Acupuncture Q & A
What is acupuncture?
The ancient Chinese believed that there is a universal life energy called Chi or Qi present in every living creature. This energy forms and sustains our physical, mental, and emotional bodies. It can be identified and measured today as bio-electromagnetism, flowing along well delineated pathways. These pathways or meridians create the link between specific hypersensitive points (‘acupoints’) on the skin and specific illnesses or organ dysfunctions. We experience optimal health when our energy flow is ample and moving freely, enlivening all organs and tissues. Imagine the metaphor of rivers and streams that flow and feed into lakes and oceans. When drought, flood or blockages occur, the pathways and various forms of life that depend on the free flowing water are affected. When acupoints are manipulated by needles, heat, massage or electrical micro-currents, the imbalances that can eventually lead to pathology and illness, are remedied.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture employs very thin, disposable steel needles are typically 1/4 mm in diameter and 1 to 1.5 inches in length. The needle is solid and made of stainless steel. The tip and shaft of the needle are smooth (in contrast to a hypodermic needle that is hollow with sharp edges) and insertion through the skin feels very different than the sensation of an injection or of having blood taken. Some patients feel a slight pricking pain as the needles are inserted however many feel nothing at all. Once the needles are in place, there is typically very little sensation from the needle locally. More systemic sensations such as a heightened awareness of the body, a warm flowing sensation, tingling, movement (along treated meridian lines) of energy from one area of the body to another etc are considered normal and even beneficial. Most patients find treatments very relaxing and it is common for patients to fall asleep during the treatment.
How should I prepare for my first acupuncture appointment?
Before your first acupuncture treatment, be sure to eat a light meal, dress comfortably and prepare any questions you may have for the provider.
What is the typical procedure for an initial acupuncture treatment?
During your first visit (up to 90 minutes), your provider will take a detailed health history intake, make a comprehensive assessment and create an individualized treatment plan. During the intake, your symptoms, potential causative mechanisms and any treatment you’ve received so far will be discussed. Diet, digestive system functioning, sleep patterns, emotional states and other pertinent information will be addressed as well. Chinese medical pulse and tongue diagnosis will be taken and analyzed. The comprehensive assessment will result in an individualized diagnosis and treatment plan for your specific condition, which the provider will explain to you in detail. Your treatment plan may include recommendations for any or all of the following modalities described in greater detail below: acupuncture, Electro Acupuncunture, Chinese herbal therapy, cupping, moxibustion, gua sha or a referral for chiropractic or massage.
On your first visit, please plan to arrive 30 minutes early in order to fill out new patient paperwork. If you prefer, you may instead download it from our website, fill it out prior to your arrival and arrive at the time of your scheduled appointment. Be sure to bring your insurance information and claim number (for motor vehicle accident or worker’s compensation claims) with you.
Why do acupuncturists feel my pulse and look at my tongue?
There are twelve pulse positions on each wrist that your acupuncturist will palpate. Each position corresponds to a specific meridian and organ. Your acupuncturist will be looking for indicators that provide information about overall health. Imbalances often appear in the pulse. A number of indicators on the tongue also reflect the general health of the organs and meridians. Your acupuncturist for instance will look at the color, shape, cracks and coating on your tongue to assist them in your comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan.
What kind of education is required for an acupuncturist?
For an Acupuncturist to be licensed, they need to have completed at least three to four years of extensive graduate education at a nationally accredited school. In Oregon, all programs include a rigorous year long internship. Acupuncturists must also pass a national exam and meet strict guidelines to practice in every state and must also complete continuing education annually in order to maintain licensure. Acupuncturists in the state of Oregon are nationally board certified and licensed by the Oregon Medical Board.
Are there any negative side effects with acupuncture?
Typically there are no negative side effects. When energy in the body is manipulated, internal chemistry and hormones are affected as the healing response begins to take place. It’s very common to feel deeply relaxed and occasionally even a bit disoriented after a treatment. However responses to treatment vary with every individual. General fluctuations for example in appetite, sleep, bowel movements, emotional states and urination patterns can occur. Redness and swelling sometimes occur and there may be areas on your body that are tender even a few days after a treatment. Such after effects are not common but are more likely in a treatment for pain or injury. Original symptoms can also worsen as the body finds is way back to balance. Such reactions are not cause for concern as they are simply indications that movement resulting from the acupuncture is occurring.
Keep in mind that patients often seek treatment for conditions that are a byproduct of patterning that has been in place long before the symptom(s) that brought them to treatment appeared. Moving the body back naturally to a state of balance will require engaged efforts from both the practitioner and the patient. The process may also require the patient to feel a little ‘uncomfortable’ as they adjust to old habits and patterns giving way to more balanced ways of being in the world.
How many acupuncture treatments will I need?
The recommended number and frequency of treatments will vary from person to person and depend on a variety of things including but not limited to the condition being treated, the patients treatment goals, the patients age and overall general health, the patients willingness to make modifications to their habits as well as their comfortability with change. Generally, acute problems require more frequent treatments for a shorter period of time, whereas chronic conditions typically require a longer course of treatment.
Is acupuncture safe for kids?
Yes. In some instances children actually respond more quickly than adults. If your child has an aversion to needles, your acupuncturist may massage the acupuncture points. This is called acupressure or tuina.
What does acupuncture treat?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of common illnesses including:
• Digestive: Abdominal pain, Constipation, Diarrhea, Hyperacidity, Indigestion
• Emotional: Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Nervousness, Neurosis
• Eye-Ear-Nose-Throat: Poor vision, Tinnitis, Toothache, TMJ, Sinusitis
• Gynecological: Infertility, Menopause symptoms, PMS
• Musculoskeletal: Arthritis, Muscle cramping, Muscle pain & weakness, Neck & Back pain, Fibromyalgia
• Neurological: Headaches, Migraines, Parkinson’s disease, Postoperative pain, Sciatica pain, Stroke
• Respiratory: Asthma, Bronchitis, Common cold, Smoking cessation
• Others: Addiction, Chronic fatigue, Immune system problems, Pain control
Do I need a doctor’s referral for acupuncture?
It depends on your insurance plan, most patients do not request a doctor’s referral but it’s important to verify this with your insurance before scheduling an appointment.
Chiropractic Q & A
How Does Chiropractic Work?
Chiropractors are trained to identify changes in movement. Every spinal joint has nerves and small muscles that are densely packed with special cells (mechanoreceptors) that relay information about the body’s movement and it’s position in relation to the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain). This makes up approximately 90% of the body’s sensory input to the brain. When a joint stops moving, a cascade of events is initiated. Some of these changes include a buildup of inflammation in the surrounding tissues and an inability of the muscles to change length (muscles can’t move if the joint doesn’t move). As a result, the brain loses the information it needs to maintain appropriate muscle contractions and smooth coordination of body movement.
In most circumstances, joint injuries are due to the failure of the soft tissues that support the structures of a joint. Approximately 80% of stabilization of a joint is performed by muscles and tendons. Ligaments provide a strong elastic barrier at the end of a joint’s range of motion and assist in keeping the joint from moving beyond that range. When joints are under stress the nervous system responds: the brain tells the appropriate nerves to communicate to the appropriate muscle groups to contract and relax in a sequence that will protect the joint. When muscles fail to protect the joint either due to incorrect input or because the joint is fixated, damage to muscles, support ligaments and the joint capsule results. Mild inefficiencies in the nerve/muscle response to movement may result in minor damage to the joint structures but at levels not measurable. If the body is healthy and strong enough, the surrounding structures are able to compensate. The damage becomes measurable when swelling is visable or felt, limping/lameness is present or a change is identifiable on x-ray.
Only Chiropractors are trained to diagnose aberrant joint mechanics in the subclinical stages and correct them before they cause further damage. For this reason it is important to visit a chiropractor even if you are not currently experiencing any discomfort. Athletes should consider more regular chiropractic treatments because their bodies undergo unusual stresses and minor imbalances that can very quickly escalate into serious injuries.
Why do I ‘pop’ during a chiropractic adjustment?
The popping sound frequently heard during a chiropractic adjustment comes from the release of gas found naturally in joints. When a restricted joint moves, small amounts of gas often escape. This gas is typically replenished in approximately 20 minutes. In contrast, if a joint pops every time it’s moved (more frequently than 20 minutes), the sound may be coming from a taut tendon for which soft tissue manipulative therapy is effective.
General Treatment Q & A
Will my insurance cover treatment?
Many insurance companies now cover acupuncture, chiropractic and massage treatments including Kaiser, CHP, BCBS, ODS, Healthnet, Aetna, Pacific Source, First Choice, Health Republic and Providence Direct.
Guidelines for hydrotherapy (applying ice/heat to an injury)
We recommend talking to a physician before self-prescribing the use of heat or ice however the following information provides some general guidelines to be aware of. Never sleep with an ice or heat pack. Heat and/or ice should not be used for more than 10 minutes at a time. If ice or heat has been recommended to you, follow the protocol of 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off. This allows the body to return to proper temperature before re-applying. Depending on the injury, treatment time will vary. In general, a new injury calls for RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). With injuries, one of the biggest factors that increases damage is inflammation. The purpose of icing an injury is to decrease inflammation however when body temperature is significantly decreased for prolonged periods of time, the body thinks it is becoming hypothermic (too cold). In such instances, the body responds by sending more blood to an iced area. If such cases, more inflammation and more damage may occur. Ice should typically be used for the first 3 days after an injury and during any relapses.
Heat is useful to bring blood to an area (increase circulation) and is typically used for more chronic conditions to relax sore /stiff muscles or reduce muscle spasms. For the first 10 to 15 minutes the heat will act to relax muscles. After that however the heat may result in too much blood into the area which can result in more pain and stiffness. Alternating treatments are also a useful protocol as cold reduces inflammation and heat increases circulation. Using both hot and cold alternately creates a pumping effect where inflammation is pumped out of a problem area by icing and fresh blood is circulated into an area, supporting tissue healing by applying heat. Adjusting the times for the hot and cold treatments are typically associated with individual conditions. Note: applying heat to an area of the body may be done with a hot pack or warm water/ bath. Consult your practitioner for individual or treatment specific hydrotherapy recommendations.