Answers
to Your
Questions
About Medical
Acupuncture

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is Acupuncture?
How Does it Work?
What is "Medical"
     Acupuncture?
What Can You Treat


How Many Treatments?
Any Side Effects to Expect?
Do The Needles Hurt?
Does It Really Work?
Do You Have to Believe?
Special Precautions?
What Does It Cost?


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Acupuncture: What is It?

Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning.  This is done by inserting needles at very precise acupuncture points. Often a mild electrical current or local heat is used to provide additional stimulation of the points.  TOP of page



 

How Does Acupuncture Work?

The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface.  These energy channels, called meridians, are like rivers flowing through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues.  An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up the flow in one part of the body and restricts it in others.
     The meridians can be influenced by needling the acupuncture points; the acupuncture needles unblock the obstructions at the dams, and reestablish the regular flow through the meridians.  Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body's internal organs to correct imbalances in their digestion, absorption, and energy production activities, and in the circulation of their energy through the meridians.
     The modern scientific explanation is that needling in the acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release endorphins and other chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain.  These chemicals will either change the experience of pain, or they will trigger the release of other substances and hormones, which influence the body's own internal regulating system.
     The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.  TOP of page



What is Medical Acupuncture?  Is it Different from Ordinary Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a very old medical art, and there are many approaches to learning and practicing it.  Medical acupuncture is the term used to describe acupuncture performed by a doctor trained and licensed in Western medicine who has also had thorough training in acupuncture as a specialty practice.  Such a doctor can use one or the other approach, or a combination of both, to treat an illness.  TOP of page



 

What Can be Treated with Medical Acupuncture?

Medical acupuncture is a system, which can influence three areas of health care:

  • promotion of health and well-being,

  • prevention of illness,

  • treatment of various medical conditions.

While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications.  Acupuncture can be effective as the only treatment used, or as the support or adjunct to other medical treatment forms in many medical and surgical disorders. 
     The World Health Organization recognizes the uses of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:

  • Digestive disorders: reflux, indigestion, gastritis and hyper-acidity, irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea.

  • Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections.

  • Neurological and muscular disorders: fibromyalgia, headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendonitis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis.

  • Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems including infertility.

Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress and emotional conditions.   TOP of page



 

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

The number of treatments needed differs from person to person.  For complex or long-standing conditions, one treatment per week will usually be used until the the best possible response is achieved. This will usually take 4 to 8 treatments, but sometimes up to several months of weekly treatment may be necessary.  Once  there is no further improvement, treatment intervals can be spaced out farther and farther apart, until it is clear how often the treatment is needed to maintain the benefit. This tends to be as frequently as once a month for some people, to every three months for others. Every six to eight weeks is pretty typical.
     For acute problems, just a few visits are required, and for health maintenance, four sessions a year may be all that is necessary.  TOP of page



 

Are There Any Side Effects to the Treatment?

Usually not.  As energy is redirected in the body, internal chemicals and hormones are stimulated and healing begins to take place.  Occasionally, the original symptoms worsen for a few days, or other general changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state may be triggered.  These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work.
     It is quite common with the first one or two treatments to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment.  These pass within a short time, and never require anything more than a bit of rest to overcome.  TOP of page



 

What Are the Needles Like?  Do They Hurt?

People experience acupuncture needling differently.  Most patients feel only minimal pain as the needles are inserted; some feel no pain at all.  Once the needles are in place, there may be a mild ache in the area, but no bothersome pain.
     Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid and are made from stainless steel.  The point is smooth (not hollow with cutting edges like a hypodermic needle) and insertion through the skin is not as painful as injections or blood sampling.  The risk of bruising and skin irritation is much less than when using a hollow needle. Sterilized, disposable needles are used so that there is no risk of infection.  TOP of page



 

Does Acupuncture Really Work?

Yes.  In the past 2,000 years, more people have been successfully treated with acupuncture than with all other health modalities combined.  Today, acupuncture is practiced in Asia, the now disbanded Soviet Union, and in Europe.  It is now being used more and more in American by patients and physicians.
     Acupuncture treatments can be given at the same time as other techniques are being used, such as conventional Western medicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments, and homeopathic or naturopathic prescriptions.  It is important that your physician-acupuncturist knows everything that your are doing, so he or she can help you get the most benefits from all your treatments.  TOP of page



 

Do You have to Believe in Acupuncture for it to Work?

No.  Acupuncture is used successfully on cats, dogs, horses, and other animals.  These animal patients do not understand or believe in the process that helps them get better.  A positive attitude toward wellness may reinforce the effects of the treatment received, just as a negative attitude may hinder the effects of acupuncture or any other treatment.  A neutral attitude (I don't know if I can really believe in this.) will not block treatment results.  TOP of page



 

Are There any Do's or Don'ts on the Day of Treatment?

Yes.  Acupuncture treatment should be given a chance to do its work in the body with the least interferance. To enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:

  • Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after your treatment.

  • Avoid really hot or really cold foods and beverages; avoid extremes of weather; do not let your neck or upper back get cold.

  • Do not over-exercise, engage in sexual activity, or consume alcoholic beverages within six hours before or after treatment.

  • Plan your activities so that after the treatments you can get some rest, or at least not have to be working at top performance.  This is especially important for the first few visits.

  • Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor.  Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) especially in the week prior to treatment will seriously interfere with the effectiveness of the acupuncture treatments.

  • Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment.  This is important for your doctor to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem.  TOP of page  



 

What does acupuncture cost; is it covered by health insurance?

In Northern Ohio, coverage for medical acupuncture treatments is not generally included as a covered service by insurance companies. So it is essentially an out-of-pocket expense for most people. Fees in various parts of the USA typically range from $60 to $125 per treatment. For acupuncture by Dr. Kelly at the Center for Family Medicine, most treatments cost $75. At the first visit for a patient new to the practice, there will also be a new patient charge that is covered by many insurance plans. If not covered by insurance, this one-time fee will be $83 in addition to the acupuncture treatment. In the long run, money may be saved by reduced medication expense and reduced sick days.   TOP of page