Acupuncture FAQ

Does acupuncture hurt?
By piercing the epidermis it is akin, in severity, to a mosquito bite. Beyond the insertion issue, generally acupuncture is painless. Certain points are more sensitive than others are, but, as a rule, the process is minimally uncomfortable. Often times an “aching” sensation will be noted by the patient. This is usually a good sign, indicating that the meridian with obstructed flow (see French energetics discussion) has been “contacted” and the sought after goal is more likely to be attained. Note that several features of the acupuncture needle help limit the discomfort. First, the width or bore of the needle is approximately 1/2 that of a human hair! It is needle width, not length, which can contribute to perceived pain.Second, the needle (under magnification) is solid with a rounded tip – designed to simply “part” tissue it passes through; this contrasts with the needles most of us are more familiar with – sharp tipped and cutting designed to deliver medication or withdraw a body fluid (e.g. blood). These latter needles are far more traumatic to tissues; more injury causes more pain.
Are there any side effects to acupuncture?
One thing about the practice of medicine; never say never! Potential risk is always present (consider crossing a relatively busy street); the more important question is “how much risk?” As we try to weigh the risk vs. benefit equation, it is reasonable to say that episodes of significant harm having been done are very few – both locally and nationally. Risk, theoretically, include minor bleeding, pneumothorax (punctured lung), puncturing virtually any organ (an exceedingly rare occurrence if, for no other reason than the fact that the typical depth of needle penetration falls far short of organ location, allergic reaction to the needle or other items used, syncope (fainting), and self-induced stress with the encounter.
Can acupuncture make matters worse?
No. At the worst, the patient will be a non-responder (a rare event, too). In that event, all that is lost is time, and a degree of hope. Where this, or any form of intervention, can make matters worse is if it unnecessarily delays appropriate treatment. That is where trusting a knowledgeable caregiver comes in to play!
What is a typical acupuncture treatment session like?
The first session is marked by a long interview between you and me – about one hour. Subsequent interviews are much shorter – about 15-20 minutes. After the interview, the actual acupuncture is offered – taking about another 1/2 hour. For most if not all of this time, I am directly in contact with the patient.
Do I need my doctor’s referral for a acupuncture treatment?
No, and, in my experience, a referral only facilitates insurance coverage negligibly.
Will my insurance or Medicare cover my acupuncture bill?
The best I can say is “sometimes, and to some degree”, but we try with everyone. Different plans vary.
Where’s the proof that acupuncture works?
More about this later, but I think one of the greatest testimonials to its effectiveness is that it has been used, worldwide, for multiple millennia!
Will acupuncture cure me?
I believe it is more realistic and more honest to talk in terms of relative improvement, palliation of symptoms rather than outright cure. We’d all love to be like we were during younger periods in our lives – marked by that irrational sense of immortality. But we are mortal beings who are born, live, grow, and die. I am not wise enough to speak about what happens next, but, likewise, I am not foolish enough to pretend that the normal cycle of life can be interrupted. I do believe that certain focal things can be improved on enough so as to warrant the use of the word “cure”; but for most of us, most of the time, improvement in quality of life is a more realistic goal.

Schedule your acupuncture appointment today!