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Acupuncture FAQ

1. How does Acupuncture work?
2. What conditions are commonly treated by acupuncture?
3. Does acupuncture hurt?
4. Are acupuncture needles safe?
5. Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
6. How many treatments will I need?
7. How often should I be treated?
8. How many needles should be used in each treatment?
9. How long each treatment takes?
10. Should I stop taking other medications?
11. In which cases is acupuncture inadvisable?
12. What happens during the treatment?
13. What are the risks of acupuncture?
14. What should I wear and how should I prepare for the treatment?
15. What should I do after treatment?
16. What can I expect after a treatment?
17. Does acupuncture always help?
18. What are lamps and electronic gadgets I see during acupuncture treatment?
19. What is Gua Sha?
20. What is cupping?
21. Does medical insurance cover acupuncture?

How does Acupuncture work?
Modern Western medicine can't explain how acupuncture works.  Research has identified the ability of acupuncture to modulate neuroendocrine functions such as blood hormone levels.  In traditional Chinese medicine, based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy) through Meridians or pathways that span the body.  When the flow of Qi is obstructed in certain critical points, or acupoints, the function of tissue, muscles, and organs will be impaired. By inserting acupuncture needles into acupoints helps and allows Qi  to flow and corrects Qi imbalances at the organ level to improve your energy and internal processing.  In this way, acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious energetic balance of the body.

What conditions are commonly treated by acupuncture?
The following conditions that can be treated by acupuncture are headaches, neck pain, mid back pain, low back pain, neuralgia, and the pain resulting from arthritis and rheumatism.  Various syndromes that are difficult to treat using Western medicine, such as various fibromyalgia syndromes, may also respond well to acupuncture.  Acupuncture is used as an adjunct in treatment of asthma, allergies, and sinus problems, as well as in the acute symptoms of viral upper respiratory infections.  When treated at an early stage, cold or flu symptoms may be completely eliminated.  Acupuncture can also treat various chronic viral illnesses which cause a variety of symptoms and fatigue.  Other conditions responsive to acupuncture include repetitive motion injuries such as those suffered by typists and nail technicians, and muscular aches and pains from overwork or strained muscles.  Pain that persists after surgery can also be treated.  Acupuncture is now widely recognized as a treatment for painful conditions such as the pain and swelling of acute joint sprains and bruises.  If treatment can be given within 48 hours of an injury, the results are usually very positive.

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Does acupuncture hurt?
People experience needling differently.  Because the needles are so small and hair-thin, the sensation that occurs when the needles are places is minimal.  If any sensation is experienced during insertion, it is often compared to a mosquito bite and disappears very quickly.  Once the needles are inserted, they may be manipulated to obtain a mild "Qi" sensation.  This is how an acupuncturist engages the energy in your body in order to help balance it.  Although you may feel a sensation such as soreness, numbness, or heaviness, perhaps a slight cramping or distention around the needle or traveling up or down the affected Meridian (energy pathway).  If you experience any discomfort, it is usually mild and not considered painful.  Over the centuries, refined needle insertion techniques have been developed which enable the skilled acupuncture practitioner to place a needle with little or no sensation.

Are acupuncture needles safe?
Yes, in 1996, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed the experimental status tag on acupuncture needles.  The FDA reclassified acupuncture needles, regulating them as it does medical devices such as surgical scalpels and hypodermic syringes.  Our practitioners are certified in using a clean needle technique in acupuncture.  We only use individually package disposable and sterilized steel needles.  There is no risk of transmitting a communicable disease using such needles.

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Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?
No.  Acupuncture works whether or not you believe it.  In fact, acupuncture works very well for horses, dogs, cats, and children, most of whom probably don't believe in acupuncture either.  They do not understand or believe in the process yet they get better anyway.  A positive attitude helps with any type of therapy but it is not necessary to believe in acupuncture for it to work.  It is always beneficial to have confidence in your physician.

How many treatments will I need?
Since each person is unique, the number of treatments needed, will vary.  The number of treatments necessary depends on the condition being treated.  Among the determining factors are the type of condition, whether the condition is acute or chronic, and the vitality of the individual.  Acute injuries or conditions seen at an early stage will often improve immediately.  For chronic injuries or conditions that have been present for longer periods it may require more treatments.   If the problem is acute, sometimes improvement is felt after 1 treatment, and may only need 2-5 treatments to resolve.  If the problem is chronic, it may take as many as 7-15 treatments before an initial response is seen.

How often should I be treated?
Typically I treat patients once a week.  If the condition is acute and painful, I may want to do treatments 2-3 times per week for the first couple weeks.  The benefits of acupuncture treatments tend to hold longer as you receive treatments, so what typically happens is that my patients start to need to see me less and less, so after a while they only come periodically for maintenance.

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How many needles should be used in each treatment?
Most of the times during acupuncture treatment, I use about 6-8 needles.  If two or more symptoms or conditions are treated during one session, I may use 10 or more needles.  For instance, a patient has been suffering from both neck and low back pain for a while.  I will treat both conditions in the same session instead of treating only one symptom in one session.  However, I don't treat many symptoms or conditions at one time.   It may set the treatment effect out of control and cause fatigue that hinders treatment, rather than beneficial relaxation.

How long each treatment takes?
Normally, each session takes 20-30 minutes.   It depends on the sensitivity of each individual and the kind of diseases and conditions.  It doesn't matter how long treatment takes, the quality treatment relies on the experience and skill of an acupuncturist.

Should I stop taking other medications?
NO.  You should continue to follow your current physician's instructions.  Please remember that acupuncture is used to complement and supplement your physician's treatment not to replace them.  You should discuss this issue with your physician and acupuncturist.

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In which cases is acupuncture inadvisable?
A patient should never be needled under the following conditions:
When the patient is too hot, when his or her pulse is greatly disturbed, when he or she is drunk or angry, when he or she is hungry or has eaten too much, when he or she is overtired, out of breath, or when he or she is full of great fear.  It is preferable not to have acupuncture treatment at all during pregnancy.

What happens during the treatment?
Depending on the areas to be treated, you may be positioned on your back, your stomach, your side, or sitting.  Be certain that you can remain relaxed in this position, as you may not wish to move for the duration of the treatment, usually 20-30 minutes.  It is best to practice a slow and relaxed abdominal breathing during treatment, and to avoid trying to do any mental work.  Abdominal breathing means allowing your abdomen to expand as you inhale, and to contract as you exhale.

What are the risks of acupuncture?
FDA regulates that acupuncture needles must now be manufactured according to single-use standards of sterility to ensure that there is no risk of disease transmission.  The most common complication of treatment is a small bruise or a drop of blood when the needle is removed.  Like any other medical technique it involves some risk.  Properly performed, acupuncture presents minimal hazard when compared to drug regimens or surgery.

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What should I wear and how should I prepare for the treatment?
Just wear loose fitting clothes that can be easily rolled up above your elbows and knees.  Try to arrive 10-15 minutes before your appointment to allow yourself a chance to relax.  Vigorous exercise or sexual activity in the hour before treatment is not recommended.

What should I do after treatment?
You should avoid large meals, vigorous exercise, alcohol, or excessive aggravation.  It is often helpful to sit quietly following a treatment, and relax.  A gentle walk or very mild exercise can also be helpful.

What can I expect after a treatment?
You may notice a spot of blood at one or more needle sites and/or a bruise could develop. These are not harmful, but if you are concerned, please talk to your acupuncturist.  Most patients will experience a gradual relief of their symptom or improvement of well-being over the course of therapy.

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Does acupuncture always help?
No, but it usually does.  If you do not feel any better after 3-5 treatments, than you should tell the acupuncturist.

What are lamps and electronic gadgets I see during acupuncture treatment?
The lamps and electronic gadgets you saw is an infrared lamp place over the area of treatment as well as low-voltage direct current stimulation via the acupuncture needle, it is used to maintain stimulation on the acupoints.  These are now well-accepted techniques in bolstering the effectiveness of traditional acupuncture.

What is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is healing technique used throughout Asia.  "Gua" means to rub or friction.  "Sha" is the term used to describe congestion of blood at the surface of the body.  When friction is applied in repeated even strokes, the sha surfaces as small red petechiae.  In minutes the petechiae fade into echymotic patches.  The sha disappears totally in two to four days.  The color and rate of fading are both diagnostic and prognostic indicators.  The benefits of Gua Sha are numerous.  It moves stuck blood, promoting normal circulation to the muscles, tissues, and organs directly beneath the surface treated.  The patient experiences immediate changes in stiffness, pain and mobility.  Normal metabolic processes are restored by the movement of fluids as nutrients are carried to the tissues and metabolic wastes are carried away.  Because Gua Sha mimics sweating, it resolves fever. Gua Sha cools the patient who is overheated, warm the patient who is chilled, nourishes the patient who is deficient, and clears the patient who is excess.  Gua Sha is therefore considered an adaptogenic technique.

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What is cupping?
Cupping refers to an ancient Chinese practice in which a cup is applied to the skin and the pressure in the cup is reduced (by using change in heat or by suctioning out air), so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup.  In some cases, the cup may be moved while the suction of skin is active, causing a regional pulling of the skin and muscle (the technique is called gliding cupping). This treatment has some relation to certain massage techniques, such as the rapid skin pinching along the back that is an important aspect of tuina (12).  In that practice, the skin is pinched, sometimes at specific points (e.g., bladder meridian points), until a redness is generated.  Cupping is applied by acupuncturists to certain acupuncture points, as well as to regions of the body that are affected by pain (where the pain is deeper than the tissues to be pulled).  When the cups are moved along the surface of the skin, the treatment is somewhat like guasha (literally, sand scraping), a folk remedy of southeast Asia which is often carried out by scraping the skin with a coin or other object with the intention of breaking up stagnation.  Movement of the cups is a gentler technique than guasha, as a lubricant allows the cup to slide without causing as much of the subcutaneous bruising that is an objective of guasha.  Still, a certain amount of bruising is expected both from fixed position cupping (especially at the site of the cup rim) and with movement of the cups.  Traditional cupping, with use of heated cups, also has some similarity to moxibustion therapy.  Heating of the cups was the method used to obtain suction: the hot air in the cups has a low density and, as the cups cool with the opening sealed by the skin, the pressure within the cups declines, sucking the skin into it.  In this case, the cups are hot and have a stimulating effect something like that of burning moxa wool.  In some cases, a small amount of blood letting (luoci; vein pricking) is done first, using a pricking needle, and then the cup is applied over the site.  The pricking is usually done with a three-edged needle, applied to a vein, and it typically draws 3-4 drops of blood (sometimes the skin on either side is squeezed to aid release of blood).  A standard thick-gauge acupuncture needle or plum blossom needle may be used instead.  This technique is said to promote blood circulation, remove stasis, and alleviate swelling and pain.  It is employed especially when there is a toxic heat syndrome and for a variety of acute ailments.

Does medical insurance cover acupuncture?
Some insurance does.  You need to check your insurance plan.  I will give you a receipt you can submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.

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