Frequently Asked Questions
(For more specific information about Community Acupuncture and Individual Acupuncture, please see the “Community –vs- Individual FAQ’s” section of this website.)
- What is Acupuncture?
- Who Can Benefit from Acupuncture?
- How Does it Work?
- Can I address more than one health issue at a time with acupuncture?
- How long will it take for me to feel better?
- Is Acupuncture Safe?
- How is an Acupuncturist Trained?
- What About the Needles?
- Do You Also do Moxibustion, Cupping, and Gua Sha?
- Do you treat children?
- Do you treat pregnant women?
- Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
- Can I combine acupuncture with massage/chiropractic/osteopathic treatment/medication /exercise/etc?
- Can I replace my Conventional Medical Care with acupuncture?
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is part of a broad system of Traditional Chinese Medical Arts, which also includes Chinese Herbal Medicine, Chinese Massage (Tui Na ), Therapeutic Movement (including Tai Chi and Qi Gong), Meditation, Chinese Dietary Therapy and Geomancy (Feng Shui ). These healing systems all have their roots in Ancient China and have developed through approximately 3,500 years of Chinese civilization.
Who Can Benefit from Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a holistic, health promoting preventative therapy that benefits body, mind, and spirit; and is also helpful for complaints that lack an easily determined medical cause.
Anyone who has chronic symptoms or illnesses, and/or a lifestyle that places great demands on energy and stamina can benefit from acupuncture. With treatment, patients often report that they:
- Are sick less often and recover more quickly
- Have increased vitality and endurance
- Have a fuller sense of well-being and purpose
- See reductions in long- term healthcare costs
The World Health Organization recognizes the ability of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to treat nearly four dozen common ailments, including:
- Neuromusculoskeletal Conditions (such as arthritis, neuralgia, insomnia, dizziness, back/neck/shoulder pain, body aches and migraine headaches)
- Emotional and Psychological Disorders (such as depression and anxiety, stress, insomnia and eating disorders)
- Circulatory Disorders (such as hypertension, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis and anemia)
- Addictions to alcohol, nicotine and other drugs
- Respiratory Disorders (such as allergies, asthma, emphysema, sinusitis and bronchitis)
- Gastrointestinal Conditions (such as food allergies, ulcers, chronic diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, intestinal weakness, anorexia and gastritis)
- Gynecological Problems (such as irregular, heavy or painful menstruation, PMS and infertility)
- Urogenital Disorders (such as incontinence, UTI’s and sexual dysfunction in men and women)
How Does it Work?
Acupuncture encourages the body to promote natural healing and improve function. This is done with various techniques, including the superficial insertion of acupuncture needles, as well as the application of heat or pressure at specific points located on the surface of the skin. Stimulating these designated points in particular combinations can positively alter various biochemical and physiological conditions in order to treat a wide variety of illnesses.
Can I Address More Than One Health Issue at a Time with Acupuncture?
Absolutely. In fact, because Chinese Medicine is a holistic therapy that views any single issue or complaint as part of an interconnected whole, it’s actually more difficult to treat an isolated problem than several issues occurring in the same person. Acupuncture tends to act like a re-set button for the entire body. Patients who come in for one issue – say for back pain – will often notice an improvement in something apparently unrelated, such as a chronic lung problem. This can happen even when the patient doesn't tell the acupuncturist about the apparently unrelated problem. Acupuncture also seems to universally have the "side effects" of reducing stress and promoting better sleep and more energy.
How Long Will it Take for Me to Feel Better?
Usually everyone feels some change after one or two treatments. Depending on the issue, it could subside immediately, gradually resolve after several treatments, or never go away completely, but improve to the point where it becomes very manageable with regular treatment.
Initially, weekly sessions are often recommended in order to establish a sustainable foundation of internal balance. The results that can be expected and the length of treatment required will depend on the severity of the condition, it’s past duration, and your current state of health. As you start to improve, frequency of treatment may be reduced accordingly.
Treatment is always advisable at the change of seasons and during times of particular stress or upset. These visits provide the opportunity to correct imbalances as they occur.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Yes. Unlike drug and other therapies, adverse side effects of Acupuncture are extremely uncommon. About 15% of acupuncture patients experience a temporary exacerbation of their condition or minor flare-ups of old conditions following their first few treatments. This is well documented and not a concern. In fact, these 'healing reactions' are a normal part of getting better. They are typically short-lived and are usually followed by significant improvement.
The incidence of truly adverse reactions to acupuncture when it is provided by properly trained professionals has been repeatedly documented to be extremely miniscule. The American National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded in 1997 that "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."
How is an Acupuncturist Trained?
In the United States, over 50 accredited first-professional colleges teach a diversity of styles of traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture, Chinese herbology, manual techniques such as tuina (Chinese therapeutic massage), nutrition, and exercise/breathing therapy. Individuals who attain a degree to practice acupuncture undergo a rigorous training post-graduate program at a minimum standard of three academic years that contains 450 hours in biomedical science (biology, anatomy, physiology, western pathology, and pharmacology), 90 hours in patient counseling and practice management, and 1365 hours in acupuncture. Of the 1365 hours in acupuncture, 660 hours must be clinical hours. In most states, the credential letters for this type of training are “M.Ac.” (Master of Acupuncture) or “D.O.M” (Doctor of Oriental Medicine,) and “L.Ac.” (Licensed Acupuncturist.)
It should be noted that other health care professionals, including medical doctors, osteopaths, naturopaths, chiropractors, and physical therapists are permitted to use acupuncture as an adjunctive technique to their primary practice with 300 hours or less of training.
For more information about the educational requirements to practice acupuncture, please visit the website of the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine:
What About the Needles?
The needles used for acupuncture bear little resemblance to the hollow bored variety used with hypodermic syringes. Acupuncture needles are solid and extremely thin, about the thickness of two human hairs. Made of surgical grade stainless steel, the needles are pre-sterilized, individually packaged, and disposed of after every use. During treatment, most needles are inserted just beneath the surface of the skin. Although sensations vary from person to person, most patients report little or no discomfort.
Do You Also do Moxibustion, Cupping, and Gua Sha?
Yes. Moxibustion shares equal status with needling in terms of its therapeutic significance. Moxa is another name for the herb Artemesia Vulgaris, or Mugwort. Burning moxa for therapeutic effect is called Moxabustion. There are many different techniques of moxibustion and many different grades of moxa. Moxa can be applied directly on acupuncture points in everything from tiny, rice grain sized pieces to thumb sized cones. Moxa is also commonly applied indirectly by burning cherry-sized balls affixed to the tops of needles (the warming needle technique) or by passing the lit end of a cigar-sized moxa stick above the surface of the skin.
Gua Sha and cupping are blood moving approaches, which include the application of suction cups to specific areas of the body (cupping), and the use of an oiled, smooth edged tool (traditionally made of water buffalo horn) to gently “scrape” the surface of the skin (gua sha.) These techniques break up chronic blood congestion in surface capillaries, improve microcirculation and can be dramatically effective in resolving certain pain conditions. They can also be important in the resolution of high fevers and respiratory conditions.
Do You Treat Children?
Yes. Acupuncture is often very effective for children and teens, and many of them love it. We ask only that the child in question is willing to try acupuncture; we don't want to treat unwilling patients of any age. All minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for their first visit.
Do You Treat Pregnant Women?
Absolutely. Acupuncture is very helpful for many pregnancy-related conditions, including nausea and vomiting, fatigue, aches and pains, stress and intense emotions, and is also famous for its ability to turn breech or badly positioned babies in utero, as well as to induce labor.
Do I Have to Believe in Acupuncture for it to Work?
Not at all. Animals get good results from acupuncture just like people, and we're pretty sure that they don't believe in it. You just need to have enough of an open mind to want to find out if acupuncture will work for you, and you will only know that for sure by experience. We suggest you try it and see what you think.
Can I Combine Acupuncture with Massage/Chiropractic/Osteopathic Treatment/Medication /Exercise/Etc?
You can combine acupuncture with almost anything; that's one of the wonderful things about it. Although we recommend that you don’t overdo it for the rest of the day after your acupuncture treatment, in general, nothing is going to make it less effective, and it’s not going to interfere with anything else. In fact, many people experience a more powerful therapeutic effect when is acupuncture combined with other modalities than with any one therapy alone.
Can I replace my Conventional Medical Care with Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is complementary to Western medicine, but is not a replacement for conventional medical treatment. While many acupuncture patients find that they can reduce or eliminate medications as their health and function improve with treatment, any and all alterations of medications and/or other therapies should always be medically supervised.