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Common Questions about Acupuncture

by Michelle Sauberzweig

What should I expect to happen during an acupuncture session?
The first treatment starts with a thorough medical history followed by a physical exam that notes skin tone, tongue condition and the qualities of your wrist pulse. According to TCM theory, these observations provide an indication of what’s going on in your body. After making a diagnosis, the practitioner will ask you to lie down and insert needles into key points. You’ll be allowed to rest with the needles in place, typically between 20-30 minutes. The patient usually feels so relaxed that they fall asleep while resting.

How does acupuncture work?
Here is a very brief and simple answer to a very complex (yet simple) form of medicine. Keep in mind, there are dissertations and volumes written about the chemical response at the cellular level and the electromagnetic changes that take place in the body when a needle is inserted. Again, this is intended to be a very simple answer.

Thin needles are inserted into the body, which solicits many physiological responses that have proven to be helpful in pain management and promotes the healing process. Needles inserted into specific acupuncture points are known to regulate the nervous, hormonal and immune systems. The needles will also stimulate and promote organ and system functions. This is healing from the inside out.

Side note: There are approximately 360 standard acupoints on the body and another 400 extra and ear points.

Will it hurt me?
Acupuncture should be painless, although some people experience a slight sharp sensation depending on how sensitive they are and where the needles are inserted. Once the needle is in place, it’s normal to initially feel a tingling sensation, numbness, mild pressure or warmth for a few seconds before the feeling disappears. After all the needles are inserted, the overwhelming sensation of relaxation takes over and you do not even feel the needles in the body.

How big are the needles and how deep are they inserted?                       Acupuncture needles are as thin (or thinner) than a single human hair. They are solid stainless steel needles, pre-sterilized and disposable. Other metals may be used; however, stainless steel is by far the most widely utilized type. Acupuncture needles are single use needles and are disposed of immediately after a treatment. Acupuncture needles range in size from 40 gauge to 30 gauge needles. There are other sizes available but this range is the most common range utilized. So, based on the information provided above, approximately 40 acupuncture needles (40 gauge) will fit into the tip of an 18-gauge hypodermic needle. This is why acupuncture needles can be inserted into the body and the majority of the time the patient won't even feel the needle. The acupuncturist will insert them to a depth of anywhere from a quarter of an inch to 5 inches, depending on the amount of subcutaneous fat that the needles need to penetrate.

What should I do while I'm receiving treatment?
Relax. Try to lay still and enjoy some quiet time in your life. Sometimes after the treatment you may feel sleepy or other times very energized. If you have any questions or concerns always ask your practitioner. She is there to help you.

Do I have to get naked?                                                                                     No. Most of the time, the main needle-insertion points are on the lower legs, ears or arms, so wearing loose-fitting clothing is fine. Similar to medical doctors, sometimes an acupuncturist will ask you to disrobe and drape with a towel if work on your back, hips, upper legs or torso.

How can it help me?                                                                 Acupuncture is mostly known in the West as a pain relief technique, but is also proven to be useful in numerous other indications. In 1979, the World Health Organization cited 104 conditions that acupuncture can treat — either alone or in conjunction with contemporary conventional medicine. In 1998 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a Consensus Statement on Acupuncture and cited conditions that acupuncture is effective for. Acupuncture also plays a huge role in preventive care, particularly as a form of stress management. The underlying cause of most of the conditions I treat is chronic stress, which affects multiple systems in the body, including the immune and endocrine systems.

NOTE: See the list at the bottom of this article for more specific conditions which acupuncture can effectively treat.

Will my insurance cover Acupuncture?                                                              Based on your insurance policy, acupuncture may be covered. Please bring your insurance card with you and we would be happy check your insurance benefits for you.

What training & education does your licensed acupuncturist have?     

  • Bachelors Degree (BS) in Exercise Science from Nebraska Wesleyan University     (2003)
  • Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine (MSTCM) from the                   Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine (April 2009)
  • Licensed Acupuncturist in the State of Colorado                                                
  • Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomat of Oriental Medicine, certified by the         NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental         Medicine) 
  • Certified in Clean Needle Technique by the AAOM (Acupuncture and Oriental     Medicine Commission)
  • Professional member of the AAC (Acupuncture Association of Colorado)
  • Served as Treasurer and Board Member of the AAC (Acupuncture Association     of Colorado) for 3 years

Is it OK for me to eat before or after a session?  What about exercise?It’s good to eat a little bit before a session because low blood sugar could increase sensitivity to the treatment and cause you to feel faint. Don’t, however, eat a heavy meal. For exercise, the reverse holds true. Prior to your session you can exercise as strenuously as you want. However, most acupuncturists advise only mild exercise within several hours after treatment. Eating too much or vigorous exertion can disrupt the corrective flow of energy that follows an acupuncture session. The goal in acupuncture is to shift energy into a new pattern so if you do something really intense you can actually alter the new pattern we are trying to create in your body.

How many sessions do I need in order to start feeling the benefits?
I wish I could confidently predict that it will take three visits and everyone will be pain free, or allergy free, or pregnant, or whatever the case may be. However, it would be irresponsible for me to predict how many visits it will take for each person to realize their goals. I typically give my patients a range of time based on past experience. Patients with acute conditions usually see some improvement within 4-6 treatments. But that doesn't mean that everyone will see improvement in that amount of time.

For a chronic condition (symptomatic experience lasting two years to 10 years plus), it is common for the patient to require more treatments. Some people see improvement faster than others. Each person responds to acupuncture differently. Factors for recovery speed include the patient's stress level (physical, emotional and environmental), amount and quality of rest, diet and exercise.

How is Herbal Medicine used?
In conjunction with acupuncture treatments, herbs may be prescribed if appropriate to the patient’s condition. Unlike conventional pharmaceuticals, Eastern herbs are tailored for the individual’s needs, treating the root of the symptoms not only for relief of symptoms. Compared to Western medicine, herbs are much gentler and safer for they are made in nature and most don't cause side effects. Herbal Medicine itself is a powerful method of healing and it can function in a number of different ways such as killing viruses’ and bacteria, preventing disease, increasing energy and slowing down the aging process. Herbal Medicine is a gentle but effective way to achieve a complete body recovery.

What conditions does Acupuncture treat?                                                       The World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institute of Health have recognized over 200 conditions that Traditional Chinese Medicine can effectively treat. Here are just a few:

Cancer Musculoskeletal
Vomit/Nausea from Chemo drugs Arm / Leg Pain
Digestive Auto Injury
Abdominal Pain Back / Hip Pain
Candida Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Colitis Fibromyalgia
Constipation Hand / Foot Pain
Diabetes Knee Pain
Diarrhea Muscle Cramping
Indigestion, Gas, Bloating, Belching, GERD Muscle Pain / Sprain / Strain
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Muscle Weakness / Atrophy
Nausea / Vomit Neck / Shoulder Pain
Gynecological Conditions Tendonitis
Endometriosis / Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Tennis Elbow
Infertility Whiplash
Menopause Wrist / Ankle Pain
Menstrual Irregularities
Morning Sickness Neurological Conditions
Ovarian Cysts Dizziness
PMS Facial Paralysis
Headache / Migraine
Respiratory Parkinson’s Disease
Allergies Peripheral Neuropathy
Asthma Stroke
Bronchitis Trigeminal Neuralgia
Common Cold / Flu
Cough (Productive or Dry) Other Conditions
Hay Fever Addiction (alcohol, drug, nicotine, food)
Sinusitis Athletic Performance Enhancement & Recovery
Tonsillitis High Cholesterol
High Blood Pressure
Emotional Weight Loss
Anxiety Chronic Fatigue
Depression Stop Smoking
Insomnia Tinnitus
Stress TMJ
Palpitations Low Libido
Difficulty Breathing Compromised Immune System / Autoimmune disorders
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)