Acupuncture and Beyond

Q: What is Acupuncture?
A: Acupuncture is among the oldest healing practices in the world and has been practiced in Asia for over 5,000 years. Acupuncture stimulates specific points on the body by inserting thin metal needles through the skin. It is intended to remove blockages in the flow of qi by rebalancing the energy circulating through organs and channels in the body. Acupuncture is one of many procedures that originated in Asian medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is used to restore and maintain health and help prevent disease. TCM includes: herbal medicine, massage (tui na or acupressure), moxibustion (heat application), cupping (suction), diet, and exercise (qi gong). Many of the traditional point combinations and herbal formulas remain as effective today as they were several thousand years ago.

Q: What is Qi (chi)?
A: A Chinese term for vital energy or life force, in India "qi" is called "prana". In TCM qi is believed to regulate a person's spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance, and is influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang. The whole medical system of TCM is based on qi which flows through pathways in the body called "meridians". Acupuncture needles access the meridians by stimulating certain points. The body has 14 main meridians and over 40 "extra points" not associated with any particular meridians.

Q: What does 'holistic' medicine mean?
A: The whole person (body, emotions, mind and spirit) is treated. Holistic medicine is a large area of study that involves more than seeing a client as a collection of body parts and symptoms. Disease and disharmony take up residence in the body as symptoms of much deeper emotional, mental and spiritual disharmonies. These energetic disharmonies can be treated best with early detection to prevent the disease from entering deeper into the body. In TCM an important part of diagnosis is considering the patient's Shen or spirit (it is said a person exists on higher energetic planes). A person with strong shen usually has a good prognosis, if a person has weak shen, cancer and other serious diseases can set in. Emotions have long been considered at the root of many diseases and conditions; the 5 main emotions (fear, anger, worry, mania (over joy), and sadness) correspond to the 5 main organs (kidney, liver, spleen, heart and lung).

Q: Does it hurt?
A: The needles are fine, and their insertion is relatively painless. Most patients feel very little, like a small pricking sensation, during insertion. The needles are placed on specific areas and stimulate the body's Qi, or energy, along pathways (meridians) within the body. After the needles are inserted, people report a range of sensations - tingling, pressure, warmth, dull aching, slight pinching or pulling. Occasionally you may feel a throbbing pain which may feel uncomfortable, especially if it's a chronic condition. All of these sensations are normal, as they help the body heal and restore balance. At no time should you feel pain beyond your tolerance level; tell the practitioner right away if you feel too much energy or pain.

Q: How long does a treatment last?
A: Time and frequency of visits varies with each individual. The first appointment usually takes 1.5 hours, and later treatments can last anywhere from a half hour to over an hour. Some people may require less needles and more cupping and tuina, and sometimes people will need to come in three times a week. Most patients will come in once a week or once every two weeks.After reviewing your health history and discussing your current complaints, we will consider how long the disease has been present and its severity to determine the best treatment plan. Needles are generally retained for 20 - 40 minutes.

Q: What can I expect at my first visit?
A: You will be asked questions about your main complaints, lifestyle and any health problems to establish a better understanding of your pattern through your answers, examining your tongue, and feeling your pulse. You may ask any questions or concerns as we determine if cupping, herbs or other modalities are also necessary. After needles are placed along your body, the room will be darkened and you can relax for 20 - 40 minutes. Your treatment will be complete when the needles are removed.

Q: How many treatments will I need?
A: People usually notice improvement after 5-10 treatments. Some people experience faster relief from their symptoms, and others need more treatments. The duration of a course of treatments varies greatly and is dependent upon the condition and how your body responds to treatment. In general, the more chronic the condition, the longer it takes to treat. Old habits or inclinations can slow the process, even if you want to get better, the body may not respond right away. Be patient and if you don't notice a change immediately, you will see how much you've improved if you stay with a treatment schedule and look back over time.

Q: What do patients gain from acupuncture treatments?
A: People notice an improvement of overall health and will feel more relaxed, sleep better and see their symptoms lessen. TCM treats the whole person (physical, spiritual and emotional) thus changes happen together and the patient may have a feeling of lightness and well being. Although symptoms may be present for a while, the disease also took time to develop so it takes time to help the body rebalance and restore itself.

Q: What if my problem doesn't improve?
A: Approximately 1/5 of patients may experience what is called "a healing crisis" or aggravation of symptoms. This can often happen after the first treatment, when symptoms appear to get worse. This is usually a good sign because the patient is getting rid of toxins, and these should go away in about 24 hours. If the problems persist, make an appointment to return to the clinic sooner than your next appointment to continue taking care of the symptoms.

Q: Is acupuncture safe?
A: The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires practitioners use sterile, nontoxic needles and they be labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only. In the hands of a skilled practitioner, acupuncture is safe; cautions are recommended near major organs and around the face. The practitioner will insert needles at a specific angle, or use shorter needles and avoid deep penetration, especially in elderly and thin patients. It is possible for a needle to puncture a lung (pneumothorax), so the patient is asked to lie still after the needles are inserted (especially in the chest or back) and not make any large movements.

Q: Will acupuncture interfere with any medications?
A: No, however you may find your medication working more efficiently since Acupuncture has a tendency to remove blockages and balance the energetic pathways. If your medication dosage is sensitive, ask your doctor and pharmacist to monitor your dosages and make sure you know any signs there are of overdosing. Western pharmaceuticals can be potent; you may need to reduce dosages gradually to avoid unpleasant reactions.

Q: What conditions can be treated with acupuncture?
A: Acupuncture is a complete medical system onto itself and easily compliments other treatments, such as Western pharmaceuticals and surgery, herbal therapies, chiropractics and massage. Acupuncture is drug-free, non-surgical and extremely effective in helping patients with serious side effects of cancer treatments and automimmune dieases, post-operative pain, PMS and menopause symptoms. Acupuncture is extensive and treats many conditions from A to Z, including arthritis, bronchitis, cosmetic acupuncture, depression, endocrine disorders, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal problems, hypertension, insomnia, jaw tension (TMJ), knee pain, liver diseases, menstrual disorders, neurological disorders, osteoporosis, pediatrics, quitting smoking, reproductive health, sports medicine, tendonitis, urinary tract infections, viral infections,weight reduction, x-rayed joint problems, yeast infections, zinc deficiency, etc.