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Consumers Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Are acupuncturists required to use disposable needles?

Yes. It is unprofessional conduct for an acupuncturist to use a needle more than once. California Code of Regulations, Title 16, Section 1399.454.

How many acupuncture treatments will I need?

Unfortunately any practitioner who gives you a definitive answer in terms of an actual number of treatments is not being entirely truthful; they¡¯re guessing. For the truth is that there is no correct answer — everyone heals at their own pace. In addition, a good practitioner should never tell you on the phone how many treatments they even think it will take for you to feel better. We don¡¯t have a problem with an acupuncturist estimating, or even recommending a number of sessions as a course of treatment, but they have no business doing so until they¡¯ve at least seen you in their office. The issue here is that there are a number of variables in the healing equation, including the following:
— How long you¡¯ve had the condition. If your elbow has been bothering you for twenty years, you most likely will take longer than the person who tweaked their elbow last week.
— The nature of your complaint or illness. Many conditions are quickly resolved with Chinese medicine, including stress, anxiety, digestive issues, PMS, and many types of pain. On the other hand, deep-seated chronic illnesses, such as autoimmune conditions may take much longer.
— Your general health. We have seen many young and healthy patients seemingly heal right before our eyes in a single treatment. However, older patients, those in really poor health, and those on numerous medications tend to need more treatments.
— Your commitment to getting better. What you do at home in between treatments can make a huge difference in how quickly you heal. If you implement your practitioner¡¯s suggestions regarding dietary therapy, heating/cooling an injury, herbal formulas, and lifestyle changes, you can speed up your recovery dramatically.

How often acupuncture treatments will I need?

Acupuncturists may vary in their frequency of treatments. Some prefer to treat you weekly, and others may prefer to see you more than once a week. In general, acute conditions may require more frequent treatments, and chronic, long-standing conditions may be treated less frequently.

Acupuncture works only because of the placebo effect?

Actually, there¡¯s a lot more going on during acupuncture than just the placebo effect. Scientific studies have documented the effects of acupuncture on brain chemistry. When an acupuncture needle is inserted, it stimulates your peripheral nerves (those far from your brain), which sends impulses to your brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that act as your body¡¯s natural pain relievers. Those endorphins work much like the drugs morphine and codeine, but are completely natural and more effective in reducing pain. Endorphins can also have the effect of producing euphoric feelings, modulating appetite, and releasing sex hormones. In addition, at the site where the needle was inserted, researchers have found that white blood cell count increases up to 40%. Acupuncture works by causing physiologic changes in your body.

Poking needles in people is the only thing an acupuncturist does?

Actually, acupuncture is only one modality under the large umbrella of Chinese medicine. Many acupuncturists are also nationally certified Chinese herbalists. Beyond herbs and acupuncture, a practitioner may use food therapy, heat, cupping (a kind of suction), different kinds of bodywork, Qi Gong (like Tai Qi), and lifestyle changes to help the healing process.

My doctor will think I¡¯m crazy for trying acupuncture?

Currently, many large hospitals offer acupuncture to their patients. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have conducted research documenting the benefits of acupuncture for arthritis. Many doctors are strong supporters of using acupuncture as a complementary therapy for their patients. I believe that many western doctors embrace acupuncture, especially when other treatments have failed. Admittedly, there are certain medical conditions that should absolutely be treated through western medicine, but for many conditions, acupuncture is an appropriate treatment. If your doctor gives you negative feedback about acupuncture, chances are that they¡¯ve never even tried it.

Who can perform acupuncture?

Acupuncturists who maintain a valid license issued by the Acupuncture Board and physicians licensed by the Medical Board of California. A dentist or podiatrist licensed in California may also practice acupuncture, only within the scope of their respective licenses and if they have completed the necessary training required by their respective licensing board.

What is an acupuncturist allowed to do?

An acupuncturist is allowed to engage in the practice of acupuncture, electroacupuncture, perform or prescribe the use of oriental massage, acupressure, moxibustion, cupping, breathing techniques, exercise, heat, cold, magnets, nutrition, diet, herbs, plant, animal, and mineral products, and dietary supplements to promote, maintain, and restore health pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 4937.

What can I expect?

Needles are sterile, generally cause no bleeding upon entry or removal, with little or no pain being felt; however, slight bruising may be experienced on occasion. The number of treatments necessary will depend upon your condition, if your symptoms are chronic or acute and your health in general. The needles may vary in size, depending upon your condition and the course of treatment prescribed. In addition to needling your treatment may also include a variety of non-needling techniques such as moxibustion (heat), acupressure, herbal formulas, etc. One advantage of acupuncture treatment is the absence of serious side effects which may result from the use of prescription drugs.

Do I need a referral from my regular doctor to see an acupuncturist and will my insurance cover acupuncture treatment?

An acupuncturist is considered a primary care provider and a referral may or may not be required for insurance purposes. Many insurance companies do cover acupuncture treatment. For more information on insurance, please contact either your insurance company or an acupuncture association.