and disease. Pain specifically is considered energy and/or blood that has stagnated and it is my job to figure out where to insert the needles to recirculate that energy so that it may operate efficiently.
How does acupuncture work?
The operating philosophy of traditional acupuncture is that disease is caused by interrupted energy flow at specific points on the body’s surface. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles at key points in order to stimulate and harmonize qi (energy) flow in the body.
Modern scientific research finds that potential physiological benefits of acupuncture include:
- Increasing peripheral circulation
- Augmenting skin and muscle blood flow
- Decreasing heart rate and reducing elevated blood pressure
- Regulating autonomic nervous system
- Normalizing gastro-intestinal motility
- Boosting immune function
- Balancing reproductive hormones
Do I need to stop taking my medications to do acupuncture?
Absolutely not. That is a decision for you and your doctor. Be confident that I will work with you to make sure that any herbal treatments work in conjunction with, and do not interfere with, your current medications. Many people find that they can reduce or drop medications after being treated with acupuncture and/or herbs. Yes, I love it when that happens and so do my patients.
Are Chinese herbs safe?
I only order high quality herbs from proven, reputable sources. All of my herbal formulas come from companies that have rigorous quality control specifications, which include authenticating herbal identity and verifying medicinal potency. In addition, all herbal formulas are only ordered from companies that use raw materials safe from heavy metals, yeast, mold, pesticides, herbicides, and pollutants.
I already feel healthy. What can acupuncture do for me?
I am happy to share my own personal experiences with you, as Chinese Medicine has significantly enhanced my experience of life. This article does a great job of summarizing some of these benefits: 13 Ways Acupuncture Can Change Your Life.
What can I expect on my first visit?
Your first visit usually lasts about 1 1/2 hours. I ask that you fill out an initial intake form prior to your first appointment. While reviewing your intake form, we will discuss your past health and medical history, your lifestyle, your concerns and your goals for treatment. We may also discuss the difference between Western and Eastern medicine. These conversations are an important part of the diagnostic process.
Also during your visit, I will gather additional information to determine a diagnosis. Some of these techniques include: Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, Tongue Diagnosis, Abdominal Diagnosis, Channel Palpation as well as a detailed review of all symptoms and systems.
Based on your diagnosis, I will then determine a detailed plan of action including which treatment modalities are best suited to address your concerns and an estimate of the number of treatments and time needed to resolve your issue.
Do I need to do anything to prepare for my appointment?
Wear loose, comfortable clothing
Avoid heavy meals, alcohol & rigorous exercise within two hours before and after your appointment
Make sure you have eaten something within 2-4 hours of your visit, so that you are not too hungry or too full
Stay hydrated, both before & after
Arrive on time so that you get a full session
Follow-up visits are generally 45-60 minutes.
Does it hurt?
No, not really. Some points may be sensitive on some people, but that feeling disappears quickly. If you are afraid of needles should you still try it? Absolutely. Often, the scared patient is the first to fall asleep once the needles are in and then be surprised by how relaxing the whole thing was. Is it weird that you’d stick needles in your body for health and serenity? Of course. However, the fact that it has been treating patients on nearly every continent for at least 2500 years speaks to its efficacy.
Are the needles sterile?
Yes. All needles used are individually packaged, sterile, and disposed of after single use.
Will I bleed?
Not likely. Occasionally there is a tiny drop when a needle is removed. This is more likely if you bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners. But you’ve probably bled more after accidentally pricking your own finger. There are bleeding techniques used in Chinese medicine to effectively reduce fevers, lower blood pressure and relieve pain. This type of treatment would be thoroughly discussed beforehand and still only involves a few drops of blood.
How long are the needles left in?
Once inserted, they are usually left in for about 15-30 minutes. This varies with the condition being treated and the persons’ tolerance. Some treatments are only 10 minutes, others can last 45 minutes.
How many treatments will I need?
Most people feel an improvement within the first 3-5 visits. Some people see results faster and others take longer. It really depends on the issues we are working on, how chronic or acute they are, your general state of health, and how compliant you are. Typically, treatments are given once per week, but it is often recommended for many to begin with a short duration of two treatments per week. As your conditions improve, visits are reduced to once every ten days, two weeks, once a month, and so on. While Chinese medicine is very effective at treating your existing health problems, it is also a preventative system of medicine. Thus, it is advisable for those patients who are not manifesting illness to come in for periodic check-ups and maintenance, as the diagnostic tools utilized can reveal future disorders long before it manifests itself as visible symptoms.
Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
Every now and then I come across someone who “doesn’t believe in acupuncture.” While everyone is entitled to an opinion, I do like to remind these people that acupuncture on animals has been repeatedly proven effective and I doubt that they all believed in it. Even the WHO (World Health Organization) recognizes acupuncture as an effective medicine. Visit the World Health Organization website for list of many conditions treated with acupuncture.
Is acupuncture effective on children?
Yes. Often, children respond quicker than adults to acupuncture and herbal medicine. Many respond to the use of moxa alone, acupressure or very brief (and fewer) needle insertions.