Acupuncture 101

Do acupuncture needles hurt?

Most people barely feel a thing when needles are inserted. Some people feel a slight pinch, and others ask “Is it in yet?” The reason acupuncture needles don’t give the painful sensation you might expect is because they’re very, very thin in comparison to the hypodermic needles used to give injections. Hypodermic needles are necessarily hollow so that the shot can be injected. They also have a very blunt point (actually a wedge shape) in comparison to an acupuncture needle. Forty acupuncture needles can fit into the tip of one standard 18 gauge hypodermic needle.

There are certain sensations associated with the therapeutic effects of acupuncture, which are known as de qi (pronounced “day-chee”). These may include slight cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling or electric sensation traveling along a meridian. If any discomfort is experienced, it is usually mild.


How does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture Theory is a complex system of diagnosis that views the person as a whole. While presenting symptoms of two patients may seem equal, the underlying causes for the manifesting symptoms may vary greatly between the two cases. Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine take into consideration the physical, mental, and emotional factors that contribute to a certain condition to diagnose and treat the body holistically. In doing so, the root of disease can be targeted instead of merely masking symptoms. And because the whole body is observed and the underlying cause is treated, the concern for side-effects of treatments or need to see numerous specialists is eliminated. Even the strongest modern drugs usually can only mask symptoms, not cause healing. True healing is only possible when your body heals itself. That’s what makes Acupuncture and Chinese herbs so powerful. They work by assisting your body’s self-healing mechanisms and correcting biochemical imbalances.


How many treatments will I need?

Typically acupuncture treatments are given once a week. If the condition is acute and painful, or is a long-standing illness, treatments may be given 2-3 times per week until the condition starts to come under control. Once significant progress has been made, treatment frequency can be tapered off to maintenance visits. The healing process is not always linear and may be affected by various factors including your condition, basic level of health, stress, etc. What are the side effects?
Acupuncture is very safe. The average liability coverage for an acupuncturist is about $600 per year, while primary care physicians pay an average of $12,000 per year. That’s a 20:1 difference. While this may not translate into exactly a 20 to 1 difference in safety, a visit to an acupuncturist is at least as safe as a visit to your doctor, if not safer.

Acupuncture needles are extremely safe, because they are pre-sterilized, individually packaged, and disposable. Every practitioner gets extensive training in anatomy so as to avoid accidentally inserting a needle in a place that can cause damage.


What can I expect on a typical visit?

During your first office visit, we spend a lot of time getting a complete picture of your health and lifestyle. We examine the condition of your tongue (is it cracked, coated, excessively pink? etc.), and check your pulse on both wrists (the quality of your pulse gives information about possible imbalances). We’ll also ask questions about your emotional state, and specific symptoms you may have.

This is done because we treat the whole person instead of focusing on the symptoms of your condition. The first visit can last up to an hour and a half, including an acupuncture treatment along with the consultation. Your subsequent visits will be much faster – usually an hour long. We’ll make a short review of your progress followed by an acupuncture treatment.


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