Frequently Asked Questions
•How does acupuncture work?
According to Chinese medical theory, illness or pain arises when the flow of Qi in the meridians is blocked or weakened. Acupuncture works by freeing the blockage of energy flow in the body through stimulating acupoints with needles and restoring the natural balance of the whole body.
Scientific research has found that most points (> 99%) of the main fourteen meridians are intimately associated with nerves, blood vessels, and lymph systems. The local skin surrounding the acupuncture points has significantly lower electrical resistance and higher electrical voltage. Inserting needles at these points stimulates peripheral sensory receptors. The signals are conducted upward to the brain, leading to releasing of various neurotransmitters and endogenous opioid peptides (the body's natural pain-killing substances). As a result, some biochemical and physiological effects occur, including increased circulation, decreased inflammation, relief from pain and muscle spasms, relaxation of mental stress, increased T-cell count, etc.
• Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture needles are FDA approved disposable filiform needles. They are 25-50 times thinner than a hypodermic needle. They are so thin that several acupuncture needles can go into the middle of a hypodermic needle. There is little to zero pain at insertion of acupuncture needles.
With the manipulation of needles by an experienced acupuncturist, patients should feel a mild sensation of distention, cramping, tingling, traveling warmth, or heaviness. This is called “Arrival of Qi”. The needles are then retained in the acupoints for 15 to 30 minutes. Most people experience great relaxation, so that they fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.
• How deep do the needles go?
Acupuncture points are located near or on the surface of the skin. Usually needles are inserted from ¼ to 1 inch in depth. Depth of insertion will depend on nature of the condition being treated, location of the point in the body, the patients' size, age, constitution, and upon the acupuncturists' style or school of practice.
• How many treatments will I need?
The treatment course varies with each individual’s case history, clinical manifestations and constitution. A consultation with an experienced practitioner about your condition will offer appropriate guide for the length, number and frequency of treatments.
Typical treatments last from 30 to 60 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week.
Generally, acute problems require less time and frequency of treatment. For example, an acute sprain or whiplash may require only one treatment, whereas more chronic or severe ailments may require several or several dozen treatments.
Positive results are generally seen after the first to fourth treatment. When the optimal responses have been maintained for a period of time, you may schedule your appointments further apart.
Many people see their acupuncturist only 2-4 times a year for a “tune up”.
• Are there risks or side effects to acupuncture?
While Acupuncture is a safe form of physical medicine, there are contraindications and risks as mentioned below. However, these risks are EXTREMELY RARE!
Precautions & Contraindications:
1.) It is contraindicated to needle the abdomen and lumbosacral areas of pregnant women
2.) Avoid blood vessels to prevent bleeding
3.) Points on the chest and back should be carefully needled to avoid injury to organs
3.) Muscle spasms
5.) Nerve damage
6.) Punctured lung
7.) Accidental injury to organs (brain, spinal cord, heart, liver, spleen, kidney)
• How much does the normal acupuncture treatment cost?
The cost of acupuncture treatments varies from practitioner to practitioner. Please consult with local acupuncturists for exact prices. In general, fees are similar to chiropractic treatments, ranging from $60-120 per session. The initial visit is usually longer and more comprehensive, so that it usually costs more. Most practitioners include the auxiliary modalities, such as cupping, electro stimulation and moxibustion, within the treatment fee, while others charge in an ala carte fashion.
• Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
In some states most insurance companies now offer policies that cover acupuncture and related services performed by an acupuncturist. In Massachusetts several insurance providers start to cover the cost of acupuncture recently. In addition, many Massachusetts companies reimburse acupuncture treatment expenses via worker’s compensation, flexible spending account, group insurance, or other forms of benefits. Please check with your employer or health insurance company to find out.
• Does Chinese herbal medicine interfere with Western medications?
Chinese herbs are natural plants, animal/mineral materials or their natural extracts. They rarely interfere with other medications. However, due to the powerful effects of certain herbs, you should always obtain and change prescriptions from trained herbalists before taking any forms of herbal medicines.
• What form of herbs should I choose?
The commonly prescribed herbs include raw/bulk herbs, “scientific Chinese herbs”, and Chinese patent medicines.
1. Raw/bulk herbs: patient boils herbs at home. This form of herbs is easiest for the body to absorb, with fastest and strongest effects, and is administered to acute and severe conditions. But the time-consuming cooking procedure and bad taste of the decoction greatly limited its usage.
2. “Scientific Chinese herbs”: this category includes powder, capsules, tablets and pills manufactured from concentrated herbs. Of these the powder is the most effective. Because the concentrated powder is easy to prepare (simply mix all ingredients and take with warm water), this form is well accepted by most American patients.
3. Patent Chinese medicines: made on the basis of classical or modern research herbal formulas. Unlike the other forms of herbs, the patent Chinese medicines are not formulated specifically for a particular patient. In general, patent medicines are absorbed slowly and over a long period of time, more easily stored and less expensive. They are more commonly used for treating chronic disorders associated with deficiency.
• Are concentrated herbs as effective as raw herbs?
Currently used herb powders are 5:1 concentrated extracts from individually cooked raw herbs. The manufacturing process has very strict quality control for the properties, water content, solubility, concentration, harmful bacteria, fungi, and heavy metal content. The special low-temperature boiling process used provides a 95% return of the active components. Therefore all natural properties of raw herbs are retained. A clinical study in 14 hospitals in China found the concentrated herbs have greater effectiveness than raw herbs. Other reports consider they are slightly less effective due to the loss of interactions between active principles of raw herbs occurred during the decocting process.
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