Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve tried to answer most of the commonly asked questions here. However, if you need a more specific question answered prior to treatment please call or email us.
Does it hurt?
The answer to this question depends on the person since pain is a subjective experience, but the general answer is no if the practitioner is well-trained. At Marin Acupuncture Clinic we use the thinnest possible needles (literally a hair-thin!) that are nothing like the thick, hollow needles used in giving a shot.
Patients often don’t notice the acupuncture insertion. Occasionally a patient might feel a light prick that quickly subsides (like a mosquito bite). People have also described sensations of warmth, tingling, or a light buzzing. However, after about one minute the sensations subside and people drift into a very relaxed state.
Acupuncture treatments are often described as peaceful and blissful. There is nothing to be scared of. We at Marin Acupuncture Clinic do everything possible to ensure your highest comfort level.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world, originating in China more than 5,000 years ago. The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques.
American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. But generally acupuncture means the gentle insertion of hair-thin, pre-sterilized needles into the shallow skin layers.
Is Acupuncture safe?
Yes, absolutely. The FDA requires that sterile, non-toxic needles be used and that they be labeled for single use by qualified Practitioners only. At Marin Acupuncture Clinic we have only ever used and will only ever use single use, disposable needles.
It is unethical to re-use needles and we have very strict guidelines about needles in our office. Also, all acupuncture needles are disposed of in biohazardous waste containers, as also required by law, and are disposed of on a regular basis.
What are the benefits of treatment?
improved mental clarity
faster recovery from illness, surgery and pregnancy
cultivation of self-discipline
tools for healthy living
motivation to change
a peaceful, quiet mind
How long does a typical treatment take?
The first treatment always takes longer because, like any health provider, the patient’s history must be taken and a condition assessment must be performed. The first treatment takes about 1 ½ hours. Follow-up treatments generally last 1-1.25 hours.
How many sessions do I need for treatment?
Since each person is unique, the number of treatments required will vary, depending on the type of condition, whether it’s chronic or acute, as well as the overall health of the individual.
The general rule of thumb is the longer a person has been experiencing an ailment, the longer it will take to restore health. Acute ailments tend to be easier and faster to treat. Keep in mind, dramatic results are unusual after a single treatment. Most patients will experience a gradual relief of their symptoms. A typical treatment course is a weekly session for 6-12 weeks, then bi-monthly for 1-3 months. The more a patient is involved in their healing, the faster the progress. You will be given a treatment plan with a recommended number of sessions after your first appointment.
What should I wear to my treatment?
You should wear loose, comfortable clothing that can be easily rolled up to your knees and elbows.
How should I prepare for a treatment?
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing
- Don’t eat a large meal just before or after your visit, but make sure you have some food in your stomach prior to your treatment (don’t skip breakfast, for example).
- Refrain from overexertion and strenuous exercise in the hours after your treatment.
- Avoid stressful situations after the treatment. Make time to relax, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids and rest.
- Between visits, take notes of any changes that may have occurred, such as the alleviation of pain or changes in the frequency and type of problems you’re experiencing.
- Come with any questions you have—we’re here to help you.
Should I stop other medications?
No. You should continue to follow your current physician’s instructions. But please tell us which medications and supplements you’re taking so that we can rule out drug-herb interactions. Some herbs can even complement Western medications. The regular use of herbs may eventually reduce the body’s need for western drugs.
Are there any side effects to the treatment?
Very few side effects have been reported from acupuncture and herbal medicine. If you do not drink enough water after acupuncture or cupping you may feel tired and achy the next day. Patients usually notice that they feel a combination of energized and relaxed after acupuncture.
Occasionally the original symptoms worsen for a few days, which is often part of the healing. Patients also may notice positive changes in digestion, energy, sleep, or emotions. These are indications that the body is rebalancing itself.
How are Acupuncturists Licensed?
The California Acupuncture Board is responsible for licensing Acupuncturists. Once a practitioner has completed many years of Chinese medical schooling and have graduated, they sit for the State exam. Upon successful completion, Acupuncturists are licensed.
Like other medical providers, Acupuncturists must complete CEU’s (continuing educational units) to stay current in their field. They must renew their licenses every two years and must possess malpractice insurance.
Acupuncturists are considered to be primary healthcare providers in California and are contracted with many insurance companies
What will my practitioner do during my initial visit?
During the initial visit, a full health history will be taken. Questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health and lifestyle. Your practitioner will also look at your tongue and check your radial pulses, which are key diagnostic tools in TCM. All of this information is then organized to create a complete, accurate and comprehensive diagnosis of where the body has become imbalanced.
After the interview process, you will receive a treatment in the modality of your choice as well as a treatment plan for your condition, which may include acupuncture, cupping, herbs, dietary advice, nutritional supplements, stress reduction practices, and exercise.
Do you treat children?
We treat children 12 and older. We particularly enjoy working with teenagers to balance their hormones, alleviate their allergies, boost their immune systems, reduce their stress/anxiety, clear up their acne without the use of antibiotics, relieve their menstrual cramps, and teach them self-care and relaxation tools. For children younger than 12, we can provide a referral to a pediatric acupuncturist.
I was referred to you for cancer support. What can you do for me?
There are many ways to help you through the difficulty of undergoing cancer treatment. Acupuncture can not only help support your immune system, but is also useful to decrease chemotherapy side effects. Nutritional supplementation and specific Chinese herbs can also help to protect normal cells against damaging effects and increase effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments. We highly recommend a consultation with Michael Broffman at the Pine St. Clinic for a complementary treatment protocol. We will be happy to carry out the acupuncture that he prescribes for your particular cancer diagnosis.
Does Acupuncture Work?
Yes, it does! An increasing number of Western doctors and scientists agree that acupuncture is a safe and reasonable option for a number of clinical conditions.
The World Health Organization has formally proclaimed acupuncture as an effective medical treatment. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) endorsed acupuncture, stating: “There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture’s value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value.”
Acupuncture has been around for over 3000 years and its longevity is testament to the fact that it works.
What is the Western explanation of Acupuncture?
The 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus of Acupuncture reported that “studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery.”
The NIH Consensus also suggested that acupuncture “may activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally have been documented. There is also evidence of alterations in immune functions produced by acupuncture.” (NIH 1997)
The following are the current theories on the mechanism of acupuncture:
1.) Neurotransmitter theory—Acupuncture affects higher brain areas, stimulating the secretion of beta-endorphins and enkephalins in the brain and spinal cord. The release of neurotransmitters influences the immune system and the antinociceptive system. (Helms 1997)
2.) Autonomic Nervous System Theory—Acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrine, acetylocholine and several types of opiods, affecting changes in their turnover rate, normalizing the autonomic nervous system and reducing pain. (NIH 1997)
3.) Gate Control Theory—Acupuncture activates non-nociceptive receptors that inhibit the transmission of nociceptive signals in the dorsal horn, “gating out” painful stimuli. (Cho et. al)
4.) Vascular-interstitial Theory—Acupuncture manipulates the electrical system of the body by creating or enhancing closed-circuit transport in tissues. This facilitates healing by allowing the transfer of material and electrical energy between normal and injured tissues. (Helms 1997)
5.) Blood Chemistry Theory—Acupuncture affects blood concentrations of triglycerides, cholesterol, and phospholipids, suggesting that acupuncture can both raise and diminish peripheral blood components, thereby regulating the body toward homeostasis. (Astin et al. 1998)
Additional neuroimaging studies show that acupuncture seems to calm areas of the brain that register pain and activate those involved in rest and recuperation. Doppler ultrasound shows that acupuncture increases blood flow in treated areas. Thermal imaging shows that it can make inflammation subside.
Scientists are also finding parallels between the ancient concepts and modern anatomy. Many of the 365 acupuncture points correspond to nerve bundles or muscle trigger points. Several meridians track major arteries and nerves. “If people have a heart attack, the pain will radiate up across the chest and down the left arm. That’s where the heart meridian goes,” says Peter Dorsher, a specialist in pain management and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla. “Gallbladder pain will radiate to the right upper shoulder, just where the gallbladder meridian goes.”
While scientists say further research is essential, some studies have provided evidence of acupuncture’s effects.
• Arthritis of the Knee: Acupuncture significantly reduced pain and restored function, according to a 2004 government study.
• Headaches: Two 2009 reviews found that acupuncture cut both tension and migraine headaches.
• Lower Back Pain: Acupuncture eased it in a big study last year, but so did a sham treatment where needles didn’t penetrate the skin.
• Cancer: Has proven effective in reducing nausea and fatigue caused by chemotherapy.
• Infertility: Improves the odds of pregnancy for women undergoing in-vitro fertilization, according to a 2008 review of seven clinical trials.
• Addiction: Often used to help quit smoking, drinking, drug use and overeating, but there is no conclusive evidence that it works.
According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 51% of medical doctors understand the efficacy and value of acupuncture, and medical doctors refer patients to acupuncturists more than any other alternative care provider. (Astin 1998)