Q & A

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional healing therapy, which originated in China more than 4,000 years ago. The term acupuncture involves stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. The most commonly applied method involves penetrating the skin with very slender, sterile, disposable needles. The needles activate the body’s Qi and support natural healing by enhancing restorative power, immunity and physical and emotional health.

What is an acupuncturist?

An acupuncturist is a person trained in acupuncture (therapy that uses thin needles inserted through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms). Acupuncture is a type of complementary and alternative medicine.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

What to expect during our first meeting?

I will take a full health history so that I can understand your symptoms, health and lifestyle. I will also check your pulses—all 12 of them. And don’t be surprised when I check your tongue because it is a map of your body. It reflects the general health of your organs.

This information is then organized to create a comprehensive diagnosis of where Qi has become blocked or imbalanced. After the interview process, you may receive an acupuncture treatment. The length of my visits will be from 30 to 90 minutes.

What is a treatment like?

The initial treatment generally takes the longest as the practitioner takes a patient's history and vitals, counsels on treatment strategies, and inspects the tongue and pulse. The patient may have to change into a gown if the practitioner needs to access back, chest or abdomen points. Please wear loose fitting clothing so that the acupuncturist can place the needles on arm and leg points as needed. Once an acupuncture needle has been inserted, patients generally do not feel pain. The extent of the pain a patient might feel is similar to the pinch of an insect bite. Some patients even express that the needling and manipulation of the needles can be quite pleasurable and relaxing. The acupuncture needles stay in place for a period between 10 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the condition treated.

I recommend wearing loose, comfortable clothing to receive acupuncture treatment. You should be aware that the acupuncturist may need to access points on your torso, arms and legs. It also helps to be in a calm state. Try to arrive 5 or 10 minutes before your appointment to give yourself a chance to relax. Try to avoid the following:

  • Eating a big meal within one hour of your appointment
  • Fasting for more than six hours before your appointment
  • Alcohol, tobacco, food or drinks that color your tongue (such as coffee) immediately prior to treatment or just following a treatment
  • Vigorous exercise or sexual activity within the hour before treatment

What is the treatment experience like?

The first appointment is typically a two-hour consultation. During this visit we will speak at length about your health concerns and address any questions you may have about acupuncture and the healing process. We will also discuss your health and personal histories in detail, followed by a physical examination. The primary objective of the first appointment is to assess the underlying conditions that have led to your current concerns.

Following the initial consultation, ideally you will be seen in weekly one-hour sessions for 6-8 visits. During this time, significant signs of progress will likely appear. As patients experience improvement in their condition and enjoy a greater sense of ease in life, treatments may be extended to every other week, every three weeks, monthly and eventually seasonally.

Is acupuncture covered by insurance?

We accept CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mail Handlers, Cigna, United Health Care and Unite Health Resources for those clients whose specific plan covers acupuncture. A growing number of other insurance companies will reimburse for acupuncture treatments. Call your insurance provider to find out. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Will my plan cover acupuncture?
  • How may visits per year
  • Do I need a referral?
  • Do I have a co-pay?
  • Do I have a deductible? If yes, has it been met?

A Greater Well Being will provide the necessary codes and verification to enable our clients to bill their insurer for reimbursement (if your provider is not listed above).

What are the benefits of acupuncture?

The World Health Organization states that acupuncture provides relief from more than 40 conditions including:

  • pain associated with bone or muscles, such as back and knee pain
  • stomach conditions such as chronic indigestion and constipation
  • menstrual or menopausal complaints
  • insomnia
  • asthma and allergies
  • depression and anxiety
  • migraines

How frequently do I need to come to benefit from treatment?

The frequency of treatments varies with each individual. Please feel free to call me to discuss your concern and a possible plan of treatment.

What happens during an acupuncture treatment?

Your acupuncture practitioner will take a detailed health history, will listen closely to why you have arrived for treatment, and will observe you closely. You will be asked to get comfortable and the acupuncturist will take several pulses. These pulses give vital information about how the Qi is flowing in your body. After specific points are chosen, extremely thin needles are gently inserted just below the surface of the skin. The sensation of needles varies from no feeling at all to a slight ache or twinge. The needles are disposable and about the thickness of a human hair. Usually only a few needles are used for each treatment, and most people report a deep sense of peaceful well-being during and after their treatments.

What is your cancellation policy?

We understand that changes in your schedule may require you to cancel an appointment. To avoid cancellation fees, please contact our specialist directly at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled appointment.

Do children respond to acupuncture?

Yes, and in some instances they respond more quickly than adults. If your child has an aversion to needles, I can massage the acupuncture points. This is called acupressure.

How should I prepare for my first treatment?

Come with any questions—I’m here to help you. Wear loose, comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points. Don’t eat large meals just before or after your visit. Refrain from overexertion, working out, drugs or alcohol for up to 6 hours after the visit. Avoid stressful situations. Make time to relax, and be sure to get plenty of rest. Between visits, take notes of any changes that may have occurred, such as the alleviation of pain, pain moving to other areas, or changes in the frequency and type of problems.

How will I feel during the treatment?

Where the acupuncture needle is inserted, you may experience a vague numbness, heaviness, tingling or dull ache. Some people experience a sensation of energy spreading and moving around the needle. This is called the “Qi sensation”. All of these experiences are a positive sign that the treatment is working. After treatment, you may feel energized or may experience a deep sense of relaxation and well-being.

What is Qi?

Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the life force or energy that flows throughout the body. Qi fuels the body and protects us from illness, pain and disease. Qi flows through pathways in the body called meridians. Each of the 14 main meridians corresponds to specific organs and glands. Meridians are like rivers that flow within the body and transport nourishing Qi to every cell, organ, gland tissue and muscle. The flow of Qi may become blocked like a river obstructed by a dam. Blockage of Qi can cause imbalance or damage to a person’s health.

How does acupuncture work?

This highly effective system of medical care is based on natural laws, which govern the movement of vital life giving energy, both in nature and in the body. This energy, called "Qi" (pronounced chee), moves through the body in precise channels supporting functions of the body, mind and spirit. When the chi is moving disharmoniously, imbalance begins to surface in the form of specific symptoms. To address the underlying cause of a condition, these symptoms are viewed in relationship to the totality of a person. The gentle insertion of hair thin needles at specific points along the channels of Qi energy, help restore harmony. In the presence of this subtle, yet profound, intervention symptoms often resolve and patients frequently experience renewed vitality.

Is there scientific evidence that acupuncture works?

Over the last few decades much research has been conducted to explain how acupuncture works. The 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported, “Acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery”(1) and “acupuncture activates the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitter and neurohormones and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally have been documented. There is also evidence of enhancements in immune functions produced by acupuncture”(2)

1,2 National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on Acupuncture, Program & Abstracts (Bethesda, MD, November 3-5, 1997). Office of alternative Medicine and Office of Medical Applications of Research, Bethesda.

For additional reading: Scientific Validation of Acupuncture

Why would I see an acupuncturist?

Many patients begin acupuncture treatment to find relief from a wide range of physical conditions. Some patients have lived with their condition for years believing they must live with pain. Still others believe that taking a pill, which masks their physical or emotional symptoms, is the answer. Acupuncture provides gentle healing on a deep level, and can succeed where other treatments have not. Many who are not experiencing ailments also seek treatment to maximize their wellness and maintain balance. The greatest reason to begin acupuncture treatment is to cultivate vitality and radiant health and to stimulate the tremendous healing power of the body, mind and spirit.

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