Acupuncture is one of the main modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It facilitates the healing of physical, emotional, and mental diseases. According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches by Americans, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year. The number of visits to acupuncturists tripled between 1997 and 2007.
Acupuncture is performed by inserting hair-thin, disposable, stainless steel needles to stimulate acupuncture points on the surface of the body. The ancient Chinese discovered acupuncture points over three thousand years ago. Acupuncture points are located along 14 major channels, 8 extra pathways, and many other microchannel systems where the energy circulates around the entire body. These channels and pathways are called meridians. Each one of these meridians has its own specific internal organ, emotion, and anatomical location that it is connected to. The meridian system connects the internal organs and external structures, such as skin, muscles, and the five sense organs, to function as information and nutrition transportation. Energy circulating around within the meridian system is called Qi, which is thought to nourish organs and can alter neural impulses that travel through the body to elicit beneficial responses. If pathogen attacks or imbalance is caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, there usually results in energy blockage which will manifest as inflammation, congestion, bleeding or tender spots on some of the acupuncture points on related meridians. By stimulating the acupuncture points with hair-thin needles, the practitioner can initiate the patient’s self-healing ability to eliminate pathogens or restore balance.
Modern research shows that acupuncture appears to alter sensory information to the brain, inhibit neural impulses associated with pain, and stimulate the release of endorphins and enkephalins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals. Acupuncture can affect parts of the central nervous system to balance hormones (e.g. estrogen, progesterone, and serotonin), improve immune function, and normalize blood pressure.
Acupuncturists look for disharmonized or imbalanced patterns that can negatively affect health, such as high-stress levels, poor sleep, and unhealthy diet, by observation, questioning, pulse evaluation, and tongue exam. By stimulating acupuncture points with specific manipulations, acupuncturists are able to rebalance the flow of Qi and blood, relieve pain, reduce stress, and restore vitality.
What to expect at your first acupuncture visit?
Before treatment: Please do not come to your treatment on an empty stomach. It is also recommended that you are not overly full of food or drink. Instead, eat something within a few hours beforehand. Ask our staff for some snacks. Please refrain from wearing perfumes or other strong fragrances because many of our patients have chemical sensitivities. The acupuncturist may need access to your feet, legs, arms, stomach, or back. Therefore, comfortable loose-fitting clothes may be worn or we happily provide you with a gown. Please bring a list of current medications and any test results.
Typically, your first acupuncture visit includes a 30 minutes’ initial consultation and a 20 minutes’ acupuncture treatment. During the consultation, the practitioner will evaluate your major health concerns and chief complaints, review your overall health, medical history, current health condition, diet, lifestyle, including sleep, energy levels, digestion functions, etc.
The practitioner will perform a physical exam which includes Traditional Chinese Medicine pulse and tongue diagnostic techniques to find out the internal relationship between each organ function and the symptoms. Orthopedic tests and range of motion exam will also be performed in case your chief complaints are related to sports injuries, physical pain, or discomforts.
Based on the physical exam, the practitioner will explain why you are having your chief complaints from a TCM perspective and recommend the most suitable modalities and treatment options. Overall pricing and detailed plan for following visits will be discussed as well.
If acupuncture treatment is agreed to start right after the initial consultation, you will be asked to lie down on a treatment table, either face-up, face-down, or on your side, depends on where the selected acupuncture points are located. About 4-20 acupuncture points will be chosen according to your uniqueness. The skin surface will be cleaned with alcohol swabs for sterilization and hair-thin disposable needles will be inserted. Usually, the patient can feel little sensation or discomfort. Mostly you will feel small pinches. Once the needles are placed in the appropriate places, the patient is left to rest for 20-30 minutes. Most people find the treatment very relaxing and many fall asleep. We also teach you deep breathing meditation method during the treatment to improve the outcome of acupuncture. If you feel any discomfort, please be sure to let us know so that we can make any necessary adjustments.
At the end of the treatment, the needles are removed. The practitioner will check how you feel after the session. Some people are energized, while others feel relaxed. We may also discuss lifestyle and diet modifications with you that will be beneficial for your health. You can also ask any other questions you might have.
Follow-up acupuncture treatments generally last between 20-25 minutes.
After treatment: If you do not feel alert enough to drive after treatment due to relaxation, please rest in our lobby until you are ready. Please do not engage in intense physical activities afterward. We recommend relax at home or take a short walk.
Do the needles hurt and where are they placed?
Are there any side effects?
Most people associate needles with pain. However, acupuncture needles are about the thickness of a human hair, so they are virtually painless when inserted. The sterilized, individually packed, disposable needles are superficially inserted and are placed distal or local to the problem area. After insertion, the practitioner will bring the needles to the appropriate depth. People experience acupuncture differently. A unique local needle sensation is often experienced. It varies from tingling to heaviness, warmth, or a shooting sensation away from the needle, or nothing at all, which is considered as energy flow and will subside soon. Should you experience any discomfort, please inform the practitioner, and they will adjust or remove the needles accordingly.
The National Institute of Health considers acupuncture is generally safe with no side effects when performed by an experienced practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause potentially serious side effects. Occasionally your chief complaints may get worse during the first 24-48 hours after treatment, which indicates the acupuncture treatment is starting to work. Also, it is common for patients to feel a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately after the treatment. These feelings will disappear within a short time and can be alleviated by rest.
How many treatments will I need and how often should I come?
True healing takes time and effort. Each person’s body is unique and we all respond to the same type of treatment at various pace. Depends upon the duration of the presence, severity, and nature of the chief complaints, the practitioner will estimate the total number of treatments you will need. Some acute conditions, such as ankle sprain, may only require one to three treatments. A general rule of thumb for a majority of chronic or internal disorders, four to six weeks’ treatments (12 to 18 sessions) are recommended. Some degenerative conditions may require 40 treatments or more. Patients often experience prompt relief after treatment, however, they may need care every other week or once per month for several months to sustain the improvement. However, the patient has the right to expect that their major health concerns will be addressed and treated in a direct and timely manner.
Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
How much is your cash price?
Nowadays, a growing number of insurance companies reimburse for acupuncture treatments. Consult your insurer for the terms of coverage on your policy. We accept all types of PPO plans, most HMO plans, authorized workers’ compensation referrals, and personal injury cases. We also offer a variety of treatment plans with different numbers of visits and affordable cash prices. Detailed pricing for single or multiple treatments will be discussed after the consultation and exams. Cash, credit card, and check are accepted.
“The benefit of acupuncture is clear, and the complications and potential adverse effects of acupuncture are low compared with medication.”
- Dr. Lucy Chen, a board-certified anesthesiologist, specialist in pain medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital