FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?
Acupuncture is the insertion of thin needles into the skin and the muscle layer of the body. The needles are placed at specific points to redirect and correct how electromagnetic energy is flowing in your body (see my explanation of "energy" in the follow-up question below). This process helps your body and brain realign energetically and function as they are designed to. Acupuncture is a modality within the scope of Chinese Medicine.
IS ACUPUNCTURE SAFE?
Yes! Though it may be unfamiliar to some Americans, acupuncture has been safely used around the world for an estimated three to four thousand years, making it one of the oldest known continually practiced forms of medicine in existence!
HOW IS CHINESE MEDICINE DIFFERENT FROM WESTERN MEDICINE?
First, let’s define some terms:
Medicine, by definition, is “the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention or alleviation of disease”1. Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine are both medicine, but they each have different approaches to the maintenance of health and treatment of disease.
Western Medicine is also called “Allopathic Medicine”, which is a form of medicine that “aims to combat disease by using remedies (such as drugs or surgery) which produce effects that are different from or incompatible with those of the disease being treated”2. The focus of Allopathic medicine is to directly “combat” disease.
Chinese Medicine, in contrast, is considered an “Alternative Medicine'', or a medicine that is an alternative to the Western Allopathic model of medicine. Instead of “combating disease”, Chinese Medicine, like many other Alternative forms of medicine, places its focus on the patient, not just the patient’s disease. Chinese Medicine is considered a Holistic Medicine, meaning it takes the whole patient into consideration in order to create a treatment plan for that patient.
Often, because the focus of Western Medicine is on eliminating…or sometimes suppressing… a symptom or disease, there can be little focus on why the symptom or disease is present in the first place. Two different people can come into their Western Medical doctor’s office with the same symptoms and receive the same diagnosis and same treatment. Conversely, Chinese Medicine sees the symptom in the larger context of the unique, individual person: their body mechanics, mind and thought patterns, emotions, and lifestyle choices, for instance. Two patients may have a symptom in common, but it is likely that the rest of their lives are very different, and Chinese Medicine takes this into account.
WHAT CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT?
Acupuncture treatments may reduce symptoms of pain, restore neurological function, and reduce emotional distress. Studies and clinical research have been done by many renowned institutions and, because of its effectiveness on a wide range of symptoms and conditions, Acupuncture is now increasingly being incorporated into hospitals and medical organizations, like the Mayo Clinic3 and Johns Hopkins4.
Below is a short list of conditions to give you a general overview of what acupuncture can help treat. If you have any questions about your specific situation, or do not see the symptom that you would like to address on the following list, contact me and we will discuss your specific situation to see how acupuncture treatments may help you.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Nausea, including morning sickness and chemo-induced nausea
YOU SAID THAT ACUPUNCTURE REDIRECTS YOUR ENERGY. WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “ENERGY”?
This is an essential question, because the word “energy” means different things to different people. This is how I am using this word: The human body is made up of different electromagnetic frequencies, with each organ system emitting a specific frequency. When I use the word “energy”, I am referring to these electromagnetic frequencies. In Chinese Medicine, this energy is often called “Channel Qi” (pronounced “chee”) and refers to the unique flow of electromagnetic energy that runs down predictable pathways through the body called “channels”.
We may not be able to see this electromagnetic frequency, or energy, but we can measure it, so we know it’s there. We measure the energy of the body every day in Western Medicine. For instance, EKGs (electrocardiograms) measure the electrical signals of the heart and EEGs (electroencephalogram) measure the electrical signals of the brain.
A helpful analogy is to imagine radio waves. If you are not on the exact frequency of your favorite radio station, then all you will hear is static, not the music you are looking for and know is available. But when you turn to the station’s exact frequency, suddenly you can hear the music beautifully, it is coming in uninterrupted and clear. When the body’s channel energy is off-balance, it’s like the staticky radio. In this state, you experience symptoms like pain or emotional overwhelm. In this analogy, acupuncture helps your body move from a staticky signal to a clear signal as its energy starts moving correctly again.
Acupuncture doesn’t force your body to function differently, rather, it gives your body a nudge in the direction of that ideal energetic frequency. This is also why the effects of acupuncture treatments are cumulative: with each treatment, your body is reminded of how its energy should flow, and, eventually, with the right help, your body will return to its proper energetic alignment and will not need those reminders as frequently, or at all.
WHAT ARE THE NEEDLES LIKE?
Acupuncture needles are thin, filiform needles. “Filiform” means that the needles are solid, not hollow like a hypodermic injection needle. Acupuncture needles are so thin that multiple acupuncture needles can fit inside the hollow of an average-sized injection needle! Acupuncture needles are single-use, sterile, and are never reused.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE HURT?
No, acupuncture does not hurt. You will feel different sensations from the needles, typically a pinch or quick poke when the needle is initially inserted. Once the needles are in place, you will likely feel a sensation from the needles, but not pain. People most commonly describe these sensations as a dull ache, a feeling of pressure, warmth, or heaviness at the site of the needle. These sensations are your body responding to the acupuncture needles as they spur your energy to move properly again. These sensations are all very normal to experience during any given acupuncture treatment and are not harmful.
WHAT DO I DO DURING THE ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?
Rest! Your “job” is just to rest while the needles do the work of reminding your body how its energy was designed to flow. Most people find acupuncture treatments relaxing and will drift off to sleep or a state of deep relaxation during their treatments.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED?
Know that acupuncture is a therapy, not a one-time quick fix. Everyone responds differently to acupuncture. For acute conditions with a sudden onset, you may only need a few treatments, ideally within a few days of each other, to get relief from symptoms. For chronic, long-standing symptoms, a typical course of acupuncture treatment may be 10-15 treatments, coming in twice a week. This will be discussed on an individual basis during your initial consultation.
HOW OFTEN WILL I NEED TREATMENTS?
This will depend on the severity of your symptoms, how long you have had the symptoms, and, quite honestly, how quickly you want to feel better, as acupuncture treatments are cumulative and the results build with each treatment. I will discuss this with you on your first visit, or feel free to call or email to speak with me to gauge what type of treatment schedule I would recommend for you and your situation.
Many patients continue coming for acupuncture treatments after their initial problem is resolved either for maintenance or preventative care, or to start addressing other symptoms. Acupuncture can help alleviate so many conditions that patients who first came in for back pain, for instance, choose to continue care for stress relief, seasonal allergy prevention, or just because they find that acupuncture makes their mind and body feel GOOD.
Whether your goal is to resolve a specific symptom or to use acupuncture as a lifelong tool to achieve optimal mental and physical health, Sound Mind Acupuncture is here to help you.
HOW SOON WILL I SEE RESULTS FROM AN ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?
I expect most people to have a reduction of their symptoms after their first visit. This is not everyone’s experience, but the majority of people who receive acupuncture will experience a reduction of symptom severity after each treatment and/or report that they notice other positive changes, like better sleep, after their visits.
It must be noted that the effects of acupuncture treatments are cumulative and each treatment builds on the progress made from the last treatment. This means that the more treatments you receive and/or the more frequently your treatments are scheduled, the more relief you will experience from your symptoms. Remember that we are reminding and re-training your body how its energy should be flowing, so it will take time for your body to regain optimum function.
HOW DOES ACUPUNCTURE WORK?
There are many answers to this question. Research has shown that acupuncture affects brain function, hormones, and other chemical reactions in the body. Acupuncture improves microcirculation, which is the blood flow in your tissues, and helps your body send necessary blood and oxygen to areas that need to heal. The big picture, and what I think is most valuable to recognize, is that acupuncture helps regulate the energy flow of the human body so that your body can restore itself to the way it was designed to function. (See my explanation on “energy” above.)
My favorite explanation of acupuncture has to do with the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). In our nervous system, there are two main modes we function from: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. If you’ve heard of being in “Fight or Flight” mode, then you have heard about the sympathetic nervous system’s response. In many people, due to trauma, injury, or just everyday stress, the sympathetic mode is running on overdrive. There is another aspect of our nervous system called Parasympathetic Mode. In this mode, we heal. This is the mode that is predominant when we are at rest. If you are constantly in a state where your Sympathetic, “Fight or Flight”, Nervous System is running the show, then when is there time for your body to be in Parasympathetic, Healing and Resting, Mode? Many people are unable to heal because their body’s sympathetic response is constantly turned on. Acupuncture, by the simple placement of tiny, thin needles along select points on the body, helps the body ease into Parasympathetic Mode, where healing can take place.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING MY TREATMENT?
On your first visit, we will take time to review your health history and discuss your goals. In Chinese Medicine, we take a step back and look at you as a whole person, not just the specific symptom we are focusing your treatment on. Because of this, during the intake, your acupuncturist may ask you about other aspects of your health that may seem unrelated to your primary area of focus, but don’t worry, we are putting together a big picture of what is going on with your body to understand how it is functioning right now.
During the intake, I may look at your tongue and feel your pulse at both of your wrists. If we are treating a musculoskeletal complaint, I may do a few manual muscle tests to determine which muscles are involved in your symptoms.
After your intake, I will explain how to prepare for the treatment by letting you know what parts of the body require needle access. You may just need to roll up your shirt sleeves and pant legs, or you may need to put on a gown, depending on the area of your body requiring treatment. Please know that your comfort and privacy are of utmost importance, and treatments are either given with the patient fully clothed or in a gown, depending on where the needles will be placed and on your comfort level.
When the treatment begins, you will be in a calm and relaxed position. You can expect to feel a pinch or very quick poke when the needle is inserted. Common sensations around the needle insertion site are feelings of pressure, warmth, or heaviness. These are all normal and are not harmful. They are common sensations that indicate circulation is increasing in that particular area. The overwhelming majority of patients experience a body-wide sensation of peace, calm, and deep relaxation as they rest with needles in place during their acupuncture treatment.
You will rest with the needles in place for about 20-40 minutes, then I will remove all the needles and conclude your treatment.
HOW LONG WILL MY TREATMENT LAST?
Your initial visit will take an hour and a half, to allow for our initial consultation. Follow-up visits will last for 1 hour. Your actual treatment time with the needles in place will be between 20-40 minutes.
HOW SHOULD I PREPARE FOR MY ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT?
Eat within 2 hours of your visit. Do not come to your appointment hungry. This is very important so that you do not feel faint or lightheaded during your treatment! If you forgot to eat, let us know! We keep snacks on hand for this.
Do not brush or scrape your tongue before your visit. Part of the Chinese Medical diagnosis may involve looking at your tongue. The coating on your tongue is an important diagnostic tool for us!
Consider not ingesting caffeine or other stimulants prior to your visit. Remember that acupuncture helps your body enter into Parasympathetic, or Rest and Restore, Mode. Stimulants will make that process more challenging for your body.
Wear loose fitting, comfortable clothes, a tank top or shirts that can easily be pulled up to your elbows and shorts or pants that can be pulled up to your knees. Gowns are also available.
Absolutely, under no circumstance, can a patient who is under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or another drug be treated in the clinic. If you are on a new prescription drug and unsure of how it affects you, please let your acupuncturist know.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS OR RESTRICTIONS ON WHAT I CAN DO AFTER ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENTS?
No. You may continue your day as usual. Some patients feel drowsy after their treatments, like how you might feel after waking up from a nap or after getting a good massage. If this is you, then just take it easy and don’t do anything too demanding or strenuous until you are fully alert again.
Have a question we haven’t answered? Ask us!