Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a therapy originated and developed in China that consists of stimulating the specific points on the body by inserting needles, and or applying heat (Moxibustion).
Acupuncture is part of the overall system of Chinese medicine which includes herbal medicine, massage techniques (Tui Na), exercise therapy (e.g. Qi Gong, Tai ji Quan), cupping, and diet and nutrition therapy.
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How does acupuncture work?
The philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine is based on the laws and principles of the universe and of all beings. The universe is viewed as a formless indivisible unity within which everything has a definite function and all things function in harmony and balance. Man is a microcosm of the universe, and he must follow the same natural laws and principles. Just as in nature, there is a constant struggle in one’s body between the two opposing and unifying forces that Chinese call “Yin” and “Yang” – the two life forces or life energy. The normal life activity of the body is a result of keeping a perfect harmony or balance between Yin and Yang. If not in balance or harmony, the body will suffer from a variety of problems and disease.
The Chinese discovered that certain locations or “points” on the body are related to internal organ functions. Traditional Chinese medicine states that there is a network of vital energy or life force that flows through the body and connects these points by way of different channels called meridians. These channels are related to specific internal organs such as heart, lung, liver, spleen, kidney, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, gall bladder, and urinary bladder.
(Note: Chinese “organs” represent complex functions rather than structure.)
The vital energy, also called “Chi”, must flow freely in the appropriate strength and quality. In all illnesses, the flow of vital energy (Chi) is imbalanced; it may be too weak or too strong, blocked or not moving in the proper pathway. The health condition will only get better when vital energy is restored.
Acupuncture directly adjusts vital energy (Chi) by stimulating the specific points located at the meridians. When the acupuncture needles are inserted into these acupoints, they produce various effects. By manipulating of the needles, the energy is either drawn to an organ or drained from an organ depending on the condition treated. Normally, the Chi can balance itself naturally. Acupuncture promotes this balance.
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What can acupuncture treat?
Acupuncture is best known for treating pain conditions, such as back pain, arthritis, sciatica, headache, and stroke rehabilitation or sports/auto injury rehabilitation, etc. It is very effective for many types of conditions; 1. Tension related: hypertension, anxiety, insomnia, and depression; 2. Respiratory problems: cough, asthma, sinusitis, and emphysema; 3. Woman’s problems: painful or irregular menstruation, PMS, menopausal syndrome; 4. Digestive problems: constipation, stomach gas, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, duodenal and/or stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome.
Acupuncture can also help chronic fatigue syndrome, impotence, cigarette addiction, drug addiction and obesity.
When acupuncture is combined with Chinese herbal medicine, the healing process is sped up, and the healing region will be wider. The illnesses that can be treated and helped by a combined approach include angina pectoris, high cholesterol, heart palpitations, heart failure, colitis, diabetes, edema, rheumatoid arthritis, vertigo, hypothyroidism, prostatitis ,impotence, chronic urinary track infection, endometriosis, ovarian cyst, fibroid, infertility, chronic yeast infection and skin problems such as acne, eczema, urticaria, psoriasis.
Acupuncture is an inexpensive, safe, and effective treatment for many chronic disorders, and it can be used preventatively as well. Many people with so-called “functional disorders” without definitive diagnosis have been helped by acupuncture. With all the abilities of Western medical technology and pharmacology, there are still many important medical needs that are best met by the techniques of traditional Chinese medicine.
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Can Western Medicine and Chinese Medicine be combined?
Yes. The best example is cancer treatment. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are very good for boosting immune system function and suppressing the growth and spread of a tumor. It can reduce the side effects of chemo or radiation therapy (anti toxic effect). In China , the use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often combined with the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to protect the body/mind from damage. (The doses of chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation also tend to be lower in China than in Western countries.) In other words, acupuncture and herbal medicine can enhance the benefits of chemo or radiation therapy.
In my practice, I use acupuncture and herbal medicine to help many cancer patients through chemo and radiation therapy. The most common symptoms caused by both chemotherapy and radiation are fatigue, lower blood cell count, stomach burning sensation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, dry mouth, sore throat, sore mouth, and constipation. These can be easily treated by acupuncture and herbal medicine.
The treatment of high blood pressure is another example where the use of acupuncture to reduce hypertension can decrease the amount of medication required for blood pressure control. Acupuncture treatment can even help the patient completely quit chemical pills and maintain their health.
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Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture needles are made of stainless steel and silver alloy. The needles are very thin and flexible. It is a tool to balance body energy. There is often brief pain as the needle passes through the skin. As the needles begin to work and the energy effect occurs, you may feel numbness, dull aching, pulling or pressure sensation, heat or cold sensation, or tingling where the needle is located or along the channel, the Chinese calls “Gain Chi”.
Many patients who have acupuncture for the first time are afraid of the needles, but once they are familiar with the process and realize that the feeling of acupuncture is bearable, they relax.
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Is acupuncture safe?
Yes. Acupuncture has been used for 5,000 years in China . It is still a frequent treatment of choice for ¼ of the world’s population. Because of its remarkable healing effect for some health conditions that other medical treatment can not heal, more and more Americans try acupuncture and get tremendous benefits from it.
Acupuncture can be applied safely for almost any disease. The side effects are minor and include: occasional dizziness due to nervousness or weakness, (especially during the first treatment), and (on rare occasions) light bleeding after the needles are withdrawn. The chances of needles breaking or infection at the needle site are extremely rare. Most acupuncturists use pre-sterilized, disposable needles to prevent the contraction of AIDS, hepatitis, and the other infectious diseases.
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How do people respond to acupuncture?
Most patients feel progressively better after each treatment. For some patients, the symptoms may seem to get worse before getting better or a patient will experience some other symptoms which were not present before. This “healing crisis” (Chinese call it “Xuan Mi”) is best explained as a cleansing reaction. Usually, it will pass in a short time, no more than 7 days.. The reason for the healing crisis can be understood as the struggle of the life force (correct Chi) with the pathogenic factor. Patients may feel heightened sensitivity to the symptoms before feeling relief. Patients should not panic when this phenomenon happens. Patients should report it to the practitioner and follow the practitioner’s instruction.
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How many treatments and how often will patients need acupuncture treatments?
It depends on the severity and duration of the problem as well as the patient’s constitutions. The number of treatment s varies from person to person. Some patients experience immediate relief after the first treatment, others may take few sessions to see results. A chronic condition usually takes longer time for healing than acute problem. I suggest to plan on a minimum of one month time to see significant changes. In my practice, most patients experience improvement in a very short time; however, I tell patients with chronic conditions that it may take months to be fully healed.
In terms of frequency of treatment, the recommendation is two or three sessions per week for the first few weeks; once a week treatment may be given after the patient’s condition has significant improved. Once patients are healed or healthier, monthly visits over time for maintenance may be suggested to patient since Chinese medicine can be used as preventive medicine.
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How long does each acupuncture treatment take?
It depends on the patient’s condition. For children, the treatment lasts 15 minutes. For very nervous or anxious patient, I recommend 45 minutes. Generally, the needles will remain on the patient’s body for 30 minutes.
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Is there any situation not suitable for acupuncture treatments?
Yes. Patient should avoid treatment when they experience excessive fatigue, are hungry or on a full stomach. Women should avoid acupuncture when they menstruate.
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What can I expect from my first visit with Dr. Liang? What happens during my initial consultation?
When you visit the Fifth Avenue Acupuncture & Herbs Center for the first time, Dr. Liang will diagnose your health and issues. This involves a very relaxed discussion and a very basic physical examination. Dr. Liang will ask you why you have come to FAAHC for help and whether there are any other problems (other than those that have brought you to FAAHC regardless of whether they appear to be related). She will ask you about your health history (please try to bring a recent blood test report as this would be very helpful). Then Dr. Liang will perform a physical exam during which she will examine, if appropriate, where the symptoms are, feel the pulse on both wrists, and examine your tongue. The examination of your tongue and pulse are key components in traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis. Your treatment plan will be based accordingly and involve a combination of acupuncture and counseling regarding medicinal herbs. Treatment will be adjusted as needed.
Dr. Liang will spend 1.5-2 in the initial consultation session to analyze your health and will make a diagnostic assessment in term of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). She will explain the underlying causes of any symptoms or diseases based on TCM. You will learn in this initial consultation:
- how you will benefit from Chinese medicine, including Acupuncture and Chinese herbs
- how long it will take to see results
- why it is safe to take Chinese herbs by visiting a well-trained herbalist
- how you can help yourself during the treatment time
- how to maintain optimal health in your life
The initial consultation will include professional advice on diet, exercise, and lifestyle improvement. The knowledge that Dr. Liang imparts on her patients is unique, accurate, and practical. It expands each patient’s horizon and guides them to enhance the quality of their life.
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Is there anything a patient needs to prepare before the visit?
1. Bring any available test result related to your condition to the practitioner. Prepare the questions you may want to ask the practitioner.
2. Maintain good personal hygiene in order to reduce the chance of getting bacteria infection.
3. Eat a small meal before the treatment. Make sure you are not thirsty.
4. Avoid wearing make up when you visit the office since the practitioner needs to observe the facial appearance of the patient.
5. Do not drink coffee or any beverages which has strong color in it since the practitioner will check the patient’s tongue.
6. Do not brush the tongue before visit the Chinese medicine provider because the tongue diagnose is very important in Traditional Chinese medicine.
7. Between visits, make notes of any changes in the body that may have happened. It is important to share this information with the practitioner.
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Is there anything a patient needs to do while receiving acupuncture?
1. Relax your mind and trust the practitioner. Do not be afraid of the needles, It will work more efficiently for you when you feel the energy from the needles. The sensation of the energy varies from patient to patient, but it is bearable and most patients learn to enjoy this sensation due to its healing power.
2. Do not change the position or move suddenly. If you are uncomfortable, tell the practitioner.
3. If you find your treatment unbearable at any point, you must tell the practitioner; the practitioner can adjust the treatment to ease the discomfort.
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Can patients continue to take their regular medicine while receiving acupuncture?
Yes. Acupuncture can be used along with other medical care. Acupuncture is a drug –free protocol. Acupuncture enhances the healing capability in our body and it can reduce the side effect of some western medication. Once patient start to feel healing, patient should discuss with their PCP about reducing the dosage or getting off the medication. Do not stop taking any medication without professional supervision.
The process of balancing and healing is a life-long activity. Our well being can be maintained only if we are well cared for physically and spiritually. Nature provides everything our body needs. It is wise to return to nature, respect natural laws and use natural healing methods. Acupuncture is a natural method and has proven that the body has a great capacity to heal itself.
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Where can I leave a testimonial about the treatment I have received from Dr. Liang?
We would be extremely grateful to accept a testimonial via e-mail which we will post on our testimonials page.
We also encourage our patients to post testimonials in any of the three major sites:
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