Achieving Wellness & Pain Relief through Ancient Traditions, Acupuncture & Plant-based Medicine

FAQ

What is TCM?

What is acupuncture?

What does it treat?

How does a practitioner know where to put the needles?

What is TCM diagnosis?

Does it hurt?

Is it safe?

What can I expect at my first appointment?

How do I recognize a qualified practitioner?

What is TCM Herbology?

How many treatments will I need?

What training do you have in Acupuncture?

Training in Herbs?

STUDIES

Physicians Rate Acupuncture Most Effective Alternative Treatment

Arthritis, Knee Pain

Fibromyalgia

Infertility & Fertilization

Menopause & Hot Flashes

Neck, Shoulders, & Related Headache

 

What is Acupuncture? How Does It Work?

Acupuncture works by balancing and regulating the flow of energy currents that travel through specific pathways in the body. In China, this energy is termed Qi (chee). When Qi becomes blocked or impeded, disease is said to result.

The ancient Chinese physicians who developed acupuncture recognized energy as the basic substance of the cosmos, and conceived that it circulates in all life forms. In developing an understanding of disease these physicians were the first to discover the bioelectrical energy flows along specific pathways in the body. These pathways are called channels or meridians. Each meridian is associated with an internal organ and physiological system. There are a total of 14 meridians traversing the human body.

Western Science best explains acupuncture from the perspective of biophysics. Robert Becker, MD, author of The Body Electric, an award winning scientist for his research on the bioelectrical nature of the human body, found pathways in the body along which electrical currents flow. These pathways correspond to those described in Oriental Medicine. He and other researchers conclude that just as the human body has a circulatory system, a nervous system, and other systems, it also has a bioelectrical system, formed by an intricate network of bioelectrical pathways. The healing effects of acupuncture can be explained by understanding this bioelectrical energy system of the body.

Disease, disorders, and pain arise when there is an imbalance in the energy currents flowing through the meridians. The energy flow may be too much, too little, moving in the wrong direction, or blocked.

Acupuncture points are specific locations along the meridians. Each acupuncture point, when stimulated, has a predictable effect on the energy current passing through it. The goal of acupuncture is to restore the normal circulation in the energetic network.

In Chinese philosophy, all energy is either yin or yang in nature. Yin means the shady side of the mountain, and yang means the sunny side of the mountain. Yin energy is cool and contractive, yang energy is warm and expansive. These two basic forms of energy are opposites, The Chinese use concept of yin and yang to describe the polarities of energy in the body. Each must exist in appropriate levels, relative to the other, to maintain health. When in balance, they work in harmony and complement each other. Simply stated, the overall goal of Chinese Medicine is to balance yin and yang for optimal health.

From a biochemical perspective, research shows that acupuncture stimulates the release of endogenous opioids and other pain modulating neurotransmitters. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows that acupuncture elicits changes in the brain that correlate with the neurological effects produced.

Oriental Medicine Diagnostics: How does the acupuncturist know which points to use? Or which Herbs to prescribe?

The key to the successful, authentic practice of Oriental Medicine lies in its precise diagnostic model. Oriental Medicine uses its own intricate, multi-faceted approach to evaluate each patient’s condition individually, based on the Chinese holistic view of the body functioning as an integrated network of energetic relationships between the organ systems.

To the Oriental Medicine practitioner, all of the varied and seemingly unrelated signs and symptoms of the individual patient are seen as woven together as an integrated whole, forming recognizable patterns unique to each patient, which are identified and treated, tailored to the individual needs.


This pattern differentiation is the heart of Oriental Medicine, and is what distinguishes comprehensively trained practitioners from those who use it as a secondary adjunct therapy. Only acupuncturists with advanced training have the comprehensive education necessary to utilize the complete system of Oriental Medicine diagnostics.

The diagnostic approach includes:

• Pulse diagnosis (A complex evaluation of 28 different pulse qualities revealing energetic conditions in the body, a method which takes years to master)

• Tongue Diagnosis (Observation of the color, coating, shape, and other factors of the tongue, which mirrors the state of health of the internal organs)

• Palpation (Using finger pressure to find tender areas on the points and meridians, and other key locations)

• Observation of visible, objective signs (a careful examination of facial complexion, eyes, hands, areas of pain or inflammation, etc.)

• Inquiry of subjective symptoms and medical history

• Listening (audible sounds, such as digestive, respiratory, breathing, coughing, voice, etc.)

The results of the examination are used to arrive at an Oriental medicine differential diagnosis, sometimes called a pattern diagnosis. Arriving at a correct diagnosis within the Oriental medicine paradigm is essential to good acupuncture and is the most challenging aspect of Oriental medicine.

Practitioners without complete training in Oriental medicine do not use the authentic diagnostic approach, and instead rely on simplistic, predetermined lists of acupuncture points to treat basic symptoms in a more Westernized, rudimentary approach. This short-cut, non-holistic method may be used in a limited capacity, but yields limited results, and is not recommended for complex cases. Typically, practitioners who are trained in other disciplines of medicine tend to use this elementary approach, using acupuncture as an minor adjunct to their main area of practice. These approaches cannot adequately substitute the more comprehensive treatments from the practitioners most highly trained in the field. Only with a correct diagnosis in the Oriental medicine tradition can the acupuncturist implement the most in-depth and effective treatment plan.

How Many Treatments Will It Take?

How a patient responds to acupuncture depends on a number of variables. Many conditions may be alleviated very rapidly by acupuncture and Oriental medicine. However, some conditions that have developed over many years may be relieved only with slow, continuing progress. On the other hand, individuals respond differently, and some conditions that would seem difficult to treat often respond very well.

Acupuncture is similar to physical therapy, in that a course of treatments is usually necessary, although we have had numerous patients respond in only one or two treatments. Each treatment has a cumulative effect, which builds with each visit until the goal is achieved. A very general guideline to follow is that if in 3 to 7 treatments a condition is beginning to respond, acupuncture will be successful for them, although there are exceptions to this. Occasionally, a single treatment will solve a problem.

In China, patients beginning acupuncture therapy receive treatments daily for a number of days or weeks. In the United States, it is more common for patients to receive 1 or 2 (and somtimes 3) treatments per week at the outset, then shift to a ‘maintenance’ schedule with treatments spaced increasingly further apart until no more are needed. After alleviation or control of a condition is achieved, patients may may not need to return, or they may need to receive a booster treatment every few weeks or months to maintain results. It is very important, however, to get an adequate number of treatments in the beginning for best results.

Is Acupuncture painful?

Acupuncture bears no resemblance to the feeling of an injection. Acupuncture needles are very thin, about the diameter of a human hair, and are flexible. Patients often feel nothing at all on insertion, but sometimes a slight electric sensation or pressure is experienced which often disappears immediately, or fades away in a few seconds. Most patients find the treatments relaxing and many fall asleep during treatment. The patient generally is lying down a quiet, restful room.

If indicated, the acupuncturist may use other therapeutic methods in addition to acupuncture, such as moxibustion, which is the gentle warming of certain points with a cigar-like rolled bundle of dried herbs which is smoldering at one end, and held near the skin without making contact. Both of these procedures are most often described by patients as feeling “wonderful!”

What can I expect at my first appointment?

It is best to arrive for your first appointment wearing loose fitting clothing (if possible), and avoid eating a heavy meal or consuming alcohol just before your appointment.

You will be asked to fill out an intake form similar to those used in ordinary medical clinics, asking about your medical history and your past and current symptoms. The practitioner will then sit down with you and conduct a detailed assessment of your condition. He or she may feel your pulse at your wrists, or ask to see your tongue to observe its color, shape, and coating (TCM pulse and Tongue diagnosis) to help in differentiating the energetic pattern presenting in your body. At some point, you will usually be asked to lie down comfortably on a soft treatment table (if you’re pregnant or unable to lie down comfortably, other positions may be used, such as sitting in a chair) and the practitioner may feel for tenderness at various points on your body.

After observing and analyzing all the gathered information, the practitioner will formulate an Oriental Medicine differential diagnosis and a treatment plan. Then the needles will be gently inserted and left in place for 20 to 40 minutes. Modesty is always respected and if any clothing needs to be removed, you will be given a drape to cover up with. It is usually not necessary to remove clothing, but if necessary, you will only be asked to remove clothing necessary to perform the treatment. This is done in privacy with the practitioner out of the room.

Your first appointment may last a total of two hours or less and subsequent appointments should last between 45 minutes to an hour.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is extremely safe when performed by fully credentialed Licensed Acupuncturists.

Licensed acupuncturists have years of specialized training in the proper and exacting insertion of acupuncture needles. Licensed Acupuncturists generally use pre-sterilized, disposable hypoallergenic needles made of surgical grade stainless steel, and have intensive training in Clean Needle Technique (CNT).

Acupuncture needles are classified by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) as an approved medical device.

The 1997 National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on Acupuncture stated, “one of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions.”