As they say on TV: You got questions? We’ve got answers… to your frequently asked questions.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Frankly, modern science is still unraveling the mystery of how and why acupuncture works. Although there are many theories about its mechanism of action, none of them adequately explain. We also know that it works beyond the “placebo effect” – the idea that the power of suggestion is the source of its success. Remember, it works on dogs, chickens, and horses as well as humans. One recent study in Germany clearly demonstrated, using Function MRI imaging, that acupuncture seems to affect the brain, turning on and turning off various areas of the brain, thereby affecting hormones and biochemical reactions in the system. The good news, even the most skeptical physicians are opening their eyes to the successes that acupuncture continues to have – and the modern scientific studies that demonstrate that it DOES work.
What Does Acupuncture Feel Like? Does it hurt?
Many first-time patients are concerned that acupuncture needles will feel like getting an injection at the doctor’s office. They don’t. Acupuncture uses hair-thin, flexible needles that you will hardly feel when inserted. These needles come in many sizes, most of which are much smaller than even the tiniest of hollow (hypodermic) needles used in Western medicine. Moreover, they do not have a “cutting edge” and results in less tissue damage.
The process is not painful, but some patients experience other sensations, such as heaviness or pressure. Most patients find acupuncture deeply satisfying and leave the treatment feeling relaxed both mentally and physically.
Is Acupuncture Safe?
Yes. When Acupuncture is performed by a properly trained acupuncturist or East Asian Medicine practitioner, it is quite safe, and used by millions of Americans every year. By law, in California, acupuncturists are regulated by the California Acupuncture Board, and are required to complete extensive education and training totaling almost 3,000 hours (including 800 hours of supervised clinical training) – that’s four (4) years full-time graduate school training. In addition, we must pass one of the most rigorous examinations in the country, covering Western biomedicine as well as East Asian medicine theory and practice.
Most patients are surprised by the fact that our education includes almost two full years of Western Biomedicine, including basic sciences (physics, chemistry, and biology) and medical sciences (anatomy, physiology, Western pharmacology, nutrition, diagnosis and treatment, imaging, orthopedic evaluations, and herb-drug interactions). As with other medical professions, we are also required to keep our skills current, and are required to complete between 20-30 Continuing Medical Education (CME) hours every year. These requirements not only enhance our abilities as clinicians, but the detailed study of human anatomy, as well as specific training in Clean Needle Technique, are essential for patient safety. As required by law, I use only pre-sterilized, disposable, single-use needles to ensure your safety, and adhere to industry standard clean needle techniques.
That being said, acupuncture is not without some risk of physical side-effects. The most frequently reported adverse effects are bruising and mild pain felt during needling, and occasionally fainting and drowsiness directly after an acupuncture session. More severe injuries are possible, but rare occurrences. If you have additional concerns, please discuss them with us at your appointment or consultations.
How should I prepare for my first visit?
Be sure to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and that you have eaten at least an hour before your appointment. In addition, be sure to download the New Patient Welcome Packet from the Appointments page and complete the forms and bring them with you.
What can I expect from my first visit?
During your initial visit, expect to spend a considerable amount of time going over the intake form that you will complete prior to your first visit. The intake form asks questions about your current state of health, past illnesses, and family history. Please be thorough in your answers! These questions are important because the holistic approach takes everything into account. While your current symptoms may not seem related to past health issues, but our bodies are complex landscapes and everything that happens to them leaves its mark.
After reviewing the intake form, we will discuss your condition, and I will begin the examination taking your western vital signs (blood pressure, pulse rate, etc.). I will examine your pulse and look at your tongue, which are two of the basic diagnostic methods of Chinese medicine. The acupuncture points I choose will depend on your condition and total number of needles varies from person to person.
Depending on the points selected, you may be given a gown to wear, or some other draping that allows access to the points. Once the needles are inserted, I will leave you to lie comfortably for 20-35 minutes with the needles in place. A far infrared heating lamp (or TDP lamp) may be used, or a light blanket may be added to make sure you are warm enough during the treatment.
Many people find acupuncture treatment deeply relaxing, and it is not uncommon for patients to fall asleep during this time. I will check in on you frequently, possibly adding or subtracting needles during the course of a treatment. I may, if your condition calls for it, utilize tui na (massage) or other modalities.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
The benefits of acupuncture are cumulative, so more than one treatment is often recommended. For acute conditions, you may only need one to three treatments to see results. Chronic conditions may take longer to respond, depending on the type, severity, and duration of the condition. Preventative treatments and treatments for general well-being may be scheduled as well.