Acupuncture FAQ

Please find answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture below.  If you have questions about Our Clinic, you might find the answers on our What To Expect page.

+ What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most common and dependable medical therapies used in the world. It is by nature simple, safe and effective health care.

Acupuncturists use hair-thin, sterile disposable needles inserted superficially into specific areas of the body in order to enhance the body's innate ability to heal itself. Over the three decades or so in which acupuncture has experienced significant growth in the U.S., it has been proven to be not only exceptionally safe when performed by licensed acupuncturists, but statistically effective in an increasing body of scientific studies.

+ How tiny are the needles?

We thought you’d never ask!

  • The answer is VERY. The ones we use are 0.16mm or 0.18mm thick (less than 1/5th of a millimeter!). Perhaps the most important thing to note is the difference between an acupuncture needle and a western medicine needle, or syringe. Since acupuncture does not involve the insertion or withdrawal of fluids such as blood or medications, acupuncture needles are not hollow which means they are significantly thinner than their western counterparts and as thin as a human hair!

+ Do you re-use the needles?

No. Re-sterilization and re-use of the needles is a thing of the past. Nowadays, the needles are pre-packaged, sterilized and used only once. Once we remove your needles we will dispose of them into a bio-hazard container to be disposed of responsibly. No re-use.

+ Does acupuncture hurt?

This may surprise you, but usually you do not feel much at all, and get this - most people find themselves deeply relaxed and/or find themselves slipping into a deep therapeutic nap once all of the needles have been placed! Many refer to it as an 'acu-nap' while others refer to is as 'a gift from above'. Whatever you call it, we're pretty confident you'll find it to be a pleasant experience.

As an aside, we refer to our Treatment Room as a Nap Zone, and kindly ask everyone to turn off their phones and use their library voices so as not to disturb others who may be sleeping or relaxing.

What we’d like our patients to know:
Occasionally you might feel a bit of a pinch or radiating sensation when the needles are being placed, but this should ease right away and dissipate entirely within a deep yoga breath or two. If you continue to feel a pinching, radiating or burning sensation at the needle site any longer than this, or any other sensation that is preventing you from relaxing, let us know so we can evaluate and adjust things. If, on the other hand, you are feeling a dull ache, slight warmth, tingling or heavy sensation, this is usually a good sign – a clue that the body is reacting in a productive way.

Hmmmm…perhaps the best way to know what it's like is to try it yourself (wink, wink)

+ Do I have to believe in acupuncture for it to work?

Most definitely not!

Did you know that veterinary acupuncture has been used successfully in the treatment of animals without them 'believing' in acupuncture?

Regardless, the truth is that we love non-believers! They tend to get acupuncture only after trying everything else (without the desired results) and wouldn't ya know, they often turn out to be our biggest fans spreading the word about us and acupuncture in a big way!

Oh wait - the one thing you DO have to believe in order for acupuncture to work is that Acupuncture can't help you unless you book an appointment [link to content] and show up a few times in order to see positive changes. As awesome as it would be, we haven’t quite figured out how to treat folks over the internet, but we're doing the best we can here at the clinic until that time comes!

+ How does acupuncture work?

The million dollar question!

Short answer
You may hear people answer this question in terms of Qi (‘chee’) and/or meridians, but the explanation doesn’t have to be so mysterious and new agey. In basic terms, the body is really quite good at regulating and fixing itself, but sometimes it needs a little help to re-set or re-boot, as it were, and acupuncture stimulates the body to do just that.

In simplest physiological terms, acupuncture eases us out of the “fight or flight” (sympathetic nervous system) state where our body doesn’t function all that well (similar to when your computer freezes up), and into the “rest and recuperate” state (parasympathetic) where our body functions best. By also improving our blood circulation, our cells receive more of the nutrients they need, tissues repair faster and our body functions better.

Longer answer
In more complex terms, acupuncture has the ability to positively influence the performance of and improve the communication and synchronicity between every one of the body’s physiological systems that you may remember from high school or college - circulatory, nervous, digestive, endocrine, muscular, cardiovascular, skeletal, lymphatic, respiratory, reproductive, urinary & integumentary.

In western medicine, this performance, communication and balancing that occurs amongst the various body systems is referred to as ‘homeostasis’ and sits at the core of the body’s innate ability to heal itself. When we get hot, our body does things like sweat and push the heat to our skin surface to cool us down. When we get cut, our body signals an alarm and certain cells and chemicals rush to the site of the cut to stop the bleeding, isolate the site, repair tissue and even mitigate the pain. When we’re under physical attack our body increases our breathing and heart rates and diverts blood from non-critical areas of our body to adequately fuel our muscles to defend ourselves.

So by stimulating the nervous system and improving communication with the brain (our control center or orchestra conductor) to better orchestrate things for our body to heal itself, stimulating and improving gland and organ function while also increasing blood circulation (our body’s primary means of delivering nutrients to our cells and our communication highway), improving our immunological responses, reducing inflammation (did you know more and more physicians and researchers believe inflammation is the cause of most disease?) and sending out our natural painkillers, acupuncture is helping our body achieve homeostasis, or balance, so our cells, tissues, organs, glands, muscles, brain etc. get what they need to function and communicate better with the rest of the body.

All of this leads to healing, recovery and eventually brings us into a state of good, or optimal, health.

Hungry for more specific info? Check out our blog entries, many of which include the physiological effects of acupuncture in the treatment of a variety of condtions.

+ Are there any side effects to acupuncture?

Unlike those commercials for western pharmaceuticals, acupuncture doesn’t come with a long list of drastic & potentially harmful side effects that need to be recited really fast in hopes that you won’t pick up on them. (As a side note, acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of many of those yucky pharmaceutical side-effects, but let’s get back to the question at hand).

Despite the lack of such drastic and harmful side effects there are some things about acupuncture that you should be aware of. Those receiving acupuncture may experience a temporary sore, achy, numb or tingling sensation near the needle site that may last a few days. Dizziness or fainting may also occur, especially if you haven't eaten for a while before treatment. Infection is another very rare, yet possible, risk although the clinic uses sterile single-use disposable needles and maintains a clean and safe environment.

  • Positive side-effects of acupuncture Many who receive acupuncture report improved sleep, digestion, energy and mental clarity as well as reduced stress. Many also report being more even-keeled with a more positive outlook on life while others have told us that the annoying co-worker who usually gets on their nerves by 10am doesn’t do so until much later in the day. We’ve also had artists wake from a treatment with renewed inspiration for a new project that they’ve been struggling with, diabetes patients with continuous glucose monitors show us how their levels stabilized during the treatment, students who can’t seem to focus while studying anymore report increased focus, more efficient study time and improved grades, and patients who used to catch colds very easily report a reduction in sick days from work! The list of positive side-effects patients reported to us just keeps growing with the cherry on top being when patients tell us that our low fees help reduce the stress that healthcare costs tend to have on them and their families. Woot! Woot!

+ Can I get acupuncture while trying to conceive? How about if I am pregnant?

Yes and Yes!

When trying to conceive, acupuncture and herbal medicine can help to address issues such as impotence, low libido, and sperm motility plus regulate the menstrual cycle and create a more friendly environment for travelling sperm and fertilized eggs. All of this can add up to increased chances for a healthy conception.

As for acupuncture during pregnancy, many midwives and obstetricians encourage and refer their pregnant patients to get acupuncture since it can be very beneficial in the treatment of many pregnancy-related conditions during all stages of pregnancy, plus postpartum.

At a time when many women are increasingly reluctant to take medications for non-pregnancy related conditions, acupuncture and/or herbal medicine may be appealing in order to treat a variety of conditions due to the lack of negative side effects.

And for those who just need a really good nap (you know who you are), we've been told by many pregnant women and new parents alike that they come in for acupuncture simply because they need a really good nap! In fact, some refer to acupuncture in a community acupuncture clinic as Naptime for Grownups.

*Please note that although acupuncture is safe during all stages of pregnancy, it is important that you notify your acupuncturist during your visit if you are pregnant or in the process of trying to get pregnant. Doing so enables your acupuncturist to take appropriate precautions while administering acupuncture or prescribing herbal medicine.*

+ Can I receive acupuncture if I am taking blood thinners?

Yes, but don’t rely solely on our personal experience. Or someone who hasn't done the research to get informed.

We’ve located two studies that pondered the same thing. One was a systemic review of multiple other studies and another was a review of actual patient charts using data from close to 5,000 acupuncture treatments in a large Korean hospital. Specific details of this second study can also be reviewed here.

Both studies came to similar conclusions about BOTH types of “blood thinners”: Anti-coagulants and Anti-platelet medications. One found acupuncture to be “safe even for patients taking [anti-coagulant] or antiplatelet medications” and another concluded, “acupuncture has a high degree of safety in patients receiving anticoagulant therapy”. Besides finding no increased incidence of excessive bleeding, the one study also found “no significant increase in the amount of bruising” when taking an antigoagulant or an anti-platelet.

Although these studies confirm that you can receive acupuncture while taking these medications, it is important for you to notify your acupuncturist every time you receive treatment if you have a bleeding disorder or you’re taking any anti-coagulant or anti-platelet medications so the appropriate precautions can be taken.

+ Can you take the place of my physician?

Accessible Acupuncture provides affordable acupuncture and herbal medicine. We do not provide Western (allopathic) medicine, offer diagnoses or screening for serious illnesses. Nor do we provide emergency care. We encourage all of our patients to establish a relationship with a primary care provider for routine checkups and to call an ambulance or visit the Emergency Room in case of emergency.

+ Is it true that athletes use acupuncture?

You betcha! Acupuncture is being used by many professional athletes, as well as many of your neighbors, to improve overall performance by

  • Improving their quality of sleep
  • Decreasing pain and inflammation
  • Preventing injury
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Reducing recovery time following workouts, injury and surgery
  • Improving cardiovascular performance
  • Increasing range of motion, flexibility, balance, and coordination and
  • Increasing mental focus For more detailed info, check our our blog post on Athletes & Acupuncture!

+ Do I have to subscribe to certain religious beliefs in order to receive acupuncture?

No. Acupuncture is born of philosophical thought and physiological observations, not religious ideology. Acupuncture is administered and received many thousands of times every day by Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims and atheists among others.