Common Questions and Answers about Acupuncture
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used systems of healing in the world. Originating in China over 3,500 years ago, only in the last three decades has it become popular in the United States.
In 2000, the FDA estimated that Americans made up to 20 million visits per year to acupuncture practitioners and spent upward of a half a billion dollars on acupuncture treatments.
Traditional Chinese medicine holds that there are as many as 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body, which are connected by 20 pathways (12 main and 8 secondary) called meridians. These meridians conduct energy, or qi (pronounced “chi”,) between the surface of the body and its internal organs. Each point has a different effect on the qi that passes through it. Qi is believed to help regulate balance in the body. It is influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang, which represent positive and negative energy in the universe and human body. Acupuncture is believed to keep the balance between yin and yang, thus allowing for the normal flow of qi and restoring health to the mind and body.
How does acupuncture work?
Human beings are complex bioelectric systems. This understanding has been the foundations of TCM practice for several thousand years. Energy circulates throughout the body along well-defined, documented pathways. Points on the body, along these pathways are energetically connected to specific organs and body systems. If this energy circulation is disrupted, optimum function is affected and this results in pain or illness. In treatment, acupuncture points are stimulated to balance the circulation of energy, which ultimately influences the health of the entire being. Several theories have been presented as to exactly how acupuncture works. One theory suggests that pain impulses are blocked from reaching the spinal cord or brain at various “gates” to these areas. Since a majority of acupuncture points are either connected to (or located near) neural structures, this suggests that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system.
Another theory suggests that acupuncture stimulates the body to produce narcotic-like substances called endorphins, which reduce pain. Other studies have found that other pain-relieving substances called opiods may be released into the body during acupuncture.
Is it painful?
Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are solid and hair-thin, and they are not designed to cut the skin. They are also inserted to much more shallow levels than hypodermic needles, generally no more than a half-inch to an inch depending on the type of treatment being delivered. While each person experiences acupuncture differently, most people feel only a minimal amount of pain as the needles are inserted. Some people reportedly feel a sensation of excitement, while others feel relaxed. If you experience significant pain from the needles, it may be a sign that the procedure is being done improperly. When practiced by a licensed, trained acupuncturist, acupuncture is extremely safe.
As a system of health-care, acupuncture already has some inherent safeguards. Because the treatment is drug-free, patients do not have to worry about taking several doses of a medication or suffering a possible adverse reaction. Properly administered, acupuncture does no harm. However, there are certain conditions you should notify an acupuncturist about before undergoing treatment. If you have a pacemaker, for instance, you should not receive electroacupuncture due to the possibility of electromagnetic interference with the pacemaker.
What Can I expect during a visit?As with most health practitioners, the first visit to an acupuncturist usually begins with the practitioner taking a detailed history. Since traditional Chinese medicine takes a more holistic approach to patient care that Western medicine, you may be asked questions that appear unimportant (questions about your sleep habits, your ability to tolerate heat or cold, your dietary habits, etc.) but are actually vital to the type of care you will receive. After reviewing your history, the practitioner will begin diagnosing your ailment.
Depending on your condition, you may be subjected to an examination of the tongue, as well as the pulse – a major diagnostic technique in traditional Chinese medicine. Using all of the information obtained during the history and diagnosis, the practitioner will then determine the cause of your symptoms.
Depending on the condition, needles will be inserted into specific acupuncture points on the body. Generally, the patient does not have to disrobe for the needles to be inserted. The clothing can typically be manipulated to account for the space the needles require. The acupuncturist may use moxa or electrical stimulation to enhance acupuncture’s therapeutic effect. Depending on the seriousness and the length of your condition, your first visit may take between 60 – 90 minutes. Follow up visits generally last 45 – 60 minutes.
When will I get better?
Each individual responds differently to the acupuncture techniques. Your response may vary from immediate to delayed progression. In addition to the length of response, changes may be dramatic or slow and subtle. The only way to distinguish your rate of response is through your own awareness of change.
The number of treatments needed to alleviate a disorder varies depending on the individual and their type of disorder. Generally, acute conditions can be treated effectively within a few treatments. Chronic conditions, which have been developed over years, may lengthen the period of time for positive results. With pain conditions, look for any diminished effect regarding the intensity. With treatment of functional disorders, such as allergies, the desired effects may progress slower than anticipated.
Occasionally, symptoms of an illness may temporarily increase after treatment starts. This is known as “the healing crisis.” The body is rallying its strength and is a positive sign to altering its old patterns.
Is it expensive and will my insurance cover it?
Our fee for an initial visit is $120 and follow up visits are $80. Herbs cost approximately $15 – $20 for a ten day supply.
Currently, many insurance plans are reimbursing clients for acupuncture treatments. As of 2014, Sana Vida is considered an In Network provider for United Healthcare. Additionally, Medicare did not recognize Licensed Acupuncturists as approved providers. Therefore, Sana Vida is unable to file Medicare for patient reimbursement.
As early as the 1970’s, the World Health Organization recognized the ability of acupuncture to treat nearly four dozen common ailments. The following is a list of conditions commonly treated with acupuncture.
Colds & flu
Repetitive stress injury
Irritable bowel syndrome
Morning & motion sickness
Side affects of oncology support
One of our specialties is infertility. Acupuncture and IVF are having a lot of success these days.
In December 2002 a group of physician/scientists at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center cited several promising fertility boosting benefits of acupuncture and called for a definitive study of acupuncture as a fertility treatment. Other studies have shown success rates boosted to 50% with IVF. Some of the benefits listed in their article in Fertility and Sterility are:
Increased blood flow to the uterus and resulting uterine wall thickening
Increased endorphine production which is believed to effect the release of GnRH, involved in regulating reproduction
Lower stress hormones responsible for infertility
Impact on plasma levels of FSH, LH, estradiol and progesterone, all fertility hormones
Normalization of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian process
A positive effect for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome
See BBC News | HEALTH | Acupuncture “boosts IVF success” for more information on these studies.
Digital Meridian Graphing – Ancient Medicine with a Modern TechniqueTraditional Chinese acupuncture has a history of at least 5,000 years. The theoretical construct of this form of health care rests on the idea that a universal energy form, known as Qi (pronounced “chee”) flows in specific channels throughout the body. These channels are known as meridians.
There are 12 main paired meridians in the body; “paired” refers to the fact that each meridian is mirrored on opposite sides of the body. The 12 main meridians are named for organs or organ systems, though their energy flow does not necessarily directly affect the organs after which the meridians are named. According to acupuncture theory, all ill health, disease, pathology, etc. are caused by energetic imbalances among these 12 meridians, causing excesses or deficiencies of energy in specific channels.
In the early 1950’s Dr. Yoshio Nakatani noted areas of altered electrical conductivity on the skin of patients with various diseases. These areas were found to be points of approximately 1 cm diameter, generally in lines following the classical Chinese acupuncture meridians. Because these points offered increased electrical conductance, he named these points, “ryodoraku” (ryo=good, ‘do=electro conductive, ‘raku=line.)
Dr. Nakatani refined his procedures to encompass both diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis was performed with an electrical instrument that measured electrical conductivity of the skin. By measuring the conductivity of each meridian, energetic excesses and deficiencies could be located. Treatment consisted of stimulating specific acupuncture points to either “tonify” a deficient meridian, or “sedate” an excessive meridian. An additional set of acupuncture points was used to balance meridians that showed significant energetic differences between the right and left sides of the body.
Since Dr. Nakatani’s original work, a variety of research studies have sought to further the body of knowledge about ryodoraku diagnosis and treatment and the electrical characteristics of the acupuncture meridians. The result is that there can be no doubt the acupuncture meridians are electrically active. Increased conductance and propagation along acupuncture meridians has been measured, and noted to change with acupuncture needle insertion and duration of illness. Further, the meridians have been shown to also conduct light, and produce visible energy signatures on Kirlian photography. Acupuncture points also differ thermally from surrounding skin.
Because ryodoraku diagnosis consists of measuring skin resistance, much research has focused on the reliability of these measurements. Results have shown that typical skin resistance varies between 500 and 9 million ohms and that acupuncture points and entire meridians can be readily located within 5 mm by measuring skin resistance, which will vary by a factor of 2x-6x from surrounding skin. These measurements have been shown to be reliable across a variety of measurement voltages and procedures.