Frequently Asked Questions
- What happens during an acupuncture treatment?
- What does acupuncture treat?
- How does it work?
- Does it hurt?
- What can I expect?
- What about herbal formulas?
- How many visits will I need?
Many people may be unfamiliar with what exactly takes place in an acupuncture session. Wondering what happens during treatment, how many visits may be needed and whether health insurance covers it are all common concerns. In a typical first visit, a practitioner will take a detailed health history, fully investigate your chief complaint and provide acupuncture for you. This may take up to an hour and a half but is necessary to create an individualized treatment plan that takes into account your present physical, emotional, and nutritional condition, while focusing on your main health concern. Acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles (the width of two human hairs) into specific anatomical points. Return visits to an acupuncturist may also include the option of herbal medicines. Herbal medicine can greatly reinforce acupuncture in a natural way without side-effects. The two are often used together to strengthen the effects of treatment and to achieve longer-lasting results in a shorter amount of time.
Currently, the NIH has determined that acupuncture is effective in treating over 40 different disease categories. Following is a list of illnesses and conditions for which acupuncture has been proven to be effective. It is possible to treat these and many other conditions with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
If you are wondering if acupuncture can help you with a different or specific condition, you can call our clinic to speak with one of the acupuncturists directly
Currently, there are a number of theories as to how exactly acupuncture works. It was once thought that inserting needles into specific parts of the body affected nerves and could inhibit their signal transmission. This was thought to explain why acupuncture could treat pain so well. But when doctors mapped the acupuncture points over the known nerve network they found that there was some correlation, but not nearly enough to explain most of its effects. Another theory stated that acupuncture stimulates the release of opioids and endorphins in the central nervous system. Although this could explain certain analgesic effects, it could not explain many others. The most current theory speculates that acupuncture points are actually strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals throughout the body. Stimulating points along these pathways influences neurotransmitter rates and resets the polarity of different parts of the body. This latest theory is by far the most comprehensive and most promising explanation for why acupuncture works in Western medical terminology.
According to the principles of TCM, qi flows through the body via 12 primary meridians or ‘energy channels’. Each meridian is associated with an organ or organ system in the body, and along these meridians, there are exact points where the energy of that organ can be accessed and manipulated with acupuncture needles.
If you are suffering from nausea, for example, needles might be inserted into points on your wrist, while a vision problem might be treated with needles in the foot. Why? Because in addition to the surface acupuncture points which may be seen on an acupuncture point map, the meridians also have internal pathways which connect to and communicate with other organs in the body. By manipulating the qi within the meridians, acupuncture helps smooth and regulate the flow of energy between the internal organs.
Acupuncture in general is not painful. The needles are extremely thin (about the width of 2 human hairs), solid, disposable and flexible. Sensations that patients normally experience are a dull ache or tingling which is associated with the movement of energy stimulated by the insertion of the needles. This is a desired effect and should not feel painful.
After you have shared your health history and current concerns, the acupuncturist will look at your tongue, feel your pulse and make other observations. This information is used to formulate a diagnosis in the language of Traditional Oriental Medicine as well as to choose the most helpful combination of acupuncture points and to estimate how many treatments you will need. Once this is determined, you will lie comfortably on the treatment table while the needles are inserted.
Most people are not bothered by the needles and while there may be some initial discomfort on insertion, it is very brief. You may feel a small, quick rush of energy at the point which is a good sign. This sensation is called “Da Qi” (Daa-chee) and is an indication that the energy in that meridian is responding to the needle and has begun to move in the right direction.
Once the needles are in, you simply relax for 15-45 minutes. Many people even fall asleep during the treatment. After the treatment you may feel either every relaxed or very energized.
Some patients notice rapid improvement after just a few sessions. In those whose conditions have taken years to develop, treatment may take longer.
Herbs have been used for thousands of years to heal naturally without dangerous side effects, and are often extremely beneficial if not absolutely necessary as part of an acupuncture treatment plan. The key to success in taking herbs is all about choosing the RIGHT herbs and the RIGHT formula for YOU. Wandering into your local drug store and guessing about what might work for you is not always the best idea, because while what you choose to buy might not hurt you, it might not help. Echinacea, for example, which is used to boost the immune system, doesn’t work for everyone, and in fact it doesn’t work at all for many people! Single herbs alone are rarely cure alls for any ailment so many of these supplements with herbs sprinkled in can be a waste of money in terms of what you are trying to accomplish.
The ancient Chinese formulas have been around for thousands of years because they WORK and can be modified to fit your body and your particular ailment.
At East Bay Acupuncture & Natural Medicine, herbal formulas, usually in convenient granule form are often prescribed as part of your treatment, and will help you to recover faster with little or no side effects. Herbal formulas can be continued after a course of acupuncture treatment and can help you remain healthy or get healthier over time. Our herbal formulas come from the best, most reliable companies in the business.
The number of visits you will need depends on several factors. One is how long you have had your current condition. Acute conditions, like a cold or flu will generally only require one or two treatments. Conditions that are more recent, like sudden pain from an injury or seasonal allergies may require 3 or 4 treatments before symptoms are alleviated. Chronic conditions like PMS, asthma, back pain or other problems that you have had for many years may take anywhere from 6 to 12 treatments until you notice significant lasting changes, though often times immediate relief is felt after only 1 treatment. At your first visit, your acupuncturist will take a detailed health history and will determine an appropriate treatment plan based on your signs and symptoms and the findings of that visit.