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What does acupuncture feel like?

Each person experiences acupuncture differently. Unlike hypodermic (injection) needles, which are used to draw blood or administer medication, acupuncture needles are solid, surprisingly thin, and therefore cause very little pain. In fact, as many as 40 acupuncture needles can fit into the head of a standard hypodermic needle. The Acupuncture Physician selects between 2 to 8 acupuncture points to needle during a single session. When the needles are inserted, some people feel nothing while others notice a slight twinge. This is often followed by a tingling sensation, numbness, heaviness or warmth. The needles generally remain in place for 20 to 40 minutes depending on the individual. During an acupuncture session, people often describe a feeling of calm and relaxation. At the end of a session, the Acupuncture Physician quickly and painlessly removes the needles and disposes of them safely. Symptom relief may occur immediately, or in the few days following a treatment. For complex, longstanding complaints, more than one treatment may be required before symptoms start to alleviate.

What types of needles do you use?
We use thin, sterile, filiform needles made of superior quality stainless steel. Each needle is used one time and then safely disposed. Most people are surprised to discover how thin acupuncture needles really are. Unlike hypodermic (injection) needles, which are used to draw blood or administer medication, acupuncture needles are not hollow. In fact, as many as 40 acupuncture needles can fit into the head of a standard hypodermic needle.
How many treatments will it take before I start noticing changes?
The rate at which a patient responds to Chinese medicine depends on a number of different factors including the nature of the condition, how long it has been present, other potential complicating factors (diet, lifestyle, etc), and the frequency with which you receive treatments. While some patients experience significant changes to their symptoms after the first treatment, others require between six and ten treatments. As a result, Family Tree Acupuncture offers a Community Clinic option to make acupuncture accessible and affordable for everyone. For some rules of thumb that might help you get a sense of how quickly you will respond to treatment, see our blog post on How Many Treatments Will It Take?
Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is very safe. We use sterile, single-use disposable needles, which are sealed by the manufacturer and opened immediately prior to use. Acupuncture has relatively few side effects, if any, which may include slight bleeding, soreness or bruising at the acupuncture site. The National Institute of Health commented that “adverse side effects of acupuncture are extremely low and often lower than conventional treatments.” They also stated:

“The incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same condition. For example, musculoskeletal conditions, such as fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, and tennis elbow… are conditions for which acupuncture may be beneficial. These painful conditions are often treated with, among other things, anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, ”etc.”) or with steroid injections. Both medical interventions have a potential for deleterious side effects but are still widely used and are considered acceptable treatments.”Chinese herbs are effective and safe when prescribed by a well-trained herbal practitioner. Our comprehensive training in herbal medicine guides our careful attention to dosage, combinations of herbs and any known drug-herb interactions. We only purchase our herbs from reputable suppliers who adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). GMPs are guidelines that govern the manufacturing process of a product to ensure that the quality and safety of the product is consistent. By documenting the manufacturing process, validating the equipment used, and following preset guidelines, the quality of the herbs is ensured.

Herbs are typically gentler and have fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs because of their balancing or regulating effect on the body. The most common side-effect, if any, is gas and bloating due to slight difficulty digesting the herbs. Patients who experience this or any other side effect should notify us immediately so we can alter the dosage or modify the formula.

How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture is based on a comprehensive system of medicine known as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and has been in use in Asia for thousands of years. Acupuncture treats health conditions by stimulating “acu-points” found at specific locations on the surface of the body. Acupuncture Physicians stimulate the acu-points by inserting very thin needles through the skin to produce physiological effects. Other methods are also used to stimulate acu-points, such as heat or finger-pressure. The general theory of acupuncture is that proper physiological function and health depend on the circulation of nutrients, substances and energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”) through a network of channels or meridians. This network connects every organ of the body, providing balance, regulation and coordination of physiological processes. Pain and ill-health result when the flow of Qi through the body is disrupted or blocked by many things, including disease, pathogens, trauma/injuries and medication (side effects), as well as lifestyle factors such as overwork, poor diet, lack of rest and stress. Stimulation of the appropriate acu-points through acupuncture treatment helps to restore sufficient, continuous and even flow of Qi and other nutrients throughout the body, thereby restoring health and balance to the body, while relieving pain and other symptoms.

What can I expect during my first visit?

An initial visit for takes between one and a half and two hours. We spend a great deal of time discussing your concerns and your health history in order to formulate a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. Your treatment will include acupuncture as well as other modalities as needed, including moxibustion, cupping, therapeutic massage, and lifestyle and nutritional counseling. We have a full herbal pharmacy, and herbal formulas may be prescribed for an additional charge. We also spend time answering your questions and, if you are new to Chinese medicine, explaining what you can expect to feel during and after your treatment. Follow-up treatments are approximately one-hour.

Do you accept insurance?

Most insurance is accepted upon approval. We encourage you to reach out to your carrier when you initiate care here to familiarize yourself with the limits of your policy with regard to acupuncture coverage. Although we will often submit a claim to insurance companies on behalf of our patients, if your insurance requires you to pay a co-payment or deductible, this amount is due at the time of service. If a carrier denies payment for services for any reason, the patient will be held accountable for those charges.

We would be happy to verify the details of your coverage prior to scheduling your first appointment. Simply fill out our online insurance verification form, and we will get back to you within 48 business hours.

What is Chinese medicine?

Chinese medicine is a complete system of medicine with a history spanning thousands of years. Rather than treating symptoms, Chinese medicine seeks to uncover and correct imbalances, deficiencies and blockages in the body as a whole, which leads to the alleviation of symptoms. This system of medicine recognizes that our bodies have the innate ability to overcome disease and illness. Through acupuncture, herbal medicine, proper nutrition, exercise and other treatment modalities, Chinese medicine stimulates natural healing and maintains health.

What types of modalities are used during a Chinese medicine treatment?

Chinese medicine encompasses a number of different modalities including acupuncture, herbs, moxibustion, cupping and therapeutic massage. In addition, proper nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle factors are evaluated and discussed with each individual. The degree to which we use each modality completely depends on the individual and the nature of the condition that is being treated.

What can Chinese medicine treat?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes over 100 conditions for which acupuncture is effective based on controlled research. In addition, The National Institute of Health (NIH) issued a Consensus Statement in 1997 identifying similar conditions for which the efficacy of acupuncture has been shown:

Addiction, Allergies, Anemia, Anxiety, Arteriosclerosis, Arthritis, Asthma, Back Pain, Bronchial Conditions, Candida, Chronic Fatigue, Circulatory Disorders, Colitis, Common Cold, Constipation, Depression, Dermatological Disorders, Diabetes, Diarrhea, Dizziness, Ear Disorders, Ear Ringing, Emotional & Endometriosis, Epstein Barr Virus, Eye Disorders, Fertility Issues, Fibroids, Frozen Shoulder, Gastritis, Gastrointestinal Disorders, GERD, Gynecological &, Headaches & Migraines, Hepatitis, HIV & AIDS, Hypertension, IBS, Immune Disorders, Impotence, Infertility, Insomnia, Irregular cycles, Joint Pain, Lupus, Menopause, Miscellaneous, Morning Sickness, Mouth & Throat Disorders, MS, Muscle Spasms, Pain & Musculoskeletal Issues, PCOS, PMS, Psychological Disorders, PTSD, Respiratory Disorders, Rhinitis, Sciatica, Sexual Dysfunction, Sinusitis, Smoking Cessation, Sprains, Stress, Tendonitis, Tennis Elbow, Ulcers, UTI

If you are experiencing symptoms that are not included in the above list, you can still experience relief with Chinese medicine. We encourage you to contact us to further discuss your health concerns.

What is Qi?

There is no direct translation for the word “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) although the concept exists, to a certain degree, in every culture. In Chinese medicine, Qi is the energy or life force present within everybody. Qi is the force behind our awareness, the functioning of our internal organs, the circulation of blood and lymph throughout the body, and many other things. We are able to access and manipulate qi using acupuncture needles, herbs and other modalities in order to prevent and combat disease. If you’re interested in learning more about Qi, we highly recommend this interesting article by Arthur Rosenfeld.

What is Tui Na?
Tui Na, pronounced “twee nah” translated as “push-grasp” and is a dynamic form of Chinese therapeutic massage designed to promote the circulation of Qi, blood and body fluids, decrease muscular tension, break up scar tissue, increase range of motion, and decrease the healing time of soft tissue injury. Tui Na is a clothed massage and treatments usually last from 30 to 50 minutes.
What is Shiatsu?
Shiatsu is a holistic massage therapy that views illness as a result of an imbalance of the natural flow of energy in the body. The Japanese word Shiatsu translates as “finger pressure” and includes a variety of techniques designed to smooth and circulate the flow of qi, blood and body fluids while relaxing the nervous system. Both physical and psychological complaints are addressed using rhythmic pressure, stretches, deep breathing, and rotation and stretching of the joints. Shiatsu is a clothed massaged and treatments last from 45 minutes to 1 hour.
What is Cupping?

If you’ve ever noticed perfect circular-shaped hickeys on the backs of friends, strangers, or even (more recently) celebrities, then you are familiar with the side-effects of cupping. This ancient healing modality uses suction created by thick glass cups to promote circulation and expel certain pathogenic influences. We most often use this modality for respiratory conditions, gastrointestinal disorders and pain. Cupping can also loosen muscles and sedate the nervous system, making it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure.

To create this suction, we light an alcohol-soaked cotton ball on fire, insert it into the cup and then remove it quickly before adhering the cup to the skin. This process expels the oxygen from the inside of the cup, creating a vacuum. Sometimes the cups are moved gently across the skin, and other times we might leave them in place for up to 10 minutes.

Although the practice of cupping is very safe, the suction can often result in circular bruising. While these bruises are not typically painful, they can leave you with some explaining to do! Cupping is often used in combination with acupuncture during a treatment, but can also be used on its own depending on the condition being treated.

What is Moxibustion?

You might notice an herbal scent lingering in the building as you make your way into our office suite. “What is that smell?,” is a common statement from first-time visitors.

Moxibustion (also referred to as “moxa”) is a form of heat therapy that is used in Chinese medicine to invigorate the flow of “qi” (energy), blood, lymph and other body fluids while dispelling certain pathogenic influences. The substance is an herb called mugwort or Artemisia vulgaris, which we burn and hover close to the skin over specific acupuncture points. This herb is so integral in Chinese medicine treatments, that the ancient Chinese character for acupuncture (“zhenjiu,” which is pronounced “juhn-jee-yew” ) is translated literally as “acupuncture/moxibustion.”

Moxibustion is a very warm and relaxing addition to an acupuncture treatment, and is often used instead of acupuncture for those who are especially sensitive to needles. In fact, there are some properties to moxibustion that exceed the capabilities of the acupuncture needles. Depending on the condition being treated, we might use more moxibustion than acupuncture or vice versa. Moxibustion is so good at boosting energy and improving immunity, that we sometimes teach patients how to moxa themselves and send them home with the tools and instructions for doing so.