Common Acupuncture Questions

DSC_0279Here are some common acupuncture questions answered in clear and concise language.  

If you have a question that you don’t see here, or if you need more information, please contact me.

Acupuncture (5)

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one modality of Oriental Medicine that involves the shallow insertion of very thin stainless steel needles into specific spots on your body called acupuncture points.

Usually you do not feel a thing, though sometimes you may feel a slight pricking sensation upon insertion ‚ everyone is different. After insertion you may feel the movement of Qi energy in the form of a tingly, warm, cool, or electric sensation ‚ this is a good thing!

The next thing you will feel is relaxation as the naturally occurring opiates in your body that get released by acupuncture start to circulate. Ongoing scientific research seeks to determine what is acupuncture and how does it work.

What is a typical initial acupuncture visit like?

An initial acupuncture visit will usually take you about 1.5 hours. After you complete the initial paperwork (please arrive 15 minutes early to do this), I will take you into a private treatment room where we discuss your health history in detail.

As Oriental Medicine is holistic in nature, I will ask you a whole range of questions from how your energy fluctuates during the day to what your sleep and digestion are like. The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for me to diagnose and treat you.

We’ll also review the forms that you completed for your initial acupuncture visit along with any relevant lab tests you may have. This discussion takes 30-60 minutes for an initial consultation, depending on the complexity of your case.

Besides asking you questions I’ll be also be gathering information by observing, listening, smelling and touching.

At some point I will ask to see your tongue (please don’t brush your tongue for a day before your visit). I’ll be observing the size, shape and color of the tongue body, the color of the tongue coating, the location of any abnormalities on the tongue, and the spirit of the tongue. All this provides additional information for your Oriental Medicine diagnosis.

I will also feel your pulses on both wrists; this provides detailed information on the state of the energy in your body and may reveal additional questions to discuss. I may also touch other areas of your body to examine injuries and levels of muscle tension and tenderness and palpate your abdomen as well.

After combining and assessing with information from observing and talking with you, I’ll formulate an Oriental Medicine diagnosis that will provide the basis for your treatment plan and prognosis. Your treatment plan will include acupuncture and other things types of treatment, usually over the course of 4-6 weeks, to help you get better.

I’ll then perform an acupuncture treatment. While patients usually lie comfortably on their back and get treated on the front of your body, you might also get a treatment on your back as well.

The treatment room is warm; the massage table is heated, and there’ll be nice relaxing music in the background. Most people usually experience a nice relaxation effect as the their body releases natural endorphins in response to the needles. After the needles are in you’ll rest for about 25 minutes, and chances are you’ll have a nice short power nap. I’ll check on you during the treatment to see how you are doing, and remove your needles at the end of the treatment.

Besides acupuncture, I may do bodywork and manual therapy in the form of acupressure, suction cups, or scraping (guasha), Chinese herbal medicine, heat including moxibustion, therapeutic exercises, lifestyle counseling, nutritional supplements, and nutritional counseling to help you heal and come back into balance more quickly.

During and after the treatment I’ll review and discuss any recommendations I have for you along with  your prognosis and treatment plan.

Is acupuncture safe?

Yes, in the hands of a licensed and skilled practitioner acupuncture is very safe. Before I treat you with acupuncture you’ll need to read and sign an Informed Consent Form, which basically tells you of all the things that can go wrong with acupuncture and gives me permission from you to give you an acupuncture treatment.

Occasionally (1 out of 20 times or so) there may be a drop of blood when I take a needle out which I immediately swab with a cotton ball. Because acupuncture needles are so thin, you will not be able to see where the needle was located. Very rarely there may be a bruise from an acupuncture needle.

The most dangerous events, pneumothorax or organ puncture, almost never happen with a licensed professional. Infection is non-existent – I only use sterile disposable needles in my acupuncture practice.

Perhaps the most convincing fact describing what makes acupuncture safe – our malpractice rates are extremely low – about $700/year!

How many acupuncture needles are used in a treatment?

I usually use anywhere from 5-12 acupuncture needles, with an average of 8 needles per treatment.  Your body’s sensitivity to acupuncture and the types of problems I’d be treating determine to a large part how many acupuncture needles will be used.

How long is acupuncture needle retention?

Acupuncture needle retention lasts for about 30 minutes. This gives your body’s qi or energy enough time to finish one complete circuit of all the acupuncture channels in the human body. This does, however, depend on your body type – it could take more or less time. The treatment tables are heated; there is soothing music in the background – its all very relaxing and patients often fall asleep and experience the ultimate power nap.

Chinese Herbal Medicine (2)

What is Chinese herbal medicine?

As part of your treatment under my care, you may find that I’ll prescribe a Chinese herbal formula for you to take. Chinese herbal medicine is a highly refined system of natural medicine that uses plant, animal, and mineral products to bring your body’s physiology back in to balance and complements the acupuncture that you are also receiving.

The Chinese herbal formula you take usually has anywhere from 5 to 20 herbs in it. Each herb in the formula has on the average about 5 active chemical substances that affect change in the body, so if a formula has 15 herbs in it we’re looking at 75 active chemicals. Because the actual dosage of any particular single chemical in a traditional Chinese formula is so low, the chance of side effects are also very low. This makes Chinese herbal formulas very safe.

This is in contrast to Western medicine where each drug is composed of a single, pure, active chemical that causes lots of side effects. The analogy I like to use is comparing a single sledge hammer to make change in the body instead of many small levers.

The herbal formula I give you will most likely be in tablet form. If your case is complex and requires a custom formula, I would write you a prescription that you could either pick up directly from an herbal dispensary or I could have it drop shipped to you. There is an additional cost for herbal formulas.

Are Chinese herbs safe?

The question”Are Chinese herbs safe?”, is a legitimate one to ask given that there are thousands of animal, vegetable, and mineral products used within Chinese herbal medicine. The short answer is “Yes”. Chinese herbs are  extremely safe in comparison to Western medicine, where improperly taken drugs are the third leading cause of death!

Some traditional substances are no longer used. For example at one point in Chinese history it was popular to take lead and mercury as part of longevity formulas. We now know that these dangerous minerals are harmful to our health.

There has been a lot of change in China over the past couple of decades as its economy grew dramatically with very little regulation of pollution. These changes have affected the medicinal herb industry as well, and I’m careful to make sure that you are receiving the highest quality Chinese herbal medicine preparations.

I only use herbs from companies that are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) approved. I order only from companies that track their lots of herbs so that if there ever is a problem it can be traced and the relevant people notified. I buy only from companies that do additional testing for pesticides and heavy metals. While this does add an additional cost to the herbs you purchase, it also ensures that you are getting quality product.

Oriental Medicine (5)

What is Oriental Medicine?

Oriental Medicine is a system of medicine that helps you find balance and health in your life, often without needing to resort to harsh drugs with lots of side effects or surgery. It is safe, gentle, and often subtle, but a powerful force for positive change. As a practitioner of Oriental Medicine and a Licensed Acupuncturist, my aim is to use my knowledge to help you regain balance, heal yourself, and find deeper meanings to what health and wellness are for you.

Oriental Medicine has its roots China that go back 2000-3000 years and is based on the philosophy of Daoism (aka Taoism), which seeks to understand your health, life and universe by the interaction of Yin and Yang energies and the balance between them.


What is acupressure?

Acupressure is a method for stimulating your acupuncture points with pressure from fingers, instead of piercing the skin with a needle. It’s a gentle way of waking up your body to prepare it for acupuncture, as well as being a good diagnostic indicator.

What is moxa?

Another technique for stimulating your acupuncture points uses heat from moxa (or moxibustion), where a burning herb called artemesia that comes in the form of a cigar or cones is placed close to an acupuncture point. You’ll feel a pleasant warm sensation as the heat slowly penetrates the skin and heats the acupuncture point.

What is guasha?

Guasha, also known as scraping or dermal friction, involves the use of an instrument with a rounded edge such as a Chinese soup spoon that is scraped along your skin after your skin has been coated with oil. This technique is a form of deep tissue therapy and the results can be dramatic. Like suction cups, this technique may leave bruises on the skin that disappear after a few days.

What is cupping?

Cupping uses suction cups made of glass that stick to your body from of a vacuum that’s been created inside of the cup. The net effect is that the cups suck in your body’s tissue and this affects positive change. From an Oriental Medicine viewpoint, the cups are sucking out stagnation and dampness from your body and increasing circulation to help your body heal more easily.

Cupping may leave round bruises on your skin (like hickies) that go away after several days. It’s become very popular in Beverly Hills, where Hollywood starlets are often photographed leaving their acupuncturist’s office with dark circles on their back.

Lafayette Acupuncture / San Ramon Acupuncture:

Experienced Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
for Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Concord,
Walnut Creek, Alamo, Danville, San Ramon, Pleasanton,
Contra Costa & Alameda Counties,
and the Greater East Bay Area.