How does acupuncture work?
East Asian medicine views pain and disease as stagnation or blockages within the organs and/or meridians of the body. Acupuncture needles are inserted into prescribed points on the body to remove blockages and stimulate the body’s healing response. Each acu-point has a name and specific function; for example, some points move blood, some dissolve phlegm, some relieve heat & inflammation, some tonify specific organs, etc. The goal is always to treat both the root of the pain or disease as well as the presenting symptoms.
Do the needles hurt?
Although I strive to use a gentle technique, most people feel some form of sensation during an acupuncture treatment. When the needles are first inserted, you may feel a pricking against your skin. While the needle is retained, you may feel a tingling sensation, or a feeling of heaviness, movement, or warmth. Many people feel very relaxed after the needles are in, and people often fall asleep during their treatments. Sometimes patients feel tired for a little while after a treatment, but more often people feel energized, since the needles bring the body into better energetic balance.
How many treatments will I need?
Acupuncture stimulates your body’s natural healing processes. Although patients often experience immediate relief or amazing improvements after just one session, most conditions require a series of treatments for a lasting effect. Naturally, the longer you have had an illness or condition, the longer it may take to resolve. I will be able to give you my recommendations for the number and frequency of treatments after our initial visit. We will work together to establish a treatment plan that works for you.
What are the needles like?
Acupuncture needles are nothing like the ones used for vaccination shots, etc. The typical acupuncture needles we use are as thin as a strand of hair. In fact, approximately 100 acupuncture needles fit into the space of a single hypodermic (hollow) needle. Our needles are pre-packaged, sterile, and single-use, meaning they are used once and then disposed of in a medical waste container.
Is acupuncture safe? What are the risks?
Acupuncture is very safe when performed by a licensed professional. Acupuncture is highly regulated in this country, and the associated risks are low. We follow mandatory standards called Clean Needle Technique, which refers to the use of sterile, single-use needles as well as protocols for infection prevention. In addition, all acupuncturists in this country train extensively on real patients in a supervised clinical setting in order to be certified. Then, we must pass national board exams to be licensed, and we are required to take continuing education courses to maintain these licenses.
The most common risks with acupuncture are bruising and possible nerve injury, which is not permanent. Occasionally, patients feel lightheaded when rising from the table after a treatment, but this quickly resolves. Rarely, patients may experience stronger reactions such as fainting, but we are trained to watch for this possibility. I advise you to not be too hungry or dehydrated when you come for a treatment.
Should I tell my doctor I'm getting acupuncture?
If you are receiving ongoing treatment from a physician or are being monitored for medication use, it is wise to inform your provider about your plans to have acupuncture. Acupuncture will not interfere with medications or other treatments you may be receiving, but certain medications may affect how you respond to an acupuncture treatment. So, always tell your acupuncturist what you’ve been taking recently.
I am happy to communicate and with any other providers you may have to coordinate an optimal treatment strategy for you.
What should I expect from a treatment?
Your very first treatment with me (and with most acupuncturists) will be a little longer, because I will ask you about your health history and the issues you are having now. Then I will examine you, which will include taking your pulses, looking at your tongue, and palpating (exploring by touch) the meridians of your body, your abdomen, and any areas of pain you have. Using all this information, I will make an Oriental Medical diagnosis, and then treat you.
I will ask you to lie on the table either face-up or face-down, depending on the treatment needed. Wear loose-fitting clothes that provide access to the knees and elbows, as these areas are often needled. If you need to remove clothing so I may access an area of pain (the hips, for example), a sheet will be available to preserve modesty. Optimize your treatment by arriving neither too hungry nor too full. Drinking extra water before and after a treatment is a good idea—it will help your body assimilate the effects of the treatment.
Do you accept insurance?
I do not bill insurance companies directly, but I will give you a receipt after your treatment if you want to submit it to your insurance company for reimbursement. Check your insurance company's policy regarding coverage for acupuncture, or call them if you're unsure. Although some Pennsylvania insurers are starting to cover acupuncture, particularly for worker's comp or auto accident claims, most do not. Also, you can use your HSA or FSA to pay for acupuncture. Check with your employer.