Frequently Asked Questions
Does acupuncture hurt?
You may feel a pinch as the needle goes in but after that, the needles themselves should never hurt. If you feel a sharp or burning sensation, it means the needle must be removed so let your practitioner know. Once it is removed, the irritation will stop in a few seconds and we can try again in a new location.
Once the needle is inserted, your practitioner may manipulate it which can cause feelings of spreading, heaviness, aching, pressure, or traveling (I generally warn my patients with what I expect them to feel). While these can be intense, they indicate that your body is responding to the treatment and will also pass shortly after the needle is no longer being manipulated. If the sensation is too uncomfortable or overwhelming, let your practitioner know and we can change our technique to make it more comfortable.
Can acupuncture treat/cure *fill in the blank*?
Whatever your condition may be, acupuncture can absolutely treat it. But can acupuncture cure it? That answer gets a little murky... We can go down that rabbit hole if you would like, but to keep it simple, I always answer that question with - "acupuncture can absolutely help with *fill in the blank*". For a list of the most common conditions acupuncture treats visit my About Acupuncture page.
How often do I need treatment?
This depends on why you are seeking acupuncture, if you're using other modalities (physical therapy, massage, medications, etc.). and how you do with homework (applying lifestyle or dietary changes, exercising, moxibustion, etc.). Generally speaking, getting regular acupuncture treatments will yield the greatest results. These are the treatment schedules I tend to work within:
- acute (started fewer than 3 months ago): 2-3x/week for 1-3 weeks. These types of conditions can be resolved quickly. For some, acupuncture provided complete relief within one treatment. The sooner you can get in for treatment, the fewer treatments you'll need. This also applies to acute flare ups of chronic conditions.
- chronic (continuing for 3 months or longer): 1x/week until you are pain free, then we start the weaning process. Once you can go a full week without feeling pain, we decrease the frequency to once every 2 weeks. Then once you can go 2 weeks without flare ups, we decrease the frequency to once every 3 weeks and so on. Eventually, you can come in on a maintenance basis or if/when you're feeling things start to flare up again.
- Stress: once every 1-2 weeks
- The higher your stress levels, the more frequently you may want treatments but I find that more than once per week isn't really necessary if you're working with other skills to help manage your stress (therapy, meditation, exercise, medications, supplements, lifestyle changes, etc.).
- Infertility: minimum of once per month
- Female infertility: If you can come in once per week that would be great. But if that isn't available to you, coming in once per month around the time of ovulation can be enough.
- Male infertility: same goes for you and if you know your partner's cycle, it may be helpful to work within that time frame.
- Facial acupuncture: minimum of once per month
- This can follow a similar protocol to chronic pain. We start with once per week and then decrease the frequency once you are satisfied with your results. After that, schedule monthly acupuncture sessions like you would schedule a monthly facial.
- Wellness: at your discretion
- This can be at whatever time is available to you, but as stated before, regularity is key. I tend to recommend treatment once every 1-2 months. If more "stuff" is happening then you may want to come in more frequently, if all is well you can push the treatments further apart.
How many treatments do I need?
This depends on the same factors as treatment frequency. Overall, the longer something has been in existence, the longer it will take to resolve. I ask my patience to give me 3-5 treatments. If you're not noticing any changes, then we need to try a different technique or you may need to try a different style of acupuncture. The more you can tell me about your experience, the better I can adjust my treatments to fit your needs. Don't be afraid to speak up!
Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?
Yes! But you must tell your acupuncturist that your pregnant. There are certain points we avoid and as the baby grows, we must make accommodations for your comfort during treatments. Acupuncture does not affect the development of the baby and can help manage many of the symptoms such as morning sickness, swelling, back pain, etc. When the time comes, you can even use acupuncture to turn the baby and induce labor.
Is acupuncture safe for children?
Also, yes! From babies to toddlers to teens, children respond amazingly well to acupuncture and generally need fewer treatments and decreased frequency. Many may only need treatment twice per year to help transition in and out of the school year.
What is cupping and why does the skin look bruised?
Cupping is when we use suction to provide something like a deep tissue massage. This can be used for muscular pain and to help break up mucus in the lungs and sinuses. It may be done with glass or plastic cups and your practitioner may use a pump or get fancy with some fire cupping (using a flame to remove the oxygen from a glass cup and then quickly pressing it to the skin).
The purple marks cupping leaves behind isn't bruising, it's called petechiae or "sha" in Chinese. If you look closely, it looks like tiny spots instead of one smooth color pattern. I liken the sha to old junk that's been sitting in the area. The cupping brings the sha up to the surface where the body can easily process it and move it away. You'll find the sha clears up within a few days but while it's still there, be sure to keep the area covered and away from any extremes in temperatures (like sitting in front of an air conditioner or in a hot tub).
Gua sha is a technique that leaves similar markings to cupping. Like cupping, gua sha can be used for muscle pain but it can also be used to help process old emotional pain and trauma.