Some Commonly Asked Questions about Acupuncture
Q :: What is traditional Chinese medicine?
A :: Although we call ourselves acupuncturists, this is only one of the techniques that fall under the framework of traditional Chinese medicine. The others are cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, tui na, and dietary and herbal therapy which I will explain below. All are aimed at harmonizing imbalances in the body’s channel system which is believed to be the causative factor of illness.
Cupping is the application of vacuum sealed glass cups onto the skin to bring qi and blood to an area of stagnation. Cupping is indicated a variety of conditions including arthritic joints and back pain of many etiologies.
Gua sha is the use of a flat instrument to to gently scrape the body surface with the intention of bringing deeper level conditions out. It is also indicated a variety of conditions. One example is stubborn chest congestion.
Moxibustion is a warming herb that when burnt directly over the acupoints or on a substrate like ginger or aconite can achieve many different desired effects; warming an area, reducing inflammation, moving stagnation, introducing yang to an area. This is an extremely useful technique which I am happy to share with you for home care.
Chinese herbal medicine and dietary therapy demystified…
The use of Chinese herbs can be as simple as dietary incorporation of substances and as complex as introducing purified formulas into the body via an intravenous drip. An example of dietary use of herbs is to cook a specific herb into a soup or a stew on a regular basis as a preventive measure for a condition. Herbs can be used in this way to address countless conditions; bladder infections, frequent respiratory ailments, high cholesterol, insomnia to name just a few. At higher dosages and in combinations, herbs move into the sphere of medicine. We prescribe herbal medicine based on ancient formulas, tweaking here and there for a specific constitution or presentation. Herbs are available is 3 forms; raw, granulated, and tea pills depending upon a patients needs and preferences. I do not keep inventory but rather order from a service with quality standards, a wide choice of product, and high turnover ensuring freshness. They will ship directly to you what I prescribe for you. They bill you directly for the product. For the most part herbs can be taken seamlessly with western medicine but because there are unknowns, we review the literature with each prescription and proceed cautiously. I am open to communication with patient’s physicians with regard to the prescribing of herbs.
Q :: What is qi?
A :: Qi is the Chinese concept of body energy. In western science we understand this in a myriad of ways; metabolism, the drive towards homeostasis, the electrical energy of the body’s nervous system, the chemical energy of the electron transport system, the osmotic interchange within the kidneys tubules, and so on.
Q :: How does acupuncture work?
A :: There are many theories; gate theory, neuropeptide theory, placebo, connective tissue theory, all in various states of experimentation. The truth may lie in some combination of theories because no one single explanation can account for the success of acupuncture in treating so many different health conditions. For our purposes, acupuncture gently stimulates the body to use its own resources which, for whatever reason are not being fully tapped, to correct the situation creating the pathology. You will feel as if the problem resolved of its own accord which it did in a way. We just gave the body a nudge in the right direction.
Q :: Is acupuncture safe?
A :: Yes, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture are safe. Acupuncture needles are single use, sterile and disposable. Licensed practitioners are extensively trained in anatomy and clean needle technique through both the academic program and the licensing process. Your practitioner should be licensed in the state in which he/she is practicing. Most states require simply a national credentialing but California has its own state board exam which is notoriously demanding.
Q :: Does acupuncture hurt?
A :: The extremely thin needles are not painful when inserted. Upon insertion, we are trying to elicit “qi” which may manifest as a slightly heavy sensation locally or possibly no sensation at all.
A :: Our medicine synergizes very well with western medicine. We can enhance the positive aspects of a western intervention and alleviate some of the negative ones. For example, a patient newly taking synthroid can more seamlessly adapt to the medication or an oncology patient needing relief from nausea may seek help from acupuncture. There are many more examples. Feel free to inquire by email or phone call. And don’t forget our medicine can also stand alone in solving health problems.
Q :: What can it treat? How long is a course of treatment?
A :: The World Health Organization published a report in 2003 detailing the conditions treatable by acupuncture. Please see website for this information. It is too long to be included in this introduction.
A course of treatment can entail a single appointment or a series of appointments. Frequency of treatment can vary from ‘as needed’ to 3 times per week for acute conditions. Much depends on a patient’s response.
Q :: How can I prepare for a treatment and what should I expect?
A :: Wear loose clothing so points can be accessed easily. Make sure to have a light meal prior your appointment. Patients under the influence of recreational drugs or alcohol will be rescheduled. From a common sense point of view, empty your bladder and don’t drink a lot of caffeine prior to an appointment. Please bring an up to date list of medications and supplements including dosage information. Download forms from website and complete them in advance of an initial appointment if you can. If not, please allow 15 minutes to complete the paperwork before our consultation.