How safe is acupuncture and is it painful?

The needles used in acupuncture at the East West Clinic are absolutely sterile, strictly disposable and extremely smooth and fine. This makes for the least amount of sensation upon insertion. In fact, in most cases patients comment that they hardly feel anything at all when the needles are first inserted. The fear of needles can be understood because when it comes to the all too familiar injection of much larger, thick and hollow hypodermic needles that are used in conventional western medicine. However, acupuncture needles are usually extremely fine and rather than piercing the skin, their cone-like engineering actually causes the surface skin cells to gently and painlessly spread and open. This means that far less or no sensation associated with what we commonly understand as pain.

This being said, after insertion, depending on the tolerance of the patient, in the interests of offering the most effective treatment, the acupuncturist will gently manipulate and twirl the needles to achieve a peculiar neurological sensation called ‘da qi’ or ‘big qi’ by the Chinese. This can have a range of mild sensations from dull, heavy or traveling. This is hardly identified as ‘pain’ by the patients who receive acupuncture. In fact, because it has a feeling of freeing up congestion and pain, a patient can have the feeling of reaching a level of desired satisfaction and relief with acupuncture.

At the East West Clinic, the patient is always encouraged to be fully present with a sense of control over what is being offered. If a sensation is too strong or insufficient, he or she is reminded to tell the practitioner so that the treatment can be adjusted to their individual needs.

One of the most common responses during and after most acupuncture treatments is a sense of relaxation and ease that signifies a healing response. In fact, it is not uncommon for patients receiving acupuncture to drift off into a pleasant state which we at the East West Clinic jokingly call “acu-land.”

How long does one need to undergo treatment ?

This depends on many factors such as the prognosis and duration of the disease. Generally for minor acute problems one to five visits are normal. For more complex conditions, one would should expect a minimum of 10 visits and then reassess the rate of progress. The more chronic conditions will require treatments over a prolonged period to achieve complete healing. While it is not a hard and fast rule, we often tell our patients that they should expect to undergo treatment for at least one month for every year they have been experiencing a specific chronic condition. However, in most cases, relief is forthcoming within the first ten sessions.

Should one have herbal and acupuncture treatments while taking western conventional medical treatment and drugs?

Usually there is no problem because both systems of medicine work at a different level and when used in this way, are highly complementary with each other. In some instances, the use of certain drugs, especially those that affect the nervous system will compromise to some extent, the effects one’s response to acupuncture. Also, drugs that have a direct effect on the endocrine system such as cortisone-like drugs will alter one’s response to certain herbs. However, an altered response does not mean no response and patients will always receive some benefit from the concomitant use of acupuncture, herbs and dietary therapy even though they must simultaneously use conventional medicine.

The drugs are usually intended to treat the more superficial symptoms while the herbs and acupuncture work on the underlying causes.

Are treatments covered by Insurance, HMOs or governmental entitlement programs?

Many insurance companies and entitlement programs now cover acupuncture. The East West Clinic can provide patients with forms to bill their own insurance companies themselves, but does not directly bill insurance companies.

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