1What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a form of medicine practiced for over 4000 years. The basic principle of acupuncture, which is one modality of treatment of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is to realign and rebalance the energy in the body. Just as a Chiropractor realigns and rebalances your skeletal system, and a massage therapist helps to realign and rebalance your muscular system, an acupuncturist realigns and rebalances the energy systems in your body. According to TCM, life-giving energy ñ qi (promounced ìcheeî) ñ flows through our bodies in channels called meridians. Qi flows within your meridian pathways to every organ, muscle, tissue, and cell in your body. An obstruction in a meridian can be caused by an injury (trauma), infectious agents, genetic predispositions, lack of movement, and/or deficiencies or over-abundance of dietary substances.
An obstruction of the flow of qi in your body is like a dam in a river, or a traffic jam on an interstate. If qi becomes ìbacked-upî in a particular area, the accumulation can cause pain. An accumulation of qi in one area of your body can lead to a depletion in another area, which can lead to fatigue, weakness, or depression. An imbalance of qi throughout your body will lead to pain, a lack of well-being, and if severe enough or left out of balance for too long, inflammation and disease.
It is the objective of acupuncture to optimize, or in some instances restore, the balance of energy throughout your body. This is accomplished by placing needles into specific acupuncture points, which functions to either disperse or draw qi.
2How does acupuncture work?
Following the Chinese tradition, acupuncture needles are inserted into the body at specific points along acupuncture meridians, which enhances or realigns and restores the balance of the flow of the body's healing energy or qi. According to ancient theory, acupuncture allows qi to flow to areas where it is deficient, and away from areas where it is in excess. In this way, acupuncture regulates and restores a harmonious energetic balance in the body. In Chinese there is a saying, "There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow."
3What types of needles are used?
Dr. Pi uses only sterilized, individually packaged disposable needles. The needles come in various sizes. Depending upon the nature of the condition, the location of the points selected, and the patient's size, age, and constitution, needles can be inserted from º to 3 inches deep.
4How does acupuncture feel?
Admittedly, being needled is not fun. When the needle first goes in it can sting, pinch, or hurt (but MUCH less so than a vaccination ìshotî). Some patients feel an achy pressure. Sometimes you feel a kind of electrical sensation travel down the meridian (thatís weird!). Or not; sometimes you donít feel it at all. In some cases, Dr. Pi will check with you as she pushes needles in deeper; she wants some of them to hurt (itís brief, and itís worth it!). For some patients, it never hurts! Once the needles are in and while they remain inserted, for approximately 20-60 minutes, most patients forget completely about them. Relaxation and a sense of well-being often occur during (and after) an acupuncture session, so much so that many patients fall asleep during treatment!
5What problems can be treated by acupuncture?
On November 5, 1997, a panel convened by the National Institutes of Health concluded that there is clear evidence that acupuncture needle treatment is effective for nausea and vomiting from postoperative conditions as well as from chemotherapy, morning sickness, and postoperative dental pain. The 12-member panel also concluded in their consensus statement that there are a number of other conditions for which acupuncture may be effective. These conditions include but are not limited to fibromyalgia (general muscle pain), low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma.
In our clinic, acupuncture has been very effective for the treatment of the many conditions listed on our Home Page.
6How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments needed varies from person to person and depends on the condition being treated; some patients receive immediate relief while others may need a series of treatments. Chronic (existing 3 months or longer) conditions tend to require more treatments than acute (immediate) ones; most patients with chronic conditions experience noticeable relief after only a few weeks.
The frequency of treatment depends on a variety of factors. For many conditions, Dr. Pi will likely suggest one to three treatments per week until balance is restored and then one treatment a month for a ìmaintenanceî phase of healthcare.
7What is electro-acupuncture?
In electro-acupuncture, after acupuncture needles are inserted, their ìtopsî are attached to a small device that puts out a tiny electrical current. This current runs through the needles and increases the efficacy of the treatment. If Dr. Pi is going to use electro-acupuncture, she will adjust the strength so that you feel only a light pulse that is not painful or uncomfortable. Usually the current is applied for 15-30 minutes.
8What is auricular (ear) acupuncture?
As on the soles of our feet (Treatments/Foot Bath and Foot Reflexology), on our ears are points that connect to all internal organs and also our limbs. Stimulating these points can treat diseases and injuries, and can also serve preventative functions. Weight loss, addiction, and many chronic problems can also be treated successfully with auricular acupuncture. For chronic problems, Dr. Pi may use ear seeds or ear tacks (below). For any of these ear-related therapies, Dr. Pi may first use a small machine with a probe-like extension to help pinpoint sensitive locations; it makes some noise but doesnít hurt!
9What are ear seeds and ear tacks?
Ear seeds are actually seeds ñ tiny seeds from the plant Vaccaria hispanica, known as Cowherb, Spanish cockle, and cow soapwort ñ that are held in position over auricular acupuncture points with small pieces of adhesive tape. Ear tacks are like small, flexible thumb tacks; they are small needles on an adhesive backing. Both seeds and tacks lay flat against the patientís skin and will remain in place for up to a week. The patient can stimulate the points during the day by pressing on the seeds or tacks, allowing the patient to continue his or her treatment between office visits. Both seeds and tacks can be easily removed if a patient desires.
10What is cupping?
Cupping therapy is usually performed with glass cups or jars, although it is sometimes done with plastic cups. A cotton ball is soaked in alcohol and lit on fire and the flame is briefly inserted into a cup and removed, and the cup is placed quickly onto the skin. The fire acts to remove the oxygen from inside the cup, creating a small vacuum and causing suction; the cup then sticks to and pulls a little on the skin. This suction acts to draw stagnant, or stuck, energy to the surface of the skin where it can be dispersed. Cupping is often used in areas such as the back, shoulders, and forearms when the muscles are very tight or there is aching pain; patients find that it relaxes those areas. Cupping often leaves a circular bruise-like mark where the cup was; depending on the person, these marks can last from a few days to a couple weeks.
11What is heat therapy?
Dr. Pi sometimes uses special medical heat lamps to warm inserted acupuncture needles, which transmits the warmth to inside the patientís body, increases circulation, and helps to bring down inflammation. The heat is also very relaxing.
12How do I prepare for my acupuncture visit?
Eat at least a small meal or snack within the three hours before your appointment.
Dress in loose fitting, comfortable clothing that will allow easy access to your forearms and lower legs.
Do not brush your tongue before your visit.
To your first visit, bring a list of all the medications and supplements you are currently taking.