This is by far the most frequently asked question! It’s understandable, given the experience most of us have had with shots, but acupuncture needles are nothing like hypodermic needles. They are very thin, just a few hairs width, and they are not hollow like hypodermic needles. They are designed to slide through tissue without cutting, so there is usually very little pain during insertion. Only single use, disposable, sterile acupuncture needles are used in our practice. Many patients fall asleep with the needles inserted.
As holistic medicine is designed to treat the wholeness of a person, each facet of their being be it body, mind, or spirit, the answer to this question is almost always “Yes”. There are some exceptions and for advice on a specific medical condition, please contact me. Also, check out a list of issues commonly treated with acupuncture.
How does acupuncture work?
The mechanism of action for acupuncture remains largely unknown. It is possible that this is due to multiple mechanisms at play. It has been clearly demonstrated time and again that stimulating certain points on the body via insertion of an acupuncture needle has a physiological effect. Sometimes this effect is the release of neurotransmitters, which may cause the patient to report feeling happy, calm, balanced, or peaceful. Other times the effect is immediate and dramatic pain relief. Other effects include support of the body systems including the lymphatic, endocrine, respiratory, major organ, digestive, and reproductive systems.
What are acupuncture points?
The ancient Chinese believed that a vital life force or energy, called “Qi”, flowed through channels or meridians in the body. At certain places Qi comes close to the surface, where it can most easily be influenced. These are the acupuncture points. The Chinese character for the word Qi depicts a pot of rice boiling on a stove , steam from the pot causing the lid to rise and fall. This is a metaphor for transformation and movement. The ancient Chinese believed that movement/change is the natural state of all things. Thus, this system of energy channels and points was developed to give the practitioner access to areas of “stuckness”, and the ability to reintroduce movement by stimulating specific points along the channels. It is the model that was developed and used in ancient China to organize, categorize, and explain the effects noted when testing the points empirically. Even in modern day, it remains an elegant metaphor for the state of health in the individual.
Why is acupuncture considered ‘holistic’ medicine?
A holistic approach encompasses the idea that nothing happens in a vacuum. Your body, any symptoms you are experiencing, your emotional state, and your psychological state are all parts of a greater whole. Where one area is affected, all are affected to varying degrees. Acupuncture treatment is designed to treat the whole person, to move everything forward at once. In this way, treatments are designed to target the source of the issue, in addition to the symptoms.
How do you know which acupuncture points to treat?
A comprehensive assessment, called a “Traditional Diagnosis,” is done at your initial visit. This includes a health history, pulse diagnosis, and tongue diagnosis among other diagnostic tools. A treatment plan is devised based on this diagnosis. Specific points are selected in accordance with the treatment plan.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments needed varies from individual to individual. The severity of the imbalance, how long it has been going on, the constitution of the patient and any medications being used are just a few of the variables involved. Most of the time weekly treatments are needed for several weeks to begin to establish balance. Frequency of treatment is then tailored to the individual needs of the patient. The Chinese medicine rule of thumb is that one month of treatment will be needed for every year the condition has been in place.
The focus of every treatment strategy is always to get the body working better than it was before. Thus, regular treatment in conjunction with any appropriate and congruent lifestyle changes should result in the need for less and less treatment as time goes on. Ideally, the patient gets to the point where they are maintaining a satisfactory state of health on their own, and only need seasonal “tune-up” treatments during the year.
My symptoms got worse after the treatment, and now I feel great. What is going on?
You may have experienced a healing reaction. Communicate with your practitioner for guidance on what this means.
Is acupuncture treatment safe during pregnancy?
Yes! Acupuncture is commonly used with pregnant women for aches and pains, nausea and morning sickness, acid reflux, fatigue, cravings, and many other pregnancy-related symptoms. Acupuncture can be used at the end of pregnancy to prepare the body for labor, start a stalled labor, and even help a baby in breech position turn on his or her own.
Can children receive acupuncture?
Yes, absolutely. Children tend to respond very well to acupuncture treatment and quicker than adults, thus they rarely need a lot of treatment. There is no minimum age for receiving acupuncture. In cases of very young children, needles may or may not be needed, depending on the condition. Moxa and acupressure are often time sufficient treatment. See what an acupuncture treatment may include for more information on treating children.
Does my insurance cover acupuncture?
Many health insurance plans do cover acupuncture. As plans vary widely, you should check with your company to see what your specific policy covers. Our office is in-network with CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Cigna, and Aetna and we can check benefits for you and submit claims on your behalf. For all other insurance providers, we can provide you with an itemized receipt with proper insurance coding that you can submit for reimbursement, apply to a health savings or flexible spending account, or use for tax deduction purposes.