Common Questions

What is acupuncture?

As one technique of many in Oriental Medicine, acupuncture is the insertion of needles into specific points on the body in order to prevent and treat disease and improve overall health. It is a simple, safe, effective and economical therapy that is free from side effects. Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are superfine and often imperceptible upon insertion. National clean needle standards require that all acupuncture needles be pre-sterilized, disposable and individually packaged.

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"The body heals itself; acupuncture treatments aim it in the right direction."

How does acupuncture work?

Based on the principles of Chinese medicine, and in my clinical experience, acupuncture works by prompting the body’s inherent and profound ability to heal itself. Several concepts, including yin-yang theory, Qi and Blood flow, and the meridian system, are fundamental to the understanding of Chinese Medicine. If you’d like to explore these principles, I recommend starting with the book The Web That Has No Weaver.

From a Western perspective, researchers are increasingly examining how acupuncture works. Acupuncture efficacy is questioned less and less, as conclusive studies are done, but the physiological mechanisms of acupuncture are poorly understood. To look for articles on specific diseases, search the keyword acupuncture at the National Institutes of Health. The NIH officially endorses acupuncture treatments, especially in the area of pain management.

Since acupuncture doesn’t easily fit into Western scientific models of research, studies to determine how acupuncture works have proven somewhat challenging. So far, some of the explanations that have been explored include gate theory, endorphin releases and autonomic nervous system responses. HealthWorld Online has basic information on these theories, while WebMD has a straightforward article on acupuncture in the mainstream.

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"Acupuncture brings the body toward homeostasis, the state of physiological equilibrium."

What does acupuncture treat?

Most conditions can be corrected or improved with acupuncture, since it works by promoting the body's natural ability to heal. Practitioners around the world treat a wide array of acute and chronic disorders.

My acupuncture practice attracts, but is not limited to, people with active lifestyles, who commonly experience muscular or myofascial pain related to their activities. Everyday complaints include back pain, neck pain, sciatica and hip pain, shoulder and knee joint pain, headaches and repetitive strain disorders. I also have success treating patients who suffer from internal problems including common gynecological, digestive and respiratory conditions. In the realm of more complex and chronic conditions, a number of my patients are in recovery from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, both of which respond well to my treatments.

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Do the needles hurt?

Needle Insertion either feels like a small pinch or nothing at all. Patients often say, "I didn't even feel that needle go in." Since acupuncture needles are superfine and solid, unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture feels nothing like getting your blood drawn or getting an injection.

Needle Manipulation, or the way a needle is stimulated after placement in the body, can create a variety of sensations. Commonly, these include heavy, dull, achy, tingling and spreading sensations. Practitioners manipulate needles and then look for these sensations as indications that the body's own healing powers have been activated.

Trigger Point Release using an acupuncture needle feels like a quick spasm or jump of the muscle and the surrounding connective tissue. Sensations commonly travel to the surrounding areas. The immediate effects of treatment can feel like post-workout soreness, but as the soreness fades, the benefits of the therapy are lasting.

See the testimonials section to find out what my patients say about their experience of acupuncture.

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What should I expect from my first visit?

Your first acupuncture visit will take about one and a half hours, while subsequent visits typically last an hour. It’s best to arrive in the office after eating at least a light meal. Receiving treatment on an empty stomach can occasionally interfere with treatment. After you fill out a comprehensive intake form, I gather more information about you through pulse and tongue diagnosis, as well as palpation. Of all the methods of assessment in Chinese Medicine, palpation is my preferred method.

Palpation is the examination of the body through touch, for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment. I examine the main areas of complaint for size, consistency, texture, tenderness and exact location. With a background in massage therapy and years of experience, I have highly developed palpation skills. Examining the body through touch, as a diagnostic aid, is the cornerstone of my acupuncture practice.

The next phase of your visit is the acupuncture treatment itself, where I insert needles into various points along meridian pathways. Since these pathways encompass the whole body, needles will be inserted into areas that may not include your main complaint. For example, if you’re seeking treatment for neck pain, you can expect needles to be inserted into points on your arms and legs, which correspond to the neck in Chinese Medicine. The number of needles inserted differs in each session, but on average I use between fifteen and twenty-five needles. You can expect to lay comfortably on the treatment table with the needles in for approximately 20-30 minutes. In this time you'll be largely unaware of the needles and you’ll experience relaxation and calm.

After the needles are removed, you can expect a discussion of my recommendations for your care, including an acupuncture treatment plan. Since acupuncture treatments are cumulative, an initial course of treatment is usually recommended, which includes 4-6 weekly treatments. If your condition is complex and/or chronic, you may need ongoing care for several months. Also, as part of your treatment, I may use other therapeutic techniques besides acupuncture. I often use a very effective technique called gua sha, and I occasionally use moxibustion, cupping and shonishin, as indicated. See an explanation of these techniques below.

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Will my health insurance cover acupuncture?

Since policies vary, you need to contact your provider for specific coverage information. If you're able to collect reimbursement, I can provide the claims to submit. However, I'm not a participant in any health care plans and I only accept payment from patients at the time of service.

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Common Terms

Meridians
Meridians are networks of pathways travelling mostly up and down the body, providing the channels along which Qi and Blood flow. Meridians are accessed on the surface of the body through specific gates, or acupuncture points, which connect to the interior matrix of organ systems. Acupuncturists affect the interior of the body through the surface points and can thereby effectively treat both internal and external disorders.
Meridian-style acupuncture
Unlike other traditions, which are based on an internal medical model and prescribed herbs, this style is based on meridian theory in Classical Chinese Medicine and relies on palpation as a cornerstone in diagnosis and treatment. First and foremost, the goal is to loosen constrictions along meridian pathways, using touch to locate points and needles to treat them.
Qi and Blood
Qi (“chee”) and Blood are the two most vital substances in Chinese medicine. They work together to influence every process in the human body. Simply put, Qi moves, while Blood nourishes. Qi is the natural force responsible for the maintenance of all life.
Myofascial pain
Myo- refers to muscle, while fascia refers to the thin sheets of connective tissue, which cover and bind muscles together. Myofascial pain is caused by constrictions in select bands of muscle and the fascia surrounding it.
Trigger Point
According to Dr. Janet Travell, a pioneer in the field of myofascial pain, a trigger point is “a hyperirritable locus within a taut band of skeletal muscle.” These bands of contracted muscle feel ropy and tender, and often create referred pain or pain in other areas of the body. Since the taut bands inhibit the normal functioning of the muscle, releasing the constrictions through treatment helps to restore the optimum performance of the involved muscles and muscle groups.
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Other Therapeutic Techniques

Gua sha
Gua sha is a non-invasive, methodic frictioning of the skin with a smooth edged instrument, most often applied to the back and neck. Commonly used in the treatment of back pain and upper respiratory problems such as the common cold, gua sha effectively relieves pain and increases mobility and circulation. As it works to clear up the congested blood at the surface of the body, patches of red skin appear, which largely fade within 48 hours.
Moxibustion or Moxa
Moxibustion is the stimulation of acupuncture points using heat, which is generated from the burning of the herb Mugwort (Artemisia), on or near the skin. Moxibustion creates warmth where it is needed and strengthens the activity of the Blood.
Cupping
Commonly used for back pain, joint pain and upper respiratory problems, cupping is the application of suction to the surface of the body. Cups are applied to the back or other affected areas, and can be left comfortably in place along with the acupuncture needles for the duration of the treatment.
Shonishin
Often used in the treatment of children, shonishin is a non-invasive, gentle brushing of the skin along meridian pathways. It is most frequently used in my practice to treat swollen glands an assist lymphatic drainage.
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