What can I expect during my first treatment?
The first treatment includes a full medical history intake as well as an acupuncture treatment. The interview can be 45- 75 minutes where we will cover the following topics: past physical and emotional traumas, significant illnesses in your life, family medical history, current medications and supplements, overview of current lifestyle and wellness habits, work-life balance practices, regular seasonal illnesses visual and physical examination of your body, as well as a discussion regarding how to develop a wellness plan for you.
After the interview is complete, the initial visit will include a full treatment of Chinese massage, acupuncture, and craniosacral therapy. I am always conservative when treating a patient for the first time because every person reacts to my treatments differently. Depending on how the patient responds to my the first treatment informs me on how to approach subsequent treatments.
In the interest of time, can I skip the intake session and go straight to the treatment?
In the case of an acute injury, I will make exceptions. For example, let’s suppose your back completely seized up from jumping out of bed and you are in a lot of pain. In this case, the initial interview can be less extensive in order to address your pain immediately. I would still ask pertinent questions about your medical history to ensure acupuncture is appropriate for you, but it doesn’t need to be as extensive as a typical initial intake.
It is important to note that acupuncture and Chinese medicine is intended to cultivate longevity. A single treatment can absolutely be effective for pain; however, a patient will see the true benefit from the modality by having regular or semi-regular treatments.
Do you take insurance?
I do not take insurance, but can check to see if your insurance plan covers out-of-network acupuncture treatments. Also, a patient can pay for acupuncture treatments using their Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA) provided by their insurance plan. If you are unfamiliar with this type of account you can learn more by visiting HealthCare.gov.
Are Chinese herbs safe?
Many people are uncertain about the use and safety of Chinese herbs and herbal formulas. I completely understand the suspicion as many Chinese herbal products coming out of China are often adulterated and poorly sourced. However, there are Chinese herbal companies that go to great lengths to ensure quality-control over the herbs they sell, which includes ensuring third-party laboratory testing for all herbal shipments, good manufacturing practices (GMP), as well as adherence to FDA laws and regulations. All Chinese herbs I use in my practice are purchased through companies that have these high standards, such as Mayway Chinese Herbal Medicine and Evergreen Herbs.
Is acupuncture safe?
Yes. Acupuncture is safe as long as it is being performed by a trained and licensed acupuncturist. Acupuncture needles are all single-use sterile medical grade needles and every licensed acupuncturist had to complete certification for Universal Clean Needle Technique in order to obtain their license.
It is the responsibility of the acupuncturist to determine when acupuncture should not be performed. For instance, during pregnancy there are specific acupuncture points that should not be used. If you ever have concerns or questions about whether or not acupuncture is appropriate for your particular situation or symptoms, it is best to contact the acupuncturist directly.
Is acupuncture painful?
Acupuncture needles are extremely thin and are nothing like the needles used for vaccinations or blood drawals. During a treatment, the acupuncturist holds an acupuncture needle within a small, plastic guide tube (Clean Needle Technique Protocol) and sets the guide tube with the needle on the skin of the body. The acupuncturist will then lightly tap the needle to insert it into the body. At this point, the patient may or may not feel the acupuncture needle inserted into the body.
If they do feel a sensation, it is only a mild and very quick prick. However, it is more often the case the patient will feel nothing upon the insertion of the needle. After the needle is inserted the patient may feel any of the following sensations around the needle: nothing, heaviness, pulsing, throbbing, relaxation, warmth, and occasionally itchiness. All of these sensations are normal and indicate that circulation is increasing in that specific area.
Can acupuncture be used during pregnancy for a baby in breech?
It is a well known that acupuncture can successfully treat a baby in breech in the last trimester of a pregnancy. This treatment is very simple and often times doesn’t even require acupuncture and only requires the use of moxibustion.
For such cases, I often have the mother come in for 1-2 treatments. Ideally, their partner will also come for the treatment. In the treatment, I teach the couple how to perform the moxibustion protocol at home and provide the tools to do so. The very simple protocol takes about 10-15 minutes a day to perform and is usually only performed for five days. After five days, I ask the mother to visit her midwife or OB to verify if the baby has moved into the proper position.
The breech baby protocol is very effective and best if performed between weeks 34-38 of the pregnancy. It still can be performed after week 38, but tends to be less effective.
How many acupuncture treatments do I need?
This question can only be answered in a case-by-case basis, but there are some general guidelines. For those interested trying acupuncture, I always suggest coming in for three consecutive weeks for treatments. The effects of acupuncture are cumulative, and having three treatments within three consecutive weeks will give a patient a good sense of how acupuncture impacts their wellness. Acupuncture for pain or injury is another matter.
For acute pain or injury, like a sprained ligament or strained muscle, typically only 3-5 treatments are needed depending on the severity of the injury. If the patient is comfortable using internal and external herbal formulas, the amount of treatments could be reduced.
For chronic pain, especially pain that has been present for years, one should expect at least 8-10 treatments, but it can take longer. After four treatments, I speak with the patient to discuss if the treatments are addressing the problem. Again, the use of Chinese herbs can quicken the healing process. If progress is being made we will continue with the treatments. If no progress is made, then I will work with the patient to help them find the resources and practitioners that can help them.
Post-surgical treatments can provide a tremendous benefit to healing and recovery process. For these patients, I often suggest a greater number of treatments within a shorter time frame. Depending on the extent of the surgery, i.e., arthroscopic surgery versus a full joint replacement, the number of treatments needed will differ. Treatments also depend on the accessibility of the surgical site.
Psycho-emotional disorders can require consistent acupuncture and herbal treatments for a number of months. However, it is important to keep in mind that acupuncture cannot address the psychological trauma(s) that precipitated the physical symptoms. Psychological trauma is best treated by working with a psychologist (our center has psychologists available on staff). Acupuncture can address the physical symptoms associated with disorders like anxiety, stress, and depression. Working alongside psychologists in an integrated office, I have learned from psychologists that patients receiving acupuncture prior to a psychotherapy session often appear to have greater ease talking about their concerns, problems, or traumas with the psychologist.
Digestive disorders can also require months of consistent treatment and is dependent on the work the patient is willing to do outside of acupuncture treatments. Often times with digestive disharmonies, patients have developed dietary habits that initiated and constantly exacerbate their symptoms. Teaching these patients how to make healthier choices regarding their diet, how to cook at home, and how to have a positive relationship with their food are the most important features of treatment. Acupuncture and Chinese herbalism can always alleviate symptoms of digestive pain, bloatedness, bowel irregularity, and acid reflux. However, the progress being made to address the root of the digestive symptoms can be quickly lost if the patient continues to make choices that initiated the symptoms in the first place.
Patients seeking treatment for infertility must also be prepared to work with their acupuncturist for some time. Treating infertility with acupuncture, Chinese herbalism, dietary education, exercise guidance, and lifestyle education can take months to even a year. Most of my infertility patients have been receiving western infertility treatment from infertility clinics for a few months without success before seeking acupuncture as an adjunct therapy. Upon including acupuncture with their infertility treatments, it is often the case the patient will become pregnant. Still, it is best to have a consultation with the practitioner prior to receiving acupuncture in order to set proper expectations.
Acupuncture for general wellness can require as few as four treatments a year, one treatment for every change of season. My patients quickly learn to decide when it’s best for them to come in for a treatment and often schedule treatment on their own, unless we are working on a specific issue. I have patients who visit me for weekly treatments and others that like to come once a month. There are also those patients, like graduate students, who come for treatment every time semester finals are upon them to help calm their stress.
I don’t live in the DC-area. How can we work together?
If you don’t live in the DC-area, we can still work together to improve your health and wellness. First, an alternative healthcare practitioner, I have an extensive network of practitioners across many modalities throughout the country. There is a good chance I can connect you to someone in your area that could provide you with the physical treatment you need.
Second, the greatest tool to cultivating greater health is education. Learning how to make empowered decisions for your wellness is the foundation to a vibrant life. It’s my passion to work with individuals who are eager to learn how to take control and manage their own health. Connecting patients to the practitioners best suited for their needs, helping patients develop a personal wellness plan, scheduling seasonal dietary habits and exercise programs, as well as working on deeper levels involving cognitive behavioral repatterning can all be done at a distance through phone, Skype, and more.