Q & A

Some common questions about acupuncture are answered below. Call us if you have other questions or if you are interested in improving your life through acupuncture treatment.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is an effective form of health care that has evolved into a complete and holistic medical system. Practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine have used this noninvasive medical system to diagnose and help millions of people get well and stay healthy for thousands of years.

An acupuncturist will place fine, sterile needles at specific acupoints on the body. This activates the body’s internal systems and promotes natural healing by enhancing recuperative power, immunity and physical and emotional health. It also can improve overall function and well-being. It is a safe, painless and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical problems.

What happens during an acupuncture treatment?

At an initial visit, will talk about what you are coming in for and what your treatment goals might be. I may check your pulse, look at your tongue and check basic vital signs. After we are clear and both our questions answered, it’s time for the treatment to begin.

The treatment rooms are private, quiet and relaxing. There is a warm massage table for to lie on with fresh linens for your comfort. Often, the only item of clothing that might need to be removed might be a shirt if we are working on back issues for example. Just as you would in a professional massage, you remain draped and covered with sheets for the sake of modesty and professionalism.

Acupuncture treatments usually last between thirty to ninety minutes.

Why do acupuncturists look at the tongue and examine the pulse?

The tongue is a map of the body. It reflects the general health of the organs and meridians. I examine the color, shape, cracks and coating on your tongue. Tongue diagnosis is particularly important when prescribing finely tuned, individualized herbal prescriptions and is not used at all times.

There are twelve pulse positions on each wrist that I might palpate. Each position corresponds to a specific meridian and organ.  I look for twenty-seven individual qualities that reflect overall health. If there are any problems, they may appear in the pulse. Like tongue diagnosis, the pulse is particularly important when prescribing finely tuned, individualized herbal prescriptions and is not used at all times.

Both are great internal reads as to what is happening in the body.  They are one of many diagnostic tools we can use.

Tell me more about Chinese herbs…

Herbs can be a powerful adjunct to acupuncture care. They are used to strengthen, build and support the body or to clear it of excess problems like a cold, fever or acute pain. Sometimes, I even suggest starting with herbs and then adding acupuncture to your treatment in the future. This is suggested to build up your internal strength so you can receive the full benefits acupuncture has to offer.

Chinese herbal medicine is one of the great herbal systems of the world, with an unbroken tradition going back to the 3rd century BC. Yet throughout its history it has continually developed in response to changing clinical conditions, and has been sustained by research into every aspect of its use. This process continues today with the development of modern medical diagnostic techniques and knowledge.

As a licensed acupuncturist in California, I have undergone years of academic and “real-world” training to legally administer herbs. Contrary to popular belief, Chinese herbs do NOT entail drinking horrible tasting concoctions consisting of various crazy substances.  Of the thousands of herbs and formulas used 99% are plant-based.

I use only certified organically grown herbs prepared in an FDA compliant facility.  Most of the formulas I prescribe are in easy to take pill form and are shipped directly to your home from the manufacturer.

Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?

Yes. There are some points that are contraindicated during pregnancy, however. It is important to let me know  if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments will vary from person to person. Some people experience immediate relief; others may take months or even years to achieve results. Chronic conditions usually take longer to resolve than acute ones. Plan on a minimum of a month to see significant changes.

Treatment frequency depends on a variety of factors: your personal goals, the severity and duration of the problem and the overall state of your own health. I might suggest one or two treatments per week, or monthly visits for health maintenance and seasonal “tune ups”.

It really depends on what we are treating and is an easier question to answer once I meet you and get a better ideas as to what we are working on. The more chronic and long-term the issue, the longer it takes to treat. On the other hand, acute injury can often be addressed within 3-6 treatments over a 1-2 week period.

Frequency also depends upon whether we are treating a systemic condition like digestive issues, for example or something more tangible like a sprained ankle. There are many variables and each treatment regimen is different for each unique individual- therein lies the beauty of this modality!

How much does it cost?

New patient consultation and treatment: $120*

Existing patient and follow up treatment: $100*

 

*Discounted pricing available- just ask!

Will my insurance cover acupuncture?

Insurance coverage varies from state to state. Contact your insurance provider to learn what kind of care is covered. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Will my plan cover acupuncture?
  • How many visits per calendar year?
  • Do I need a referral?
  • Do I have a co-pay?
  • Do I have a deductible?
  • If yes, has it been met?

I currently do not accept insurance.

How should I prepare?

  • Write down and bring any questions you have as well as relevant lab/medical test results. I am here to help you.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points.
  • Do not come hungry however I do not recommend eating large meals just before or after
    your visit.
  • Refrain from overexertion, working out, drugs or alcohol for up to six hours after the visit.
  • Avoid stressful situations. Make time to relax, and be sure to get plenty of rest.
  • Between visits, take notes of any changes that may have occurred, such as the alleviation of pain, pain moving to other areas, or changes in the frequency and type of problems.

 

How safe are acupuncture and herbal medicine?

Acupuncture is extremely safe. It is an all-natural, drug-free therapy, yielding no side effects just feelings of relaxation and well-being. There is little danger of infection from acupuncture needles because they are sterile, used once, and then discarded as medical waste.  In addition, each point used is lightly swabbed with 70% isopropyl alcohol as an extra measure of defense.

My office is a medical facility and is conducted as such. Acupuncture is considered to be a medical procedure and I am legally recognized as a primary care provider. Through years anatomical study, I know where it is safe and effective to place needles.

 

Chinese herbal medicine is a natural alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.  It is very safe when prescribed correctly by a properly trained practitioner. Over the centuries doctors have compiled detailed information about the pharmacopeia with the primary emphasis being the protection of the patient. Allergic type reactions are rare, and will cause no lasting damage if treatment is stopped as soon as symptoms appear.  Side effects are rare as well as are drug-herb interactions.  As a preventive measure, I have been trained in Western pharmacology as well in order to avoid the extremely small risk of drug-herb interactions.

What kind of training and education is required?

My Masters of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine (MSTOM) was earned from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) in San Diego. This is a 4 year post-graduate degree. I am licensed by the State of California after passing the state licensing board exam and am licensed to practice nationally by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) after completing 4 months of separate licensing exams.

In addition I studied in Chengdu, China at the Chengdu University and Hospital for Traditional Chinese Medicine. My education in China consisted of regular class lectures and extensive hands-on training and shadowing doctors in the hospital. I completed rounds in nephrology, oncology, gynecology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, rheumatology, pulmonology and pediatrics.

The education I received at PCOM focused on both Western allopathic care and Eastern modalities. This list is by no means conclusive but provides a general idea of how the program is structured and how some of the various classes and curriculum follow suit:

  • Western courses included, but were not limited to, system and musculoskeletal anatomy, neuroscience, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, kinesiology, biology, cellular biology, biochemisty, Western nutrition, physical exam, ortho-neuro examination/testing and diagnosis, biophysics and western medical differential diagnosis. Bridging the gap between Western and Eastern diagnosis and treatment was a 3 year-long Diagnosis and Treatment of Disease series focusing on gynecology, mental health and psychiatry/psychology, neurological disorders, autoimmune diseases, pediatrics, cancer, respiratory disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, gerontology, endocrinology, rheumatology and more.
  • Eastern-oriented curriculum included 1 year studying the foundations of Chinese Medicine, 1.5 years of individual acupuncture point study, treatment and needle technique, 2 years of herbal medicine, and body-mind classes including tui na, tai chi and qi gong in addition to western nutrition, auricular acupuncture, orthopedic acupuncture and treatment of orthopedic disorders, pain management, Japanese acupuncture and acupuncture law/safety training.

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine has is one of the largest treatment centers as well as one of the most extensive herbal pharmacies. Throughout my tenure I logged nearly 1000 hours of patient visits seeing hundreds of different cases. Carrying my own patient load also involved off-site externships at San Diego Senior Citizen’s Free Clinic, Owen’s HIV/AIDS Clinic located within Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego Hospice and the UCSD Sports Medicine Clinic at the RIMAC Athletic Training Center. A year-long internship was completed at Acu-Sport Sports Medicine Center in Ocean Beach, CA.

In addition I am required to complete 80 hours of Continuing Education annually and have received additional training and certification in the following areas:

 

What can acupuncturists treat?

While I specialize in Sports Medicine my education is all-encompasing and a large portion of my practice is dedicated to being a general practitioner.  I have had wide experience in treating the list below.  Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems. Below are some of the health concerns that acupuncture can effectively treat:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Colitis
  • Common cold
  • Constipation
  • Dental pain
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Digestive trouble
  • Dizziness
  • Dysentery
  • Emotional problems
  • Eye problems
  • Facial palsy
  • Fatigue
  • Fertility
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gingivitis
  • Headache
  • Hiccough
  • Incontinence
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Low back pain
  • Menopause
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Migraine
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Pain
  • PMS
  • Pneumonia
  • Reproductive problems
  • Rhinitis
  • Sciatica
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sinusitis
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Smoking cessation
  • Sore throat
  • Stress
  • Tennis elbow
  • Tonsillitis
  • Tooth pain
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting
  • Wrist pain

How does acupuncture work?

Despite having been practiced for nearly 5,000 years, scientific research of the mechanism of acupuncture was started only a half century ago, first in Japan and China, then gradually in France, Germany, Russia and the other European countries. Since the USA has joined the main stream of scientific research of acupuncture for the past two decades, new discoveries and theories on its mechanism have ever been increasing every year. In spite of a great amount of research has been done all over the world, no one can yet explain the conclusive mechanism of acupuncture.

There are, however, some theories that are widely accepted as quite valid to explain many different aspects of acupuncture mechanism. These theories are called Nerve-Reflex Theory, Gate Control Theory of Pain, Endorphin Theory, Implicit Order of “X-Signal System” and others.

For even more information, head to the “Modern Research and Acupuncture” protein of this website for greater detail.

Needles freak me out! Does it hurt?

Lets start here…

  1. I totally get the whole scared of needles thing
  2. Believe it or not, no! It really doesn’t hurt.

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out! This is the most commonly question asked about acupuncture because, understandably, many people associate needles with pain. Acupuncture needles are about the thickness of a cat’s whisker or thinner, so they are virtually painless when inserted. Acupuncture needles are very thin and solid. They are not designed to cut the skin, but to displace the skin and stimulate areas beneath the skin. Often, you don’t even see the needles or realize I put them in- its that smooth.

Naturally, in Western culture we associate needles with the traditional hypodermic hollow needles used to draw blood or to inject medication. Acupuncture needles are a completely different tool entirely. After insertion, I will bring the needle to the appropriate depth. You will then usually feel a very unique sensation that can vary from tingling, to heaviness, to warmth, or nothing at all but most importantly, not pain. Each person’s experience is different. Should you experience any discomfort, let me know, and I will adjust the needles accordingly. Often, you don’t even see the needles or realize I put them in- its that smooth.

Also, its not like those scary movies where the person gets 1000 needles all over their body. Thanks a lot Hollywood! Its usually between 5-15.. even less sometimes.

 

Where do the needles go?

 

This depends on the condition being treated. Although the acupuncture points are located throughout the entire body, usually the needles are placed on the extremities from your elbows down to your hands, and from your knees down to your feet. Other common areas include the abdomen, back, and ears.

When treating orthopedic/musculo-skeletal pain it is common to insert the needle into the area of pain to disperse stagnation and bring back proper circulation to the area. Typically no more than 5-15 points are used and sometimes even less.

The are over 350 points regularly utilized in the traditional system, but this is just the beginning. There are multiple modalities of treatment encompassing their own points as well. In all, there are arguably thousands of points across the body, each one stimulated individually and in unison with others to treat the patient.

Points are located along channels or networks known as “meridians”. There are 12 major meridians in the body. Each of these is like a highway transporting energy and blood to its respective internal organ (Liver, Heart, Lung, Spleen, Kidney, etc.). When the energy in a meridian is not moving properly, it can, in turn, affect the proper functioning of the organs and cause imbalances throughout the body producing the symptoms of disease and pain. Points are accessed along these meridians to correct imbalances and/or reduce pain.

What is Orthopedic or Sports Medicine acupuncture?

This is my specialty. Orthopedic acupuncture uses muscle motor points, trigger points and traditional Chinese medical points. Motor points are usually found at the mid section of muscles and have the greatest neural potential. Stimulating the trigger point literally encourages the muscle to “reset” and a slight painless jump in the muscle might be felt. This resetting of the muscle encourages the muscle to relax allowing fresh circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid to nourish the fibers and mitigate formation of scar tissue. Trigger points often indicate pain referral.

Traditional Chinese medical points correspond to the flow of the body meridians and are powerful in resolving disorders throughout the whole body. Most people who seek out acupuncture are looking for relief from pain. Pain due to everyday stress, incorrect ergonomics and injury can be treated using orthopedic acupuncture. It is an effective way to manage and treat musculo-skeletal problems.

What kind of licensing is required to be an acupuncturist?

I am licensed by the State of California after passing the state licensing board exam and am licensed to practice nationally by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) after completing 4 month of separate licensing exams.

As per California law, I am a considered as a primary care provider.

Is tipping customary?

No.  Unlike massage, acupuncture is a medical procedure. It would be the same as tipping your doctor which is not expected.

Are there any side effects with acupuncture?

Generally speaking, no.  Most patients feel extremely relaxed afterward.  Almost like they are floating “on air”.  This is a natural process due to the boost of neurotransmitters and “feel good” chemicals the brain releases with the treatment.

In cases of treating tight muscles and acute pain, sometimes their might be some soreness associated with the treatment around the area where some of the needles have been inserted.  This too is completely normal and is part of the body’s own healing response.  Such feelings typically disappear within 24 hours and feel no worse than how you might feel after a deep tissue massage.