What to Expect From Acupuncture Treatment


Most frequent questions and answers

Modern acupuncture needles are stainless steel, and are between one-half and three inches long, ultra-fine, and quite flexible. 

They are pre-sterilized, non-toxic, and disposable (single-use).When the needles are tapped into the skin, there may not be any sensation. Much depends on the location (hands and feet tend to be more sensitive), the condition being treated, and the acupuncturist’s technique. Needles are typically placed in several acu-points and are usually left in about 15 to 20 minutes. The goal is to normalize the circulation of Qi and blood by stimulating the energy point, which encourages the body’s natural healing process. Stimulation can be done by rotating the needles manually or attaching electrodes to send a weak electric current through the needles (electroacupuncture). The number of treatments needed depends upon the duration, severity, and nature of your health condition. 

Two or three treatments may be sufficient for an acute condition, while a series of five to 15 treatments may be needed to resolve chronic conditions. Some degenerative conditions may require ongoing treatments over a long period of time. 

May include Moxibustion (burning herbs to heat acu-points), Fire Cupping (suction with Fire using glass cups), Auricular therapy (ear acupuncture), Acupressure, and Foot Reflexology. 

Patients should evaluate their progress after each session. Some relief should be apparent in two or three sessions, or six to eight sessions for more pervasive conditions. If you see encouraging signs, stick with it. 

Having an acupuncture treatment if you are very hungry or tired is not recommended.

Occasionally, some bruising may occur after treatment. If you have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinning medications, you should inform your acupuncturist before undergoing treatment. 

If you are pregnant or have a pacemaker, tell your acupuncturist so that the appropriate herbs and acu-points will be chosen.

In the course of your treatment Asian herbal remedies may be prescribed.  They may be dispensed as raw herbs or in pills, capsules, granules, or tinctures which make them easier to ingest. Most herbal formulas can treat a wide variety of symptoms while stimulating the body’s natural healing process. Acupuncturists are the only licensed health care professionals in California who are required to be trained and tested for competency in prescribing herbal medicine.  Asian herbal medicine has been practiced safely and effectively for centuries and has the greatest potential for beneficial results when prescribed by a trained professional who recognizes both the benefits and risks. 

In recent years, herbs have become very popular to self-treat many conditions.  They are available in health food stores, supermarkets, and on the Internet.  While herbs are promoted as safe, gentle, inexpensive, “natural” alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, many health care professionals have concerns about safety, effectiveness, and potential misuse of herbal products, especially when self-prescribed.  There are also questions of purity, strength, and standardization of herbs. 

The California Acupuncture Board strongly recommends consulting an acupuncturist before beginning any herbal therapy. It is also very important to inform both your physician and acupuncturist of all the products you are currently taking (drugs, herbs, other supplements) so they can monitor effectiveness, ensure safety from adverse reactions, and watch for possible interactions. If you have an allergic reaction to any herbs, let your acupuncturist know. 

How effective the treatment is depends on the severity and nature of the condition being treated. Acupuncturists are trained to identify conditions that may require referral to a specialist, so it is important for you to provide detailed information about your condition so that important medical problems are not overlooked. 

If you are under the simultaneous care of different health practitioners, it is important to keep all of them informed about your treatments to ensure there are no adverse interactions. 

The following is a list of health conditions commonly treated by licensed acupuncturists. 

  • allergies/asthma • immune system deficiency • anxiety/depression • knee pain
  • arthritis/joint problems • menopausal discomfort
  • back pain • musculoskeletal injuries
  • bladder/kidney problems • premenstrual syndrome
  • constipation/diarrhea • paralysis/numbness
  • colds/influenza • rhinitis
  • cough/bronchitis • sciatica
  • dizziness • sexual dysfunction
  • drug/alcohol/smoking addiction • side effects of chemotherapy • fatigue • sinusitis
  • gastrointestinal disorders • skin problems
  • gynecological disorders • stress/tension
  • headache/migraine • stroke rehabilitation
  • heart problems/ palpitations • tendonitis
  • high blood pressure

Patients of acupuncture range from infants to senior citizens.They may be seeking an alternative to Western medicine or it may be their last hope for relief, having exhausted other methods of treatment for a chronic condition. Or, an acupuncturist may be their first choice of health care practitioner for a low-risk form of treatment with few side effects. 

Some California insurance plans include acupuncture treatment in their policies.Ask your insurer about coverage or reimbursement. Some plans that do not routinely cover acupuncture may pay for treatments if they are recommended by a physician. Many acupuncturists are providers for traditional PPO and HMO plans. 

Acupuncturists are currently covered under California State Medi-Cal and Worker’s Compensation (Note: Subsequent laws passed by the California Legislature may affect this coverage.) 

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