Acupuncture is one the primary treatment methods of Eastern Medicine. It uses the gentle, shallow insertion of very thin stainless steel needles into specific spots on your body called acupuncture points to stimulate and reinforce various healing processes in the body.
If you feel anything, it's usually no more than a light pricking sensation upon insertion that disappears right away‚ but everyone is different and this varies from person to person. Keep in mind that these thin solid needles are very different from the much larger hollow tubes used in hypodermic needles that can hurt a lot (versus the very light prick of an acupuncture needle).
After insertion you may feel the movement of Qi energy in the form of a tingly, warm, cool, or electric sensation - this is a good thing! The next thing you should feel is a sense of relaxation as naturally occurring endorphins and opiates in your body get released and shift your body from the sympathetic overdrive reality of 'fight or flight' to the parasympathetic reality of 'relax, heal, digest, and sleep'. This sets the stage for healing to begin!
The initial acupuncture visit usually takes you about 1.5 hours. After you complete the initial paperwork (please do this in advance, or arrive 15 minutes early), I will take you into a private treatment room where we will discuss your symptoms and health history in detail.
As Acupuncture & Eastern Medicine is holistic in nature, I will ask you a long series of questions. They range from how your energy fluctuates during the day to what your sleep and digestion are like. The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for me to diagnose and treat you.
We’ll also review the forms that you completed for your initial acupuncture visit, along with any relevant lab tests you may have. This discussion usually takes 30-60 minutes of the initial visit, depending on the complexity of your case.
Besides asking you questions, I’ll be also be gathering information by observing, listening, and touching injured areas and acupuncture points and channels.
At some point I will ask to see your tongue (please don’t brush your tongue for a day before your visit). I’ll be observing the size, shape and color of the tongue body, the color of the tongue coating, the location of any abnormalities on the tongue, and the spirit of the tongue. All this provides additional information for your Eastern Medicine diagnosis.
I will also feel your pulses on both wrists. This provides detailed information on the state of energy in your body and may reveal additional issues to discuss. I may also palpate other areas of your body to examine injuries, levels of muscle tension and tenderness, and press points on your abdomen as well to check for tightness and discomfort.
After observing and talking with you, I’ll formulate an Eastern Medicine diagnosis that will provide the basis for your treatment plan and prognosis. Your treatment plan will include acupuncture and other methods of treatment. Over the course of the treatment plan, usually 2-4 weeks at 1-2 times per week, you should start feeling significantly better.
I’ll then administer an acupuncture treatment. Patients usually lie comfortably on their back and get treated on the front of their body. If needed, you may also lie on your stomach with a comfortable headrest and cushioning and get an acupuncture treatment on your back.
The treatment room will be warm; the massage table heated, and there’ll be pleasant music playing in the background. Most people experience a nice relaxation feeling as the their body releases natural endorphins and other healing promoting chemicals in response to the insertion of the acupuncture needles. After the needles are in you’ll rest for about 30 minutes. Patients often have a nice restorative power nap. I’ll check on you during the treatment to see how you are doing, and remove your needles at the end of the treatment.
Besides acupuncture, I may do bodywork and manual therapy in the form of acupressure, suction cups, or scraping (guasha). I also use Chinese herbal medicine, heat including moxibustion, therapeutic exercises, lifestyle counseling, nutritional supplements, and nutritional counseling to help you heal and get back into balance more quickly.
During and after the treatment I’ll review and discuss any recommendations I may have for you, along with your prognosis and treatment plan.
Yes, in the hands of a licensed and skilled practitioner acupuncture is very safe.
Occasionally (1 out of 20 times or so) there may be a drop of blood when I take a needle out. If this happens, I immediately wipe with a sterile cotton ball. Acupuncture needles are so thin you won’t be able to see where the needle was located. Very rarely there may be a bruise caused by an acupuncture needle.
The most dangerous events, pneumothorax or organ puncture, almost never happen with a licensed professional. Infection is non-existent – I only use sterile disposable needles in my acupuncture practice.
Before I treat you with acupuncture you’ll need to read and sign an Informed Consent Form. This form describes all the very rare things that can go wrong with acupuncture, so read it carefully and let me know if you have any questions. By signing this form, you give me permission to give you an acupuncture treatment.
Perhaps the most convincing fact that describes why acupuncture is safe – our malpractice rates are extremely low compared to other health professions – about $700/year!
We usually use anywhere from 5-15 acupuncture needles in the initial treatment session, with an average of 9 needles. Your body’s sensitivity to acupuncture and health condition determine how many acupuncture needles would be needed. As my understanding of your body and health condition increases, the number of needles used may change.
Acupuncture needle retention lasts for about 30 minutes. This gives your body’s qi or energy enough time to finish one complete circuit of the body. This does however depend on your body type – it could take more or less time. The treatment tables are heated; there is soothing music in the background – it’s all very relaxing and restorative, and patients often fall asleep and experience the ultimate power nap.
As part of your Acupuncture & Eastern medical treatment, I may prescribe a Chinese herbal formula for you to take, usually as tablets or capsules.
Chinese herbal medicine is a highly refined system of natural medicine that uses plant, animal, and mineral products to harmonize organ systems and gently adjust your body’s physiology back into balance. This complements the acupuncture that you may also be receiving.
A Chinese herbal formula usually has anywhere from 5 to 20 herbs in it. Each herb in the formula has on the average about 3-5 active chemical substances that affect change in the body. So if a formula has 15 herbs in it, we’re looking at 45-75 active chemicals affecting change. Because the actual dosage of each particular chemical in a traditional Chinese formula is so low, this makes the chance of side effects also very low, and very safe.
In contrast, a Western medicine drug is composed of a single pure chemical, and this greatly increases the risk of side effects. A useful analogy contrasts how a sledgehammer creates change versus many small levers. While pharmaceutical drugs have their uses, depending on your condition, it is often prudent to try herbal formulas first.
The herbal formula I give you will most likely be in tablet or capsule form. If your case is complex and requires a custom formula, I would write you a prescription. You would either pick up directly from an herbal dispensary or get it drop shipped. There is an additional cost for herbal formulas, which usually run $20-30/week.
This question ”Are Chinese herbs safe?” is legitimate, given that there are thousands of animal, vegetable, and mineral products used within Chinese herbal medicine. The short answer is “Yes!”. Chinese herbs are extremely safe in comparison to Western medicine, where pharmaceutical drugs are the third leading cause of death.
Some traditional substances are no longer used. For example, at one point in Chinese history lead and mercury were used as part of longevity formulas. Obviously, we now know that these elements are harmful and no longer use them.
There has been a lot of change in China over the past few of decades as its economy has grown dramatically, but unfortunately with very little pollution regulation. These changes could affect the medicinal herb industry, and I only dispense the highest quality Chinese herbal medicine preparations.
I purchase herbal products only from companies that do rigorous independent testing for pesticides and heavy metals, are GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified, and track their lots of herbs so that if there ever is a problem it can be traced. While these procedures do increase the expense of Chinese herbal products, they ensure that you would be getting the highest quality. I primarily use products from Evergreen Herbs and Blue Poppy Herbs (links go to information about their quality assurance processes).
Eastern Medicine has roots in China that go back 2000-3000 years. It is based on the philosophy of Daoism (aka Taoism), which views health, life and the universe through the interaction of Yin and Yang energies (hot/cold, expanding/contracting, active/still, diffuse/dense). In this paradigm, health is defined by the appropriate balance of these phenomena within and with the universe, which is in a state of constant change.
Eastern Medicine is a system of medicine that helps your body find balance with change without resorting to harsh/dangerous drugs or surgery. Using acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and other methods, it is a safe, gentle, and subtle but powerful force for 'positive' or 'balanced' change.
As a practitioner of Eastern Medicine and a Licensed Acupuncturist, my intention is to apply the principles and practices of Eastern Medicine to help you regain balance, heal yourself, and, as needed, find deeper meanings to what health and wellness are for you.
Acupressure is a method for stimulating your acupuncture points with pressure from fingers. We often use it as a gentle way to prepare your body for acupuncture, and it can be helpful with diagnosis and acupuncture point selection.
Moxa is another technique for stimulating your acupuncture points that uses heat. A dried herb called artemesia (mugwort) in the form of a cigar or cone is placed close to an acupuncture point and burned. You’ll feel a pleasant warm sensation as the heat slowly penetrates the skin and activates the acupuncture point.
Cupping (or myofascial decompression) uses glass suction cups that stick to your body because of a vacuum inside of the cup. The cup sucks in and resets your body’s tissue (skin, fascia, muscles, nerves, veins, and arteries), breaks up adhesions, and the relief is often immediate. This treatment became very popular at the last Olympics in Brazil.
From an Eastern Medicine perspective, the cups are sucking out stagnation and dampness from your body, and increasing circulation to help your body heal more quickly.
Cupping may leave circular bruises on your skin (like hickies) that go away after a few days. It’s also become very popular in Beverly Hills, where Hollywood starlets are often photographed leaving their acupuncturist’s office with purple circles on their shoulders/back.
Guasha, also known as scraping or dermal friction, involves the use of an instrument with a rounded edge such as a Chinese soup spoon that is scraped along your skin after your skin has been coated with oil. This technique is a form of deep tissue bodywork therapy and the results can be dramatic. Like suction cups, this technique may leave bruises on the skin that disappear after a few days.
Lafayette Acupuncture & Functional Medicine:
Experienced Acupuncturist & Functional Medicine Provider serving Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda.