Q & A

What is Acupuncture?
How does Acupuncture work?
Is acupuncture safe?
Does Acupuncture cause any pain?
Which health conditions can Acupuncture treat?
How does Acupuncture treat disease?
How many treatments will I need?
Are the needles clean?
How do I decide if Acupuncture is for me?
What can I expect during my visit?
Why do they want to look at my tongue?
Why do they want to feel my pulses?
What is cupping?
What is Gua Sha?
Why did my acupuncturist prescribe herbs?
What is traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
How does Chinese herbal medicine work?
How does Chinese herbal medicine differ from others?
Which health conditions can Chinese herbs treat?
How does TCM treat a health condition?
What is Chinese Tuina massage?
What is Tai Chi Chuan?
What conditions can Tai Chi exercise treat?
How should I prepare for an appointment?

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture originated in China over 5,000 years ago. It is based on the belief that health is determined by a balanced flow of Qi, the vital life energy present in all living organisms. According to acupuncture theory, Qi is circulated in the body along fourteen energy pathways, called meridians, each linked to specific internal organs and organ systems. There are over one thousand acupoints within the meridian system that can be stimulated to enhance the flow of Qi. When special needles are inserted into these acupoints (just under the skin), they help correct and rebalance the flow of energy and consequently restore health.Perhaps no other alternative therapy has received more attention in this country or gained more acceptance more quickly than acupuncture. Most Americans had never heard of it until 1971, when New York Times foreign correspondent James Teston wrote a startling first article about acupuncture following his emergency appendectomy in China. Today, acupuncture in America is in full swing. Last year alone, Americans made some 9-12 million visits to acupuncturists for ailments as diverse as arthritis, bladder infections, back pain, and morning sickness.

The World Health Organization of the United Nations (WHO) has cited 104 different conditions that acupuncture can treat; including, migraines, sinusitis, the common cold, tonsillitis, asthma, eye inflammation, addictions, myopia, duodenal ulcer (and other gastrointestinal disorders), trigeminal neuralgia, Meniere’s disease, tennis elbow, paralysis from stroke, speech aphasia, sciatica, and osteoarthritis. Acupuncture has also been found to be effective in the treatment of a variety of rheumatoid conditions, and brings relief in 80% of those who suffer from arthritis. There is also evidence to suggest that acupuncture is valuable in treating enviromentally-induced illness due to radiation, pesticide poisoning, enviromentally toxic compounds, and air pollution.
In addition, acupuncture has been popularly used for weight control, to quit smoking, substance abuse, stress, depression, anxiety relief, cosmetic care, women’s health, and even immune support.

How does Acupuncture work?
That is a big question! Traditionally, acupuncture is based on the ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy) through discrete channels or meridians which transverse the body similar, but not identical to, the nervous and blood circulatory systems. According to this theory, acupuncture regulates this flow of Qi by shunting it to those areas where it is deficient and releasing it from where it is in excess. Thus acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious energetic balance of the body. In Chinese there is a famous dictum, “There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow.” Essentially, acupuncture promotes the free and balanced flow of Qi and blood in the body.

Is Acupuncture safe?
When practiced by a licensed, trained acupuncturist, acupuncture is extremely safe. As a system of natural healthcare, acupuncture already has some inherent safeguards. Because the treatment is drug-free, patients do not have to worry about taking several doses of a medication or suffering a possible adverse reaction.Properly administered, acupuncture does no harm. However, there are certain conditions you should notify an acupuncturist about before undergoing treatment. If you have a pacemaker, for instance, you should not receive electro-acupuncture due to the possibility of electromagnetic interference with the pacemaker. Similarly, if you have a tendency to bleed or bruise easily, or if you are a hemophiliac, you may want to consider a different type of care.

Does Acupuncture cause any pain?
In general, acupuncture is painless. Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are solid and hair-thin, and are not designed to cut the skin. They are also inserted generally no more than a half-inch to an inch depending on the type of treatment delivered.While each person experiences acupuncture differently, most people feel only a minimal amount of pain as the needles are inserted – like a tap on the skin. If the correct stimulus of the needles has been obtained, the patient should feel some heaviness, distention, tingling, or electric sensation either around the needle or up and down the affected energy pathway or meridian. In any case, if there is any discomfort it is usually mild. Some people reportedly feel a sensation of being energized, while others feel relaxed. If you experience significant pain from the needles, it may be a sign that the procedure is being done improperly.

Which health conditions can Acupuncture treat?
In the late 1970s, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the ability of acupuncture and Oriental medicine to treat nearly four dozen common ailments, including: neuromusculoskeletal conditions (such as arthritis, neuralgia, insomnia, dizziness, and neck/shoulder pain); emotional and psychological disorders (such as depression and anxiety); circulatory disorders (such as hypertension, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis and anemia); addictions to alcohol, nicotine and other drugs; respiratory disorders (such as emphysema, sinusitis, allergies and bronchitis); and gastrointestinal conditions (such as food allergies, ulcers, chronic diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, intestinal weakness, anorexia and gastritis).In 1997, a consensus statement released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that acupuncture could be useful by itself or in combination with other therapies to treat addiction, headaches, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma.

Other studies have demonstrated that acupuncture may help in the rehabilitation of stroke patients, and can relieve nausea in patients recovering from surgery.

How does acupuncture treat diseases?
According to the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, the disease results from depletion or congestion of Chi. Acupuncture works by stimulating the various acupoints in the body, thus allowing the vital energy, Chi, to flow freely along the meridians. However, the biological mechanism of acupuncture’s therapeutic power remains to be elucidated by modern scientists.Several theories have been presented as to exactly how acupuncture works. One theory suggests that pain impulses are blocked from reaching the spinal cord or brain at various “gates” to these areas. Since a majority of acupuncture points are either connected to (or are located near) neural structures, this suggests that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system.

Another theory suggests that acupuncture stimulates the body to produce narcotic-like substances called endorphins, which reduce pain. Other studies have found that other pain-relieving substances called opiates may be released into the body during acupuncture treatment.

How many treatments will I need?
Since people are so unique, treatments can take many different courses. I can, however, suggest some general treatment guidelines. Acute conditions that are short in duration may only require 2-3 treatments to have a curative effect. Chronic conditions that are years in duration take longer to resolve. A general rule is that for every year a person has had a problem, you need a month of weekly treatments. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have any benefit from a couple of treatments, it just means that it takes some more time to correct the underlying cause of the problem. For example, if someone came in to have his or her low back pain treated that they had for 10 years, pain relief could be obtained within a couple of treatments. If that patient then stopped treatment since they felt better, the pain may come back. If the patient continued treatment to correct the underlying weakness that caused the pain to manifest in the first place, the pain may never return.

Are the needles clean?
Yes. This clinic only uses presterilized, individually packaged, single-use, disposable needles. Thus assuring that there is no transmission of communicable disease from patient to patient. The certification of Acupuncturists includes a Clean Needle Test as part of every national board exam in America.

How do I decide if Acupuncture is for me?
Some key things to keep in mind when choosing a particular mode of treatment are the frequency or the length of the treatment and the cost. Acupuncture can be very effective with just one treatment, but in many chronic disorders that involve a patient’s constitution, several consecutive treatments may be necessary. How many and how often can be worked out between you and your acupuncturist.Finally, whether or not you can have acupuncture done on you depends on how you feel about it. If you fear needles, perhaps Acupressure, Tui Na, cupping, earballs, or herbs would work better for you. All of these can be done at an acupuncture appointment.

What can I expect during my visit?
During your initial exam a full health history will be taken, with questions regarding your health, lifestyle, and other information necessary for diagnosis. Your acupuncturist will check your pulses, look at your tongue, and conduct the appropriate physical exams. This information is then organized according to the theories and philosophies of Chinese medicine in order to diagnose your specific concerns and any underlying factors that may affect your health. After the interview process, you may receive an acupuncture treatment. This initial visit ranges from 30 to 90 minutes.During the acupuncture treatment, you may feel energized or a deep sense of relaxation and well-being. Where the acupuncture needle has been inserted, you may feel a vague numbness, heaviness, tingling, or a dull ache. Sometimes people will experience the sensation of energy spreading out from the needle. This is call the “Qi” sensation. All these reactions are a good sign that the treatment is working!

Why do they want to look at my tongue?
The tongue is a map of your body, reflecting the general health or your organ and meridian systems. Your acupuncturist will look at the color, shape, and coating of your tongue.

Why do they want to feel my pulses?
There are 12 main positions on your wrists that your acupuncturist will feel. Each position corresponds to an organ and meridian system. Your acupuncturist will be looking for 28 pulse qualities that reflect the balance of Qi and your general sate of health. If there are any imbalances they will appear in your pulse.

What is cupping?
Cupping is a therapy that stimulates the flow of blood and Qi to the superficial muscle layers. It is used to break up blockages of Qi, for sore muscles, tension, neck pain, and the common cold. In this therapy, your acupuncturist will place small glass “cups” over specific areas on your body. A vacuum is created under the cup using heat or suction. Sometimes your acupuncturist may slide the cups over certain areas, or just leave them still. You may leave the office looking as though a large octopus gave you a big hug. But don’t worry; the slight redness will dissipate quickly.

What is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is another technique used to release muscle tension and tightness. Using a specialized tool, your acupuncturist will gently scrape or rub the skin over a problem area. Gua Sha feels a bit like deep massage. This too may leave some slight redness, again, it will dissipate quickly.

Why did my acupuncturist prescribe herbs?
Herbs can be a powerful adjunct to acupuncture care. They can strengthen your body, or clear it of excess problems like a cold, fever, or acute pain. Herbs can be used daily.Sometimes your practitioner may suggest starting with herbs, and then adding acupuncture to your treatment. They will do this in order to build up your internal strength so your body can receive the full benefits acupuncture has to offer.

What is traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Over 5,000 years Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has evolved complex methods of diagnosis and treatment tailored to the individual’s subtle patterns of disharmony. This allows it to not only treat fully manifest diseases, but also to assist in maintaining health and balance (i.e. wellness) to prevent illnesses from occurring. Treatment in TCM consists of four main modalities: 1) Acupuncture and moxibustion, 2) Herbal medicine & dietary supplements, 3) Massage (Tuina, acupressure), and 4) Tai Chi & Qi Gong exercises.

How does Chinese herbal medicine work? 
Herbal formulas consist of multiple, combined herbs . Herbalists prescribe formulas specifically tailored for a particular patient and a particular medical manifestation of a condition. Here, Chinese herbal medicine has an advantage over other types of herbal treatments.Western drugs often control symptoms, but do not alter the disease process (antibiotics eliminate bacteria but do not improve a person’s resistance to infection; diuretics rid excess fluid without improving kidney function). Chinese herbs treat the root cause of the underlying condition as defined by traditional diagnosis, and rarely cause unwanted side effects.

Herbs assist the Organ Networks in the performance of their tasks. Particular herbs enhance the capacity of the Heart to propel the blood and soothe the mind; the Spleen to manage digestion and fluid equilibrium; the Lung to handle respiration and body’s defenses; the Liver to maintain resilient emotions and supple limbs; and Kidney to sustain sexual and regenerative power. Some herbal formulas address ailments such as colds, allergies, inflammations, or cramps with dramatic and immediate results, while others fortify body reserves over time.

Formulas are available in a variety of forms: crude herbs to be boiled into tea, liquid bottled extracts, ground herbs packaged in pills, and powders. In China, herbs, more like foods than drugs, can supplement our diet and fortify our constitution as well as prevent or remedy ailments. Sometimes long-term use of herbs is desirable whereas extended use of pharmaceuticals would not be healthy.

How does Chinese herbal medicine differ from others?
Chinese herbs are usually combined in formulas to enhance their properties and actions. Symptoms and signs are matched with therapeutic effects of various herbs in the formula, reflecting the particular symptoms and general health of each patient. For example: tonic formulas restore eroded body resources; regulating formulas decongest the Chi and Blood, relieving discomfort; and purging formulas eliminate the impact of adverse climates.Throughout its five thousand years history, Chinese physicians have discovered how to reduce toxicity of raw herbs, and enhance their therapeutic effects by processing raw herbs, while combining multiple herbs in a formula. This makes Chinese herbs much more potent than other herbs. In contrast, most other herbal medicines use single herb or a few herbs. Generally speaking, Chinese herbs work more slowly than chemical drugs.

Which health conditions can Chinese herbs treat?
Among various TCM therapies, Chinese herbal medicine is perhaps among the powerful method of healing. In China herbs are used more widely than acupuncture and massage. From the vast repertoire of 150,000 formulas, Chinese herbal medicine offers remedies for most of health conditions if not all of them. They have little side effects when prescribed by qualified practitioners.

How does TCM treat a health condition?
The goal of treatment is to adjust and harmonize Yin and Yang. This is achieved by regulating the Chi and Blood in the Organ Networks: weak organs are tonified; congested channels are opened; excess is dispersed; tightness is softened; agitation is calmed; heat is cooled; cold is warmed; dryness is moistened; and dampness is drained.Treatment may incorporate acupuncture, herbal remedies and diet, and massage exercise. Duration of treatment depends on the nature of the complaint, its severity, and how long it has been present. Treatments may be scheduled as often as three times a week, or as little as twice a month. Response varies – some need only a few sessions, while others need sustained care to reverse entrenched patterns established over time. As symptoms improve, fewer visits are required. Individual progress is the yardstick.

What is Chinese Tuina massage?
Tuina is the oldest known system of massage in the world. Originating in China, it is recorded in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine from 2300 B.C., as one of the five major therapies of the time. Tuina has remained an organized and systematically developed form of massage since that time. Currently in China Tuina is taught as a separate but equal field of study in the major traditional Chinese medical schools. Tuina doctors receive the same, demanding training as acupuncturists and herbalists, and enjoy the same level of professional respect.Tuina uses the Traditional Chinese Medical theory of channels and collaterals (meridians or pathways), and the flow of the Chi energy as its basic therapeutic orientation. Through the application of massage and manipulation techniques, Tuina seeks to establish a more harmonious Chi energy through the system of channels and collaterals, allowing the body to naturally heal itself. Tuina methods include the use of hand and arm techniques to massage the soft tissue (muscles and tendons) of the body, stimulation of acupressure points to directly affect the flow of Chi energy through the system of channels and collaterals, and manipulation techniques to realign the musculo-skeletal and ligamentous relationships (bone setting). External herbal poultices, compresses, liniments and salves are also used to enhance the other therapeutic methods.

What is Tai Chi Chuan?
Tai Chi has been practiced in China for centuries as a martial art, as exercise, and as a means of improving the flow of internal energy, Chi, within the body. Because of Tai Chi’s emphasis on correct form and feeling each movement, it is practiced very slowly, gently, and thoughtfully, with the emphasis on continuity of movement without break or pause. The Chinese use the metaphor of pulling silk from a cocoon: pull steadily, and the strand unravels; pull too fast or too slow, and it breaks.In Tai Chi you’re always moving, but always under complete control. There’s no overextension, no wasted effort. The whole body moves as one, with the body parts balanced in circular movement – always moving, always rotating, always transforming into the opposite. The weight shifts continuously, evenly and under complete control throughout the form, coming to rest briefly but completely on one leg or the other as the next element of the form unfolds.

Throughout the form, the body remains soft and relaxed, as if suspended from the top of the head and the joints like a puppet. The mind is centered on each movement, assessing the alignment and correctness of the form, focusing on feeling the flow from substantial to insubstantial in each movement, and fending off distractions. Breathing is through the nose slow and even, inhaling during contractions, exhaling during expansions of the form.

What conditions can Tai Chi exercise treat?
Tai Chi is known to treat hypertension (high blood pressure), bone fragility in osteoporosis, arthritis, stress-related symptoms, mood disorder, insomnia, and anxiety.

How should I prepare for an appointment?

  • Come to the clinic with any questions you may have, your acupuncturist is there to help you.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points.
  • Don’t eat large meals just before or after your visit.
  • Refrain from overexertion, drugs, or alcohol for up to 6 hours after your visit.
  • After your treatment, avoid stressful situations. Make time to relax. A warm bath or shower is helpful. Also, be sure to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of water.
  • Between visits, make notes of any changes in your body that may have occurred. Like the alleviation of pain or pain moving to a different area, changes in the frequency and/or type of problem, etc… This information will be important to share with your acupuncturist.