Acupuncture FAQs

Acupuncture FAQs and what to Expect


Acupuncture Frequently Asked Questions

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Most people do not find acupuncture to be painful. Sometimes, a needle may cause slight to moderate discomfort. It is actually good when the patient feels the needle, as a stronger stimulation leads to faster and greater pain relief. But overall, it is also important for the patient to have a deeply relaxing experience. Thus there is a need for balance.

Some patients are more sensitive than others. For these patients, we use thinner needles, even if it means a weaker or more gradual stimulation. Furthermore, in our clinic, aside from motor/trigger point sessions, we almost always only needle areas distal (away from) to the local area of pain. This way, we avoid temporarily exacerbating the pain and inflammation in the local area of the chief pain complaint.

Which Conditions can Acupuncture Treat?

Both acupuncture and customized herbal formulas address a wide range of health complaints, from pain to myriad symptoms caused by aging, lifestyle and stress-related diseases. While both are quite effective, they each tend to have a stronger effect on different realms of complaints.

In general, acupuncture is more effective for relieving pain. Herbs, however, can help break up blood stasis and help regulate organ function, which can be very important for the treatment of pain.

Properly prescribed herbs are more effective at treating internal diseases, though acupuncture can greatly assist the healing of these problems as well. In addition, herbs can be taken every day, while most people don't have time to visit the clinic every day it is open.

To illustrate how a person can take advantage of both systems of Chinese Medicine if a patient complains about back pain, AND fatigue, anxiety, and depression (FAD), the acupuncture session will focus on the pain, and herbal consultations on resolving the FAD, though there is considerable overlap in their effects.

Acupuncture not only stops pain, but it also promotes the relaxation response, and tonifies or regulates the internal physiology depending on the specific treatment protocol and treatment time. Herbs not only heal internal diseases, but certain herbs also move stagnant blood, which is a major component of pain.

How Many Treatments are Needed for Acupuncture to Work?


Patients with pain conditions

It depends on which Acupuncturist you see for care. In this practice, we conduct a physical exam based on the Exstore system that reveals the underlying muscular imbalance(s) and muscular inhibition(s) that are the root cause of the pain condition, range of motion, muscular strength and functional limitations.

With treatments based on the findings in a proper assessment, in general, for sub-acute orthopedic conditions (less than three months duration), the patient can expect to experience significant and sustained relief within six visits. Acute pain can often be relieved with only one to three treatments, though follow up visits might be needed to ensure that the pain does not return in the future. For chronic conditions, it depends on a number of factors, including the age and relative robustness of the patient, as well as the severity of the symptoms and the length of time a patient has experienced their complaints.

Regardless, six visits are a good general guideline for the number of treatments one should have within two to three weeks to see if acupuncture will work for an individual case. Patients with sub-acute pain who do not experience any significant improvement are not encouraged to continue care.

Patients with chronic pain who have experienced at least some improvement, receive treatment plans after their sixth treatment based on their level of improvement within their first six treatments. Fast responders require fewer treatments going forward, while slower responders require more treatments in the future for maximum healing and maintenance of improvement.

Patients without pain conditions or internal diseases or health imbalances

For internal health challenges, we utilize pulse diagnosis to identify the underlying imbalance causing symptoms. Based on the pulse diagnosis and answers to questions in the intake, the provider crafts a customized treatment plan that incorporates one or more of the clinic's services. As with pain, chronic conditions generally require more visits and more of the clinic's services for maximum relief and healing.

How Long does an Acupuncture Session Take?

It depends on the focus of the session. If the goal is the cessation of pain, or stress/anxiety/addiction relief, then the patient will rest with needles for about 30 to 45 minutes. This allows the final, healing, relaxing and anti-inflammatory phase of the needing response to take place.

If the goal is to tonify an organ system that is weak, then the needle retention is ten minutes or less.

If the goal is to stimulate an immune system under attack from an infection, the needle retention time is again ten minutes or less. This prevents the anti-inflammatory process from taking place, which would suppress the immune system.

How many Herbal Consultations are Necessary to Resolve Internal Health complaints?

Typically, to resolve internal health complaints with customized herbal formulas, the patient needs to come to the clinic for nine or ten consultations. At each consultation, the herbalist checks the patients' radial pulses to assess which pulse(s) are most aberrant. 95% of the time, the most aberrant pulse is the one associated with the patient's chief internal health complaint. Thus, as a particular aberrant pulse improves, the formula is modified over the period of time in which the consultations occur, to address other aberrant pulses and other related symptoms. Each consultation can be scheduled at a time adjacent or in close proximity to an acupuncture appointment.

What do I Wear to an Appointment?

It is best to wear loose-fitting clothing, and when the weather is cool, layered clothing is useful.

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Did You Know?

The ancient Chinese determined thousands of years ago that acupuncture right along both sides of the spine had therapeutic effects. Today's Acupuncturists see confirmation of Chinese Medicine's wisdom about these acupuncture points in the knowledge of modern science.

For example, we know from science that there are dermatomes or regions along the skin of the body, that are mainly supplied by branches of a single nerve root in the spine. The muscle that underlies the skin is also innervated by a branch of particular nerve roots. Also, certain levels along the spine house the nerves that control the flow of blood to both the upper and the lower extremities (T1-T5 for upper extremities, T6-T9 for the digestive organs, and T10-L2 for the lower extremities). 

Thus many Acupuncturists are now performing what are called perfusion treatments (needling one or more of these three sets of spinal levels), to treat problems in extremities or in the digestive system that can benefit form improved circulation. Just one more example of Chinese Medicine's sophisticated understanding of anatomy that predates Western sophistication by thousands of years!

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