What is acupuncture?
Chinese medicine is a complete medical system originating from China more than 3000 years ago. Acupuncture or 'Acupuncture Medicine', is a method of encouraging the body's natural healing process and to improve normal body funtioning. The techniques of acupuncture involve treatment through the insertion of the fine needles and applying heat (infrared or moxibustion), and/or electrical stimulation at precisely identified points of the body.
What is acupressure?
Acupressure is the finger-pressure therapy applied to those areas of the body used in acupuncture. It is the massage of acupoints.
What is cupping?
Cupping is one of the oldest methods of traditional Chinese medicine. In a typical cupping session, the cup is applied to the skin, and a suction pump is attached to the rounded end of the cup to create the vacuum. The vacuum created by the lack of air anchors the cup to the skin and pulls it upward on the inside of the cup. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body. Depending on the condition being treated, the cup will be left in place for a few minutes. Several cups may be placed on a patient’s body at the same time. While cupping is considered relatively safe, it can cause some swelling and bruising on the skin. As the skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. These bruises are usually painless and will disappear within a few days of treatment.
How does acupuncture work?
According to Chinese medical theory, energy or Qi ("chee") runs through the body and along its surface in regular patterns called channels or meridians. These channels nourish and regulate the functions of the body. When the energy flows freely in these channels, health is maintained. When the energy is blocked or depleted, pain or illness results. Needling acupuncture points normalizes the flow of Qi to help correct internal imbalances in the body.
A more scientific explanation of acupuncture is that the stimulation of certain trigger points on the body by acupuncture needles affects the autonomic nervous system, the circulation system, endocrine physiology and the brain chemistry, as well as the body's production of endorphins.
Dr. Liu strongly believes that there are some very critical local effects going on ( he does not have lab study to confirm this ). When needles penetrate into the body and stimulate soft tissues and nerves in different depth bleeding or a few blood cells would come out from the capillaries to the areas close to the needle's tips. The human body could consider them-needles and blood cells as a "foreign body invasion or pathogen" that will activate human immune system and anti inflammatory mechanisms including nerve system, circulation systeme and endocrine system, etc. The final results are accelerated healing process and inflammation under control, pain is gone and nerve functions recover or disorder/imbalance corrected.
Is acupuncture painful?
While most people express fear or anxiety of needles before their first treatment, they are surprised by the pleasantness of the acupuncture treatment. Unlike hypodermic needles used for injections, acupuncture needles are very fine, stainless steel needles. There should be very little or no discomfort with needle insertion. For your safety, only sterile and disposable needles are used. There are certain transient sensations. Some points may be more sensitive than others, not considered painful associated with the therapeutic effects of acupuncture which may include euphoria, warmth, tingling, heaviness, distention, or numbness.
How many treatments do I need?
Since each person is unique, the number of treatments will vary. Among the determining factors are the nature, severity, and history of each person's complaint, as well as the general health of the individual. Usually 2 or 3 treatments per week are necessary to begin with, particularly for some severe painful disorders. Many conditions can be alleviated very rapidly with acupuncture. Chronic illnesses may require treatment for several weeks or longer. Acute problems generally respond much faster. As in any form of medical care, the patient's attitude, diet, determination, and lifestyle will affect the outcome and course of treatment.
Should I stop other medication?
No. You should continue to follow your current physician's instructions for the prescription medicines. If you do not want to continue taking them, you have to have your Doctor's approval. However, for over-the-counter medicines you could reduce the dosage gradually or stop them completely when you have noticed significant improvement. You should discuss this issue with your acupuncturist.
How long each session takes?
Dr. Liu will ask you some questions, discuss your condition, evaluate your progress and check your vital signs before each treatment. Then he usually gives further examination and decides where the problems are that need to be treated, inserting needles and connecting some needles with electro-points stimulator for 15 to 25 minutes (It has been confirmed that patients have better pain relief with electroacupuncture than those not using electro-stimulation.) At the same time, you will receive infrared heat therapy during electroacupuncture course, and acupressure massage after the needles are removed. Each session will take 40 to 60 minutes. The first office visit may take longer than following sessions. It depends on the sensitivity of each individual and the kind of diseases and conditions.
In general, the quality of acupuncture treatment relies on the experience and skill of an acupuncturist. They are a combination of the diagnosis of the symptom, accuracy of acupoints, timing, the depth and angle of insertion, techniques of manipulation, etc.
Does medical insurance cover acupuncture?
I cannot give you a "yes" or "no" answer. That depends on which state you live in, who is your medical insurance company and what type of health insurance plan you have. In some states like New Mexico, California, Maryland, etc., most health insurance companies offer medical insurance programs that cover acupuncture treatment, even for Chinese herb formula. Dr. Liu is the network provider of BCBS (BlueCross BlueShield), United HealthCare, Multiplan/PHCS, PacifiCare, etc. Other insurances such as AETNA, CIGNA and Humana, etc., may offer medical insurance programs that cover acupuncture treatment.
Cure or symptom relief?
Acupuncture can be a cure, or it can act as a palliative treatment; this depends on the condition that is being treated. For most of pain-related disorders the normal course of treatment may need 3-6 visits in 2 to 3 weeks depending on the severity of your problem and your response to acupuncture. If a chronically painful arthritic knee is treated with acupuncture, then, on average, the improvement could last about 3-6 months, and the knee will then require re-treatment. Some acupuncturists treat their patients monthly or so to avoid any deterioration in their condition. The traditional Chinese approach is to attempt to maintain the patient in a state of health, and a regular monthly or bimonthly treatment is therefore justified; however, many acupuncturists just treat patients when the symptoms recur.
What are " DO'S and DONT'S" on the day of a treatment?
To enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:
- Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after your treatment.
- Do not over-exercise or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hours before or after the treatment.
- Plan your activities so that after the treatment you can take it easy or at least not have to be working at top performance. This is especially important for the first couple of visits as you may feel too relaxed after acupuncture therapy.
- Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your regular doctor. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) especially in the week prior to treatment will seriously interfere with the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments.
- Keep good written notes of what your response is to the treatment. This is important for your doctor to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you and your problem.