Frequently Asked Questions
This section will hopefully answer many of the common questions that you might have regarding our services. Please feel free to call or e-mail us with any other questions or concerns. We also have a number of free brochures available to explain more about our services and conditions we treat.
What is Qi?
At the core of this Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) is the philosophy of Qi (pronounced "chee"), which is largely misunderstood by most in the Western world. Qi is said to be the circulating life energy that is inherent in all things and the energy responsible for controlling the workings of the human mind and body. It is essentially "the fuel for the fire." This energy circulates throughout the body along a specific, interconnected series of pathways called meridians or channels. Meridian pathways are like rivers. Where a river flows, it transports life-giving water and nutrients to all of the living things along the way. It is in this same manner that the meridians in your body transport life-giving Qi to nourish, support and energize all of the cells, tissues and organs of your body. When Qi flows freely in your body and is properly balanced, in the proper amounts, you experience good physical, mental and emotional well-being. An obstruction of Qi anywhere in the body acts like a dam in a river, backing up the flow. This blockage can hinder the distribution of nourishment that your body requires to function properly. Acupuncture works to restore normal functions by stimulating certain points on the meridians in order to release blockages and re-balance the flow of Qi.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
From a TCM standpoint, the philosophy of this medicine is based on a very simple principle: that the mind, body and spirit are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic, interconnected system and that the human body is an integrated whole, not a bunch of parts and pieces. That holistic philosophy is always present in the mind of a TCM practitioner and is reflected continuously throughout the entire theory and practice of the medicine. After gathering a thorough health history, observing your symptoms and signs, and taking into account your absolute uniqueness as an individual, acupuncturists are able to determine the underlying imbalance(s) that you and your body are experiencing. Seemingly unrelated symptoms and conditions, when looked at holistically, point to underlying "root conditions," the correction of which will ultimately be the target of your acupuncture treatments. It is these underlying root conditions that create blockages or deficiencies in the flow of Qi and Blood. Based on your unique pattern of disharmony, your acupuncturist will be able to locate the precise points on your body that, when stimulated with acupuncture needles, will release blockages in the meridians and allow the free flow of Qi and Blood to continue. In this way, acupuncture can regulate and restore the balance of your body.
We can also look at how acupuncture works from a Western/Scientific perspective, though. Acupuncture points are all located in or near body areas that have high concentrations of nerve endings, mast cells, lymphatics and capillaries, all capable of triggering biochemical and physiological changes in the body, from the subtle to the dramatic. When a needle is inserted into an acupuncture point, it stimulates the sensory receptor and sets off a chain reaction — the sensory receptor stimulates the nerve, which in turn transmits impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system. This complex system of interactions between the Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems (brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves), Endocrine System (hormones and glands) creates a biochemical powerhouse of activity, responsible for regulating and restoring the function of many bodily processes.
Another primary physiological process by which acupuncture works is through it's ability to affect the higher brain areas, stimulating increased secretion in the brain and spinal cord of the neurotransmitters Norepinephrine, Acetylcholine, and opiate-like peptides called Endorphines (up to 200 times more powerful than morphine). By affecting changes in the turnover rate of these biochemicals, acupuncture serves to regulate the Autonomic Nervous System and reduce pain. Other neuro-chemicals such as Seratonin and Dopamine are also affected, often stimulating a significant relaxation effect on the body and even a sense of euphoria. This explains why acupuncture is so successful in treating cases of Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, high stress levels, etc. The release of these neuro-chemical substances ultimately play a significant role in regulating the Nervous and Endocrine Systems, which in turn regulate and restore function to all the other systems : Digestive, Immune, Reproductive, etc.
Other current theories on possible mechanisms through which acupuncture works include The Blood Chemistry Theory, which adds that acupuncture affects the blood concentrations of triglicerides, cholesterol and phospholipids, possibly explaining how acupuncture can both raise and reduce peripheral blood components, thereby regulating the body towards homeostasis. The newest theory, The Vascular-Interstitial Theory, speculates that acupuncture manipulates the electrical system of the body by creating and enhancing closed-circuit transport in tissues. The acupuncture points themselves may actually be strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals throughout the body. Their stimulation facilitates healing by allowing the transfer of material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues, influencing neurotransmitter rates, and resetting the polarity of different parts of the body. This latest theory is by far the most comprehensive and most promising explanation for why acupuncture works in Western medical terminology.
Is Acupuncture safe?
When performed by a qualified Doctor of Oriental Medicine acupuncture and other Oriental Medicine techniques have a long and proven history of being extremely safe. It is natural, drug-free, and yields no side-effects except for the feeling of relaxation and well-being. In order to eliminate the risk of disease transmission or infection, and to ensure the safety of their patients, all acupuncturists today use only sterile, single-use, disposable needles and are required to be certified in Clean Needle Technique protocols before they can be state licensed.
Besides being very safe, most patients also report that acupuncture treatments are relatively painless and also extremely relaxing. It is very common for even the high-anxiety patients to fall asleep during treatments. This is because acupuncture stimulates the release of massive amounts of endorphins from your brain, helping to calm your Sympathetic Nervous System, and taking you from that insidious, high-stress "fight-or-flight" mode, to a nice, peaceful, "rest-and-heal" mode. This often occurs within minutes, and yes- even if you are afraid of needles.
What are the needles like?
When most people think of needles, they think back to all of their experiences since childhood of vaccinations and having blood drawn. Yes- Those shots hurt! Rest assured, though, that acupuncture needles, are nothing like hypodermic needles.
The needles that acupuncturists use these days are pre-packed, sterile, single-use, and disposable. They are extremely thin and smooth, and only slightly thicker than the width of a human eyelash. They are so thin, in fact, that they can literally be curled like a ribbon with just your fingertips and it is possible to fit ten or more acupuncture needles into the HOLE of a hypodermic needle. Unlike hollow-center hypodermics, which are primarily designed to be an effective fluid delivery system, acupuncture needles are solid and primarily designed for one purpose - smooth, comfortable insertion.
What Does Acupuncture Feel Like?
During treatment, the needles will be placed at precise points on your body. At the moment the needle is first "tapped" in, most people feel only a teeny-tiny pinch or more commonly, nothing at all. Any sharpness you might feel, typically only lasts fractions of a second. After that, most people feel nothing at all as the needle is being manipulated to the proper depth. At the point of proper depth, you may feel some additional sensation: this could include numbness, tingling, heat, pressure, a mild ache, and in some cases, an electrical sensation which may travel to another part of your body. All of those sensations are normal, usually fleeting and fade quickly, and generally very tolerable by even the most sensitive people. From your acupuncturists' point of view, sensations during treatment are a very good sign that your body is responding well. In fact, a key element of a successful acupuncture treatment is that you feel some kind of sensation. The needling sensations will vary from treatment to treatment, but again, pain is not an expected or desired response to acupuncture treatment. It is important to recognize that certain areas of the body, such as hands and feet, are more sensitive than others and some areas could be a little more "pinchy" at times, although any discomfort fades very quickly and adjustments to the needles can be easily made to make you more comfortable.
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
Acupuncture is considered a "cumulative medicine." In other words, the effects of the treatments build on each other over time to move you towards your goal of wellness. The key to success with TCM therapy is consistency! It is critical to stick to your acupuncturist's recommendations for treatment frequency and not allow too much time to go by between treatments while still in the active phase of your treatment. Our target, of course, is to stimulate your body's own natural healing capabilities and healing, just like disease, does not usually occur overnight! Basically, everybody is different and therefore, "every BODY is different." A definitive prognosis is difficult to formulate in advance and even following the initial consultation. Treatment frequency and duration will depend on a variety of factors: your body's core constitution and the state of Qi and blood flow in your body, your age, your lifestyle and dietary habits, your mental/emotional state, the severity and duration of the condition being treated, and your willingness to participate in your own healing process by making appropriate adjustments to your lifestyle habits, diet and exercise routines if necessary. Also, different people integrate the treatments at different rates.
While many people will feel some change in their condition immediately or within the first 2-3 treatments, others with more serious or chronic conditions will need to plan on long-term treatment before a significant, lasting change occurs. On average, most people will require a minimum of 5-10 visits, once per week. Once the symptoms are eliminated or significantly reduced, the case moves into a "maintenance phase," where treatments are spread out to longer intervals (specific time varies on a unique case by case basis). Continued care over the following weeks and months is usually recommended to further reduce your symptoms and eliminate any re-occurrence. Be aware that sometimes changes can appear slow and subtle as your entire body begins to re-balance and heal itself- don't be discouraged if you don't see immediate changes, it doesn't mean changes aren't occurring!
Is It Just A Placebo Effect?
The idea that acupuncture only works as a placebo is one of the biggest misconceptions about acupuncture. You are not required to believe in acupuncture for it to work. Studies have shown acupuncture to be very effective in treating a number of conditions in humans, as well as animals such as horses, dogs, and cats. Although animals surely can sense that we are trying to help them I don't think that their belief in the acupuncture is what helps them, they are just responding positively to the actual physiological effects of the therapy.
Is acupuncture covered by insurance?
Many insurance companies are responding to public demand for acupuncture to become an integral part of their plan. As acupuncture continues to gain acceptance as a valid form of therapy this will become the norm and many more people will be able to utilize this safe and cost effective therapy. We encourage potential patients to request that their insurance companies add acupuncture as a benefit if it's not already covered.
We are preferred providers for the most commonly used insurance companies here in Nevada. Just give us a call with your insurance information and we will be happy to verify your benefits.
Education of an Acupuncturist
Not all Acupuncturists are created equal. There is an important difference between a Doctor of Oriental Medicine (OMD) and a physician or other health care practitioner who is a "Certified Acupuncturist." Certification is much less rigorous in terms of its requirements to insert needles. It is basically an easier way for some health care providers to call themselves acupuncturists. In many cases, they become "certified acupuncturists" with 300 hours of classroom training, much of which consists of watching videos and powerpoint slides. There are usually no certification exams, and in most cases, 0 hours of actual supervised clinical experience! This level of training is simply not adequate for understanding the vast complexity of the Chinese medical system.
OMD's, on the other hand, must first complete the same basic pre-med, undergraduate education as Western medical students. They must then attend a state approved school of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine which requires between 3 and 4 years of graduate level education in both Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. This includes over 3000 hours of classroom and supervised clinical internship hours working with actual patients. They are also required to successfully pass National Board Exams (NCCAOM) and fulfill rigorous requirements for State licensure. In order to maintain their license each year, OMD's must complete continuing education as well.
Chinese medicine is an extremely complex science that is literally thousands of years old. With over a thousand herbs and over 350 Acupuncture points, learning how to use them effectively takes years of education, dedication and experience. Make sure that the acupuncturist you choose is state licensed and has graduated from Nationally accredited school of Oriental Medicine.
Your First Visit
Prior to your acupuncture session, it is best to eat a light meal or snack. You don’t want to be starving but you also do not want to be overly full. Wear loose fitting clothes for comfort during the sessions. If any clothing needs to be removed you will be draped with a sheet or towel in order to expose only the areas that need to be needled.
Before your first appointment you will need to fill out an intake form. You can print one here from our website or complete it at the the clinic before your appointment time (please arrive 15-20 minutes early if completing at the clinic). The acupuncture intake form asks questions about your current state of health, past illnesses, and family history. These questions are important because the holistic approach of Oriental medicine takes everything into account. Your current symptoms may not seem related to past health issues, but our bodies are complex landscapes and everything that happens to them leaves its mark.
After reviewing your intake form we will sit down and discuss your current issues as well as your past history. After talking we will also take a look at your tongue as well as take your pulse. These are part of the TCM diagnostic process. And finally we will do any orthopedic/muscle testing necessary. Time for an acupuncture treatment! Once the needles are inserted, I will leave you to lie comfortably for approximately 30 minutes with the needles in place. During your treatment I may come in to adjust the needles. Most people find acupuncture treatment deeply relaxing, and it is not uncommon for patients to fall asleep during this time.
In general the first appointment takes approximately 1.5 hours due to the time taken to discuss your case and any questions you may have. Subsequent appointments take approximately 1 hour.