Frequently Asked Questions

What is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?
The theory and practice of acupuncture is based on Oriental medicine (also known as traditional Chinese medicine), a comprehensive natural health care system that has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years to preserve health and diagnose, treat and prevent illness. — Acupuncture treats health conditions by stimulating “acu-points” found at specific locations on the surface of the body. Acupunturists stimulate the acu-points by inserting very thin needles through the skin to produce physiological effects.— Other methods are also used to stimulate acu-points, such as heat or finger-pressure. — The general theory of acupuncture is that proper physiological function and health depend on the circulation of nutrients, substances and energy called Qi (pronounced “chee”). through a network of “channels” or “meridians”. This network connects every organ and part of the body, providing balance, regulation and coordination of physiological processes. — Pain and ill-health result when the flow of Qi through the body is disrupted or blocked by many things, including disease, pathogens, trauma/injuries and medication (side-effects), as well as lifestyle factors such as overwork, poor diet, emotions, lack of rest and stress.— Stimulation of the appropiate acu-points through acupuncture treatments helps to restore sufficient, continuous and even flow of Qi and other nutrients throughout the body, thereby restoring health and balance to the body, while relieving pain and other symptoms.— The acupuncturist uses a sophisticated and complex system of diagnostic methods that take into consideration the person as a whole, discerning the body’s pattern of disharmony rather than isolated symptoms. The aim is not only to eliminate or alleviate symptoms, but more importantly to treat the underlying cause, increase the ability to function and improve the quality of life.— Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is one of the newest primary health care professions in California. The potential benefits of acupuncture are widely recognized, and it is being increasingly integrated with mainstream health care. Since the 1970′s, when acupuncture and Oriental medicine first became available in the United States, more than 15 million Americans have tried it. The risk of side effects is low and the potential benefits are high. Knowing what to expect from acupuncture will help patients get the most benefit from treatments.

What is the Eastern explanation of how Acupuncture works?
The Eastern explanation for how acupuncture works is that the life energy flowing through the body, which is called Qi (pronounced “chee”) can be influenced and balanced by stimulating specific points on the body. These points are located along channels of energy (known as meridians) that connect all of our major organs. According to Chinese medical theory, illness arises when the cyclical flow of Qi in the meridian becomes unbalanced or is blocked.

What is the Western explanation of how Acupuncture works?
Western medicine views acupuncture points as areas of designated electrical sentsitivity. Inserting needles at these points stimulates various sensory receptors that, in turn, stimulate nerves that transmit impulses to the hypothalamus-pituitary system at the base of the brain. The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing hormones. It is estimated that endorphins are 200 times more potent than morphine. Endorphins also play a big role in the functioning of the hormonal system. This is why acupuncture works so well for conditions like back pain and arthritis, but also for infertility or menopause. These substances that are released as a result of acupuncture not only relax the whole body, they regulate serotonin in the brain, which plays a role in human emotion and mood. This can explain why depression, along with other mental conditions are often treated with TCM. Some of the other physiological effects observed throughout the body include increased circulation, decreased inflammation, relief from pain and muscle spasms, and increased T-cell count, which stimulates the immune system.

What do the initials “O.M.D.” and D.A.O.M.” stand for?
The initials O.M.D. stand for “Doctor of Oriental Medicine”, and D.A.O.M stand for “Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine”; these are academic titles (similar to Ph.D.). These titles may only be used by those licensed acupuncturists who possess an earned doctorate degree, from a California accredited, approved and/or authorized educational institute as set forth in Section 94760 of the California Education Code. These initials must be used in conjunction with the representation that the individual is a licensed acupuncturist as set forth in Business & Professions Code, Section 4927 and 4937, the California Code of Regulations, Title 16, Section 1399.456, and Attorney General Opinion No. 87-103 .

Are Acupuncturists required to take continuing education?
Yes. In the state of California, Acupuncturists are required to take a minimum of 50 Credit-Hours (Units) of continuing education every 2 years to maintain their licenses. Licenses are renewed every 2 years.

What is an Acupuncturist allowed to do?
An acupuncturist is allowed to engage in the practice of acupuncture, electroacupuncture, perform or prescribe the use of oriental massage, acupressure, moxibustion, cupping, breathing techniques, exercise, heat, cold, magnets, nutrition, diet, herbs, plant, animal, and mineral products, and dietary supplements to promote, maintain, and restore health.

What can I expect from an Acupuncture Treatment?
Diagnosis: An acupuncturist’s diagnosis is determined in part using methods similar to other health care practitioners: asking patients for a thorough history of their health, diet, exercise patterns and chief complaints; performing a physical exam, ordering laboratory tests, X-rays or MRI’s; and making a referral to a specialist, as necessary. However, the acupuncturist also uses unique diagnostic techniques, such as taking a patient’s pulse on both wrists and observing the tongue, complexion and other signs. The three pulses felt on each wrist are thought to correspond to certain organs and functions. The practitioner should explain the nature of your problem, the recommended treatment plan and an anticipated prognosis (outcome).— Techniques used may include: moxibustion (burning herbs to heat acupoints), cupping (suction), auricular therapy (ear acupuncture), tui na (manipulation) and acupressure.— 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. Ask your practitioner questions about your treatment and improvement. If your response to treatment is not satisfactory, the practitioner may consider further diagnostic exams, modify the treatment plan or refer to an appropiate practitioner, if necessary.— Treatment Precautions: It is not recommended to have an acupuncture treatment if you are very hungry or extremely tired.— Some bruising may occasionally occur after needling. 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 the acupuncturist so that appropiate herbs and acu-points will be chosen.—

What about the needles?
Traditonal Treatment Procedures— Modern acupuncture needles are stainless steel, between one-half and three inches long, unltra-fine and quite flexible. They are pre-sterilized, nontoxic and disposible (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 20-40 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).

How many treatments will be required?
The number of treatments 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 5 to 15 treatments may be needed to resolve chronic conditions. Some degenerative conditions may require ongoing treatments over a long period of time.

Can Acupuncturists prescribe herbal remedies for treatment?
Yes. 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, 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.— In California, acupuncturists are the only licensed health care professionals who are required to be trained and tested for competency in prescribing herbal medicine. California-approved acupuncture schools offer a minimum of 450 classroom hours of instruction in traditional Oriental herbology in addition to clinical training. The California Acupuncture Board strongly recommends consulting an acupuncturist before beginning any herbal therapy. Also, it is 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.

Should my Doctor know if I am receiving Acupuncture treatment?
Yes. If you are receiving treatment from your doctor (Primary Care Physician or Specialist) then it makes sense to tell him or her about your plans to have acupuncture. The acupuncture treatment may enable you to reduce or stop taking some forms of medication. But, your doctor should always be consulted regarding any change of prescription.

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