What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Traditional Chinese Medicine defines the standard theories, systems, and medical modalities that have been developed over thousands of years and that are currently practiced in China and many other countries around the world. TCM is a comprehensive and holistic system that includes the use of acupuncture, moxabustion, Chinese herbs, Tui Na (body work), Qi Gong (exercise and meditation), and diet therapy.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical procedures in the world. It describes a family of procedures involving the stimulation of specific points on the body for the purpose of treating health problems and promoting optimal health. The most common mechanism of stimulation of acupuncture points employs penetration of the skin by thin, solid, metallic needles, which are manipulated manually, or by electrical stimulation. Acupressure and moxabustion (burning mugwort near acupoints) are also used to stimulate acupoints.
How does acupuncture work?
Traditional acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese theories of the flow of Qi (energy) through distinct meridians or channels that cover the body. According to ancient theory, acupuncture allows Qi to flow to areas where it is deficient and away from areas of excess or stagnation. In this way, acupuncture regulates and restores the harmonious energetic balance of the body.
Does acupuncture hurt?
People will often experience different sensations during an acupuncture session. When the needle is first inserted, some people may feel a pinch and others may feel almost nothing at all. Once the needle is in place, you may feel heaviness, tingling, warmth, or an electric sensation around the needle or traveling along the affected meridian. Acupuncture needles are very fine and do not feel anything like being stuck with a hypodermic needle such as those used to draw blood or provide injections.
What happens in a typical acupuncture session?
Typically, on a first visit, I will conduct a complete health history with the patient including a number of detailed questions about the chief complaint as well as any other physical and emotional symptoms and lifestyle habits. I will also observe the patient's tongue, evaluate the patient's pulse, and will discuss the problem within the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A Western medical diagnosis will not be made. I will discuss the potential treatment and what results to expect. If the patient agrees to proceed with a treatment, one will usually be given during the first visit.
Do I need to do anything before or after I have acupuncture?
It is best to come in a few minutes early for your appointment and relax in our waiting area before your treatment. It is important that you do not receive acupuncture on an empty stomach but you should not be full either. Do not receive acupuncture after you have been drinking alcohol or taking drugs (prescription medications are ok). You should also empty your bladder before receiving acupuncture. After a treatment, take a few minutes to rest again in the waiting area as you will probably feel very relaxed.
How fast can I expect to see results?
Responses to acupuncture vary widely. Some, especially those with acute conditions, may feel relief within a few treatments. Those with more chronic conditions may need more frequent visits over an extended period of time. Treatment with acupuncture can produce rapid results but more often it requires a number of treatments over a period of time. Usually treatments are once or twice a week, but they can be less frequent. Sometimes the effect is quite dramatic and the patient will need only one or two treatments. Sometimes the effect is subtle and may require treatment for several months. There is, however, usually some change after about five treatments.
How do I select an acupuncture/Chinese medicine practitioner?
National standards have been set for the education and certification of acupuncture practitioners. In the United States, there is a peer review group that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and by the Commission on Recognition of Post Secondary Accreditation. This group, called the ACAOM (Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), is devoted specifically to accrediting schools of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. There are currently about 40 such schools in the United States. Typical programs include 2000 hours of course and clinical work. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCAAOM) also nationally certifies acupuncture practitioners and Chinese Herbalists. These individuals have qualified to sit for and have passed national board examinations in acupuncture and/or Chinese Herbology. Individuals who have passed these national board examinations will have the initials Dipl. Ac. and/or Dipl. C.H. after their names. Once you have found a board-certified practitioner, you might also want to ask how much clinical experience the practitioner has gained in general and with the specific ailment for which you are seeking treatment.