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Acupuncture - Questions and Answers

Q:  What is acupuncture?

A:  Acupuncture is the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points shown as effective in the treatment of specific health problems. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of 2,000 years. Electromagnetic research has confirmed their locations.


Q:  What problems can be treated by acupuncture?

A:  The World Health Organization has said that acupuncture is suitable for treating the following:

1)  Ear, nose, and throat disorders, toothaches, pain after tooth extraction, earaches, sinus inflammation, nasal inflammation, or dryness.

2)  Respiratory disorders, uncomplicated bronchial asthma in children or adults.

3)  Gastrointestinal disorders, digestive tract problems, hiccups, inflammation of the stomach, chronic duodenal ulcers, inflammation of the colon, constipation, diarrhea, dysentery caused by certain bacteria.

4)  Eye disorders, inflammation of the conjunctiva, inflammation of the central retina, nearsightedness (in children), and uncomplicated cataracts.

5)  Nervous system and muscular disorders

6)  Headaches, migraines, certain facial paralysis or nerve pain, partial weakness after a stroke, inflammation of nerve endings, bed-wetting, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, sciatica, low back pain, and osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture has been used for centuries in China to treat many other problems, such as knee pain, sprains and strains, and most gynecological complaints.


Q:  How deep do the needles go?

A:  That depends on the nature of the problem, the location of the points selected, the patient’s size, age, and constitution, and on the acupuncturist’s style or school. Usually the needles are inserted from ¼ to 1 inch.


Q:  Does it hurt?

A:  If your practitioner has obtained the correct stimulus of the needle, you should feel some cramping, heaviness, distention, tingling, or electric sensation either around the needle or traveling up or down the affected meridian. In Chinese, acupuncture is bu tong, or painless. Some Western cultures may categorize these sensations as types of pain. In any case, if you experience any discomfort, it is usually mild.


Q:  Are the needles clean?

A:  Most acupuncturists in the U.S. use sterilized, individually packaged, disposable needles. Needles should not be saved and reused for later treatments, as this could spread disease.


Q:  How does acupuncture work?

A:  Western medicine can’t explain how it works. Traditional acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy) and Zue (blood) through distinct meridians (pathways) that cover the body sort of like blood vessels. According to ancient theory, acupuncture allows Qi to flow to areas where it is deficient and away from areas where it is in excess. In this way acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious balance of the body. In Chinese there is a saying: “There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow.”


Q:  Are there different acupuncture styles?

A:  Yes. Acupuncture originated in China but has spread to Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Europe, the British Isles, and the U.S. In different countries, differences in styles have evolved due to differing opinions on theory and technique. Patients should talk to their practitioners about their style to become appropriately informed about the treatment being proposed.


Q:  How many treatments will I need?

A:  That depends upon the duration, severity and nature of your complaint. You may need only a single treatment for an acute condition. A series of five to fifteen treatments may resolve many chronic problems. Some degenerative conditions may require many treatments over time.


Q:  What should I know about the proposed treatments?

A:  Your practitioner will explain the nature of your problem and what treatment he is recommending. He will tell you the benefits/risks of the proposed treatment, what other treatment options are available to you through his practice or by referral to another practitioner or doctor. If you agree to go ahead with the treatments, your practitioner will tell you what progress to expect, what to do if you don’t experience that progress, and what to do if you feel worse.


Q:  Is there anything I need to do before receiving an acupuncture treatment?

A:  Yes. The following suggestions will help you get the most out of your session.

1)  Maintain good personal hygiene to reduce the chance of bacterial infection.

2)  To prevent loss, wear no jewelry.

3)  Wear loose clothing. Women should not wear one-piece dresses or pantyhose.

4)  Avoid treatment when excessively fatigued, hungry, full, emotionally upset, or shortly after sex.


Q:  Is there anything I need to do while getting a treatment?

A:  Yes.

1)  Relax. There’s no need to be anxious. Ask your practitioner any questions as they occur to you so you can get the most benefit possible from the treatment.

2)  Do not change your position or move suddenly. If you are uncomfortable, tell the doctor.

3)  Some people experience dizziness, nausea, cold sweats, shortness of breath, or faintness during treatment. This is usually due to nervousness. Inform your practitioner immediately so he can remove or adjust the needles. Also, let him know if you feel an increasing amount of pain or burning during the treatment.

4)  If you find the treatment unbearable at any point, be sure to speak up so he can make the proper adjustments or suspend treatment.


Q:  What can I expect after treatment?

A: You may notice a spot of blood at one or more of the needle sites, or a small bruise could develop. These are not harmful, but please let your practitioner know if you are concerned about them. Patients often experience the most dramatic results in the first treatment. Some patients experience an immediate, total or partial relief of their pain or other symptoms. This relief may last, or some pain may return. In a few cases, there may be no immediate relief, but symptoms may diminish over the next couple of days. Generally you should expect to feel better. Most patients will have more questions that this brochure can answer. Your doctor is used to answering questions such as: Should I continue to see my MD Should I continue to take my present medications? What should I eat? What can I do at home to improve my condition? Discuss these and other questions with Dr. Qin.