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What is Acupuncture and how does it work?

Acupuncture is grounded in the belief that the mind and body are a single, energetic system. The practice involves the gentle insertion and manipulation of very fine needles at specific points along the body’s meridian pathways to restore the proper flow of Qi, the life force that energizes all metabolic activity in our body. Disease, discomfort and pain occur when the flow of Qi is blocked or disrupted. By influencing the flow of Qi throughout the body, acupuncture helps to increase circulation, decrease inflammation and pain, improve mood and reduce stress, enhance digestion, regulate hormones and sleep, and boost immunity. Ultimately, acupuncture helps restore wellness by improving the body’s energy flow, harmonizing the body’s biochemical balance, and stimulating the body’s own innate ability to heal itself.


Acupuncture is part of the holistic system of healing known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – the oldest medical system on earth, having been continuously and actively practiced for more than four centuries. It is currently the fastest growing healing modality in the United States.


What are some of the long-term benefits of regularly seeing an acupuncturist?

As a complement to your conventional medical care, acupuncture can treat both acute and chronic problems such as insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain, poor digestive and/or elimination, headaches, low energy, chronic fatigue, and much more. Acupuncture can also help to reduce or eliminate the need for many medications including narcotics and other pain-relievers (always in consultation with your primary care physician). Because it is a holistic mind-body medicine, many people credit acupuncture with helping them experience increased clarity, creativity and emotional balance in their daily lives. By unblocking obstacles to movement within body, mind and spirit, acupuncture can be a powerful catalyst for change in all areas of life.


Does acupuncture hurt?

Since acupuncture involves the use of needles inserted through the skin, you will naturally have some sensation of it. However, the needles used in acupuncture are no thicker than a piece of thread. They are made of solid, yet flexible stainless steel.  People often describe an initial feeling of heaviness, pressure, tingling, or warmth at the insertion site. Often, these sensations are only felt briefly and dissipate quickly as the body gets used to the needles. Some people even feel a traveling sensation along the acupuncture channel, providing an unexpected awareness of Qi (energy) moving throughout the body. This phenomenon is temporary and lets you know the needles are having their intended effect. If a needle doesn’t feel entirely comfortable, it can always be adjusted. Once the needles are in and you’re relaxing on the table for the duration of the treatment, most people have little-to-no awareness of the needles.

What is a typical acupuncture treatment like?
After a thorough intake where we will discuss your health concerns and goals, you will lie down on the massage table to relax. Needles are often inserted in the extremities of the body (below the elbows and knees) as these points are among the strongest in their therapeutic effect. You will rest on the table with the needles in for 20 – 30 minutes in order to allow the treatment to take effect. Certain conditions may call for the use of additional Chinese medical techniques such as tui na (Chinese medical massage), moxibustion (heat therapy), cupping and/or gua sha (impurity releasing therapies), in addition to essential oils. A Chinese herbal formula may also be prescribed to augment your acupuncture treatment.


How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments will vary depending on the severity and duration of the condition, as well as the  constitution of the patient. In general, acute conditions may take just a few treatments, while chronic conditions may take longer to treat. Most patients report feeling some improvement after just one acupuncture treatment. Weekly treatments are advised at the start of treatment. Importantly, the benefits of acupuncture are cumulative and build over time. Once symptoms improve and balance is restored, treatments are often reduced to every other week and eventually once a month or less to maintain health and prevent reoccurrence. We will discuss the best plan of treatment with you at your first visit so you know what to expect.


Do I have to be sick to benefit from acupuncture?

Absolutely not. Maintaining good health and mind-body balance is much easier than trying to recover it after it’s been lost. Acupuncture is the original preventative medicine, and many people get monthly or seasonal “tune-ups” to boost their energy and immunity all year long. Practicing self-care with regular acupuncture treatments when you’re well can help you preserve radiant health – and avoid illness –- throughout the year.


Can Chinese medicine be used in conjunction with Western medicine?

Certainly. While Chinese medicine is a comprehensive medical system in its own right that can address virtually any health concern, most of my patients use it as a complement to western medicine and other modalities of healthcare. We welcome a collaborative relationship with your other health care providers and work closely with many of our patients’ primary care physicians.

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