Does acupuncture work?

Acupuncture has been around for at least 2,000 years and perhaps up to 5,000 based on archaeological findings. It is unlikely that acupuncture would have continued to be practiced for this long if it did not work! Just ask anyone you know who has had acupuncture and they are likely to tell you about how it improved the condition they came in for, as well as a few other things they did not even know it could treat. Of course there are some cases where acupuncture does not help, but most of the time acupuncture will provide at least some improvement, if not a complete cure. Modern medicine is now able demonstrate in scientific studies that acupuncture can and does work. 

How does acupuncture work?

There are two ways of looking at how acupuncture works. One is from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective. According to TCM, the body's energy, or qi (pronounced chee), runs along several channels throughout the body. These channels are like riverbeds and the qi is the water that flows through them. Just like a river, the water may be moving smoothly, overflowing, running at a trickle, or dammed up. By placing the needles at specific points along these channels it helps to restore the even flow of energy for balanced health and wellbeing. 

The other way of looking at how acupuncture works is from a Western, or biomedicine, perspective. Many scientific studies have been done which show that acupuncture works by activating the body's self-healing mechanisms. These include releasing endorphins, activating the anti-inflammatory response, and disrupting the branching point of nerves called "C fibers" which has the effect of blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. 

Does acupuncture hurt?

If you have never had acupuncture you will probably be quite surprised at how calming it is. Many patients report feeling so relaxed afterward that they have given the sensation affectionate nicknames such as being in "acu land" or having a natural "acu high". At the beginning of the visit you may or may not feel the needles being inserted. If you do feel an insertion it is likely to feel like a quick pinch that immediately subsides. Once all the needles are in and it is time to rest, you should not feel any unpleasant sensations. Your acupuncturist will check in with you to make sure, and needles can be adjusted or removed if they are not fully comfortable.  

What conditions does acupuncture treat?

The most common reason people seek acupuncture in the US is due to pain, and while acupuncture is great at relieving pain, it can also be helpful for so much more. Women's/men's/trans health, mental/emotional disorders, autoimmune conditions, digestive complaints, respiratory health, neurological conditions, problems with the eyes/ears/nose/throat, skin conditions, hormonal imbalances, disorders of the circulatory system and kidney/urinary issues, to name several. There is almost no condition for which acupuncture will not offer at least some improvement. If you are unsure whether your condition is appropriate for acupuncture, you are welcome to schedule a free consultation to have your questions answered.

Do keep in mind that there are several conditions for which acupuncture should not be the primary treatment. For instance, patients with cancer should work primarily with their oncologist and use acupuncture as an adjunct to help with symptoms such as increasing appetite and energy levels and mitigating the effects of chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy. 

How many visits will I need?

This depends on many factors including whether the condition is acute or chronic, how severe the condition is, what the condition itself is, and how your body responds to acupuncture treatment. Generally, the more recently the condition started and the less severe it is, the fewer treatments will be needed. Taking these factors into account, as well as typical recovery times for the condition involved, a treatment plan can be proposed, however you are a unique individual and there is always the possibility that you will respond more or less favorably to the treatment than predicted. 

A treatment plan for a recent, severe shoulder injury might look something like this: acupuncture twice per week for two weeks, acupuncture once per week for four weeks, then reevaluate. Let's say your shoulder is feeling pretty good at the end of these six weeks, so a new treatment plan might be to come in every other week for the next couple months and then once a month for another couple of visits. 

It is important to note that acupuncture helps in two different ways. One way is by curing a condition, the other is by palliating the condition. An example of acupuncture curing a condition would be if you got in a car accident that gave you back pain and after several months of treatment you no longer had back pain and would not need further treatment because your injuries had healed. An example of acupuncture palliating a condition would be if you have scoliosis that gives you back pain and after several months of treatment you no longer had back pain, but if you stopped acupuncture treatment the pain would return because acupuncture did not change your scoliosis. 

What can I expect at my first visit?

Before your first visit the intake paperwork will be emailed to you. If you are unable to print it, simply arrive 20-30 minutes early for your visit to fill out the paperwork in the office. Please also allow ample time to find street parking, as our building does not have a parking lot. Once you arrive, take a minute to relax with a cup of tea in our waiting area and read a book or enjoy the courtyard garden view. 

Wear loose, comfortable clothing. If there are any acupuncture points that cannot be accessed with your clothing in place, gowns and towels are available to drape areas as necessary. During the day, eat meals and snacks as normal, but do not come to acupuncture on an empty stomach, as this could make you more prone to dizziness. 

A new patient visit lasts 90-120 minutes. The first half of the visit is spent going over your health in general and the complaints that brought you in more specifically. There is a short break and then the second half of the visit consists of the acupuncture treatment. 

Do you accept health insurance?

Yes. I am in-network with many of the major health insurance companies and can bill several others out-of-network. Please contact me prior to your visit to determine what your benefit eligibility is relative to your plan and my contract with each company. 

Do you accept motor vehicle accident insurance?

Yes. In the state of Oregon each person in the car during a motor vehicle accident is eligible for $15,000 total in medical treatment for injuries arising from the accident. In my experience, patients recover better when they seek care as soon as possible and when acupuncture is combined with massage and gentle chiropractic. 

Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?

Yes. There are several acupuncture points that will be avoided throughout the pregnancy and several others that will be avoided in the later stages of pregnancy, including those in the abdomen and lower back. In addition to being able to treat health conditions during pregnancy, acupuncture can be very helpful for managing pregnancy-related symptoms, including morning sickness, fatigue, aches and pains. 

Do you treat children?

Yes. Children of any age can be treated with acupuncture and Chinese medicine. For children who cannot sit still or who are afraid of the needles, gentler methods can be used. Children under age 15 require parental consent for medical treatment in the state of Oregon.