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Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine FAQs

What is AOM?

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, also referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, is a comprehensive medical system with a long history of preventing and treating a wide range of illness from musculoskeletal problems to allergies to organ disease.

One of the reasons for the effectiveness of TCM is its ability to address a patient’s individual health concerns. Individualized treatment is something TCM can offer to every patient. The diagnostic methods employed by a TCM practitioner, namely feeling a patient’s pulse and observing their tongue, allows the practitioner to assess the myriad of physical and mental factors contributing to the patient’s condition and develop a treatment plan according to those various factors. This emphasis on holism, totality and individualization is one of the key features of Oriental medicine and one of its most prominent differences from conventional biomedicine.

Another strength of acupuncture and Oriental medicine is its ability to correct the underlying cause of disease not just the presentation of symptoms. While bothersome symptoms will be addressed at each acupuncture appointment, the ultimate effect of TCM will be to stimulate the body’s self-correcting mechanisms and restore healthy functioning. Because every patient will respond to Oriental medicine at different speeds it is important to speak to your practitioner about the frequency and number of treatments you should receive.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the insertion of very thin needles in specific points on the body to balance the flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”). It is part of a complete medical system and integrated approach to health maintenance and treatment of disease. According to the National Institute of Health, over one million people in the US receive acupuncture annually.

How does acupuncture work?

Qi is the internal energy which circulates through the body along multiple pathways known as meridians. This Qi is said to initiate, control and direct all activities, functions and processes in the body; it also warms and protects the body, supports the tissues and holds blood and fluids within the body. The obstruction or deficiency of Qi will therefore eventually lead to pain and illness. Acupuncture stimulates the points along the meridians to adjust and balance the flow of Qi and restore health.

Is acupuncture painful?

Unlike hypodermic needles, acupuncture needles are ultra thin and flexible, thereby permitting a nearly painless insertion. You may feel some heaviness, distention, tingling, or electric sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected meridian. However, you should feel relaxed during and after the treatment.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is very safe when practiced by a trained acupuncturist using sterile, disposable needles. All of the needles used at Emperor’s College Community Acupuncture Clinic are of this type.

Are there any side effects?

Harmful side effects to acupuncture are very rare. Occasionally there may be a drop of blood when the needles are removed, or slight bruising may occur at the point of the needle insertion. This is not dangerous and should not be cause for concern for most people.

How deep do the needles go?

The depth of the needles depends on the nature of the problem and the location of the points. Usually, needles are inserted from 1/2 to 1 inch in depth.

Can I combine acupuncture with other medical treatments?

Acupuncture can readily be used along side conventional biomedicine, osteopathic or chiropractic adjustments, or naturopathic prescriptions. It is important that you inform your acupuncturist of all your other treatments.

How long will treatments take?

An initial consultation and treatment can take one and a half to two hours. A complete medical history is taken, an oriental medical diagnosis made, a treatment is administered, and an herbal prescription may be developed. Follow-up visits typically take a little over an hour to an hour and a half.

Do I need to prepare anything before I have an acupuncture treatment?

Before you come into the clinic, make sure that you have a light meal and drink enough water. Also wear comfortable clothes. And please bring a list of any medications you are using, along with dosages. Please do not have alcohol or take recreational drugs before your treatment.

How many treatments will I need?

Because each person is unique and types of conditions differ, the number of treatments varies. Generally, chronic conditions require one or two treatments per week for several months. Those with acute illnesses can expect a change within a few visits. You should discuss with your acupuncturist how frequently you should come in and how many treatments are needed to maximize your results.

Does insurance pay acupuncture treatment?

A number of insurance companies and health care plans cover the cost of acupuncture treatments and that number seems to be growing every year. Emperor’s College Community Acupuncture Clinic provides billing summaries for patient reimbursement, but does not bill insurance directly.

Will acupuncture help me?

The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture and traditional Oriental medicine’s ability to treat over 43 common disorders including:

Respiratory Disorders: e.g., emphysema, sinusitis, asthma, allergies, and bronchitis.

Gastrointestinal Disorders: e.g., food allergies, peptic ulcer, chronic diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, gastrointestinal weakness, anorexia, and gastritis.

Urogenital Disorders: e.g., stress incontinence, urinary tract infections, and sexual dysfunction.

Gynecological Disorders: e.g., irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, infertility, menopause, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Disorders of the Bones, Muscles, Joints and Nervous System: e.g., arthritis, migraine headaches, neuralgia, insomnia, dizziness and low back pain, neck and should pain.

Circulatory Disorders: e.g., hypertension, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis, and anemia.

Emotional and Psychological Disorders: e.g., depression and anxiety.

Addictions: e.g., alcohol, nicotine, and drugs.

Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders.

What is Chinese herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine is one of the more important treatments used in traditional Chinese medicine. An herbal medicine prescription is often a combination of many herbs with one or two main ingredients that target the illness and other ingredients that individualize the formula to the patient’s specific condition. Sometimes, ingredients are needed to cancel out side effects of the main ingredients and some herbs require the use of other ingredients as a catalyst. The balance and interaction of the herbs are considered more important than the effect of individual ingredients.

Chinese herbal medicine often incorporates ingredients from all parts of plants, such as the leaf, stem, flower, root, and also ingredients from animals and minerals. Only materials known to be safe and effective are used today. Endangered species and toxic substances have been discontinued from use.

Is Chinese herbal medicine safe?

Chinese herbal medicine is extremely effective and safe though requires a considerable amount of training to understand its complexities and uses. Because medicinal herbs are whole substance rather than isolated compounds, they naturally contain properties that mitigate possible side effects. Chinese herbal medicine can safely be taken in conjunction with pharmaceutical drugs under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. You should also notify your prescribing physician of your desire to include herbal medicine or supplements into your health care plan.

Should I be taking herbal medicine?

Your acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will determine if you should be taking herbal medicine. Do not prescribe any kind of medication to yourself if you are not trained to do so.

How much does herbal medicine cost?

A one week supply of Chinese herbal medicine will vary depending on the specific herbs, dosage and place of purchase. At Emperor’s College a week of herbs will cost approximately $18-$25.

What is ear acupuncture?

Ear acupuncture, also referred to as auricular acupuncture, views the ear as a microsystem of the body and is proven to be effective in treating pain, indigestion, PMS, stress, anxiety, insomnia and provides addiction and weight loss support. In an ear acupuncture treatment, a brief medical intake and diagnosis will be performed before thin acupuncture needles are inserted at points in the ear. Needles are retained for approximately 15 minutes with total appointment time lasting 20-25 minutes.

What is tui na?

Tui na is a hands-on body therapy that utilizes techniques such as brushing, kneading, rolling, pressing, stretching and massage to treat musculoskeletal problems, range of motion issues, headaches and organic diseases.

What is moxibustion?

Moxibustion involves the burning of a Chinese herb called mugwort which is held above an acupuncture point or occasionally set to rest on an acupuncture point with close supervision of the practitioner. It is effective in treating arthritic pain, stiffness, menstrual cramps and reversing breached fetuses.

What is cupping?

Cupping is a suction technique that uses heat with glass or plastic cups to create a vacuum effect over specific area(s) of the body. Cupping is often used on the back, shoulders and neck to increase circulation, reduce muscle tension and clear respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and congestion.

What is electro-acupuncture?

Sometimes called electro-stimulation or e-stim, electro-acupuncture is a technique where the ends of acupuncture needles are attached to a small device which transmits gentle electrical currents through the needles. This painless technique is frequently used to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation and has been shown to effectively control chemotherapy induced nausea.

What is gua sha?

Gua sha involves rubbing of the skin with a round edged object to stimulate circulation at the site and enhances metabolic processes. Gua sha has a similar affect to cupping.

What are tai chi and qi gong?

Tai chi and qi gong are the Chinese equivalents to yoga focusing on internal health and wellbeing. They are known for their slow, gentle, meditative movements which are appropriate for people of all ages and all ability levels. Acupuncturists often encourage patients to incorporate tai chi and qi gong exercises into their daily lives as gentle, low-impact alternatives to competitive sports to promote circulation, strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, improve equilibrium, enhance immune functioning and reduce stress.