Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture

How does acupuncture work?

Chinese medicine traditionally explains acupuncture in terms of Qi (pronounced chi), or vital energy of the body, and Meridians, or pathways along which Qi flows. Acupuncture is able to regulate the flow of Qi in the body to promote health and healing by accessing the Qi at particular points on the body. A trained acupuncture physician is able to manipulate the Qi at the point using a needle in order to achieve the desired therapeutic effect. back to top


What does acupuncture feel like?

Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine stainless steel needles into specific points on the surface of the body. Needles are sterile and disposable and most are as thick as 1-2 strands of hair. Acupuncture needles are solid, or filiform, with a rounded tip which passes between cells making treatments virtually painless. This is in sharp contrast to the cutting edge of an injection needle which actually slices through the tissue and is thick enough for up to 40 acupuncture needles to fit inside.


demonstrate thinness of needles


Often patients do not feel the needle during insertion. Once the needle reaches the desired depth, it may be gently rotated or otherwise manipulated in order to elicit a response such as numbness, soreness, heaviness, tightness or an electrical-like sensation that may move along the meridian. These are all desirable responses, indicating the arrival of Qi, and for most patients become a pleasant curiosity as they develop an awareness of the subtle changes within their bodies during acupuncture treatment. back to top


What can I expect at an acupuncture treatment?

At your first visit you can expect a thorough review of your main health concerns and past health history. A physical exam follows which may be similar to a Western medical exam, but will always include inspection of the pulses and tongue. These evaluations are unique to Oriental Medicine and are significant to the physician as they formulate a diagnosis and treatment. Your tongue will be evaluated on its color, shape, texture and coating in order to assess the health of your internal organs. The pulses, felt on both wrists, also reveal the health of internal organs and systems. Your physician is feeling much more than the rate of your pulse. She is also feeling the strength, the depth and the overall quality of the pulses as they correspond to the various organs.


After your physician gathers this information, she will position you comfortably on the treatment table, clean the skin with alcohol and begin inserting the extremely fine and sterile needles. You may feel inclined to discuss the sensations you feel, and this is always welcomed. If any needles feel uncomfortable, they can easily be adjusted or removed. The needles typically remain in place for 15-30 minutes while you rest peacefully. Many patients fall asleep, while others meditate or just appreciate the quiet absence of distraction. Your physician will then remove the needles, discuss subsequent treatments, and answer any additional questions you may have.


After your first acupuncture treatment you may feel either more energized or more relaxed and sleepy. It is a good idea to plan for several hours free of strenuous or demanding activity following your first treatment as you may not know how you will respond. You are also encouraged to get a full night’s sleep before and after treatments, to eat a reasonably portioned meal 2-3 hours before treatment and to avoid alcohol on the day of a treatment. Adhering to these suggestions will help to maximize the benefits you receive from acupuncture. back to top


Are there any side effects?

Acupuncture is part of a holistic health system that treats the entire person rather than addressing isolated symptoms. In this way, the body is guided back to balance and encouraged to heal itself. By focusing on an individual patient’s pattern of disharmony and constitution, acupuncture can avoid unpleasant side effects that often occur with aggressive treatment of single complaints. The most common “side effect” associated with acupuncture is a feeling of deep relaxation or slight disorientation after the first 1-2 treatments. Often this passes quickly and is not a cause for concern. Many patients also see resolution of symptoms that were not a primary complaint or may not have even been reported. For instance, digestive, energy, and sleep issues may resolve with treatment even if not specifically addressed. back to top


Will my health insurance pay for acupuncture?

Some insurance companies will cover acupuncture treatment. Ask your company or your employer if your policy covers acupuncture. We can provide you with a statement of services so that you can be reimbursed by your insurance company for your treatments. If your insurance does not include coverage for acupuncture consider switching to a plan that does. back to top


Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

No. Oriental Medicine’s theoretical models are not based on faith. Children and babies, cats, dogs and horses are all frequently treated with acupuncture and achieve great results. The success of these patients is not rooted in faith. However, an open mind and optimistic attitude are considered an integral part of any successful healing process. back to top