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What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the gentle insertion of fine, sterile, single-use needles at acupuncture points on specific channels with the goal of restoring balance to the body. 

What is Chinese Medicine?

Although Chinese medicine has just come into the consciousness of many Americans, the fact is that it is an ancient system of medicine, based on thousands of years of careful research and documentation in various sources.  This body of knowledge is constantly being added to and evolving as we gain more and more expertise in the field, as well as in the western medical field.  The spread of Chinese medicine to other countries besides China has guaranteed that this body of knowledge will continue to grow and change throughout the coming years.  

Chinese medicine is a holistic medicine, which means that everything in your body is connected into a great whole;  no part can be separated from another and everything depends on everything else in order to function properly.  Therefore, in Chinese medicine, we try to get at the root of the disorder, not just the symptom.  All of our organs are linked together by an energetic system of meridians; if one organ system gets out of balance, all systems are affected.

The same holds true for humans' relationship to nature.  A practitioner of Chinese medicine will look to patterns and processes found in nature to interpret disease processes within the body.  This is one of the most important foundations of Chinese medicine.  Different organs are related to the seasons, and conditions such as heat, cold and damp affect them.  Therefore, your Chinese medical diagnosis can be thought of as a sort of "weather forecast" for the body.  For instance, you may have a heat condition if you have a fever, or you may have a cold condition if you have chills and body aches.  Dampness often feels heavy, much like you may feel in rainy, foggy weather.  

Another important idea in Chinese medicine is looking at things in patterns.  Instead of looking at one symptom, we look at groups of symptoms, called a syndrome.  This gives your practitioner a much more comprehensive view of the disease process and this is why it is important that your practitioner ask you in-depth questions about your medical history. 

What can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture can treat a wide variety of disorders, including, but not limited to:


Menstrual Disorders, including PMS, menopausal symptoms, symptoms associated with endometriosis, abnormal bleeding, painful periods, symptoms associated with fibroids, symptoms associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and more.

Chemotherapy side effects, including fatigue, nausea, headaches, digestive upset, and emotional support before, during, and post-treatment

Stress, anxiety, emotional issues

Sleep disorders

Asthma/Allergies/Sinus Issues

Headaches, including migraines

Digestive Difficulties

Pain due to injury, arthritis or other factors

The best part about Chinese Medicine is that you don't have to be sick to reap the benefits of a treatment.  In an ideal world, we would go to acupuncture in order to keep from getting sick in the first place...preventative treatment is the best medicine, so keep yourself well!   

What does acupuncture feel like?  Does it hurt?

An acupuncture treatment feels different for everybody: there is no right or wrong way to receive acupuncture. When we think of needles, we usually think about the ones our doctors use to do a blood draw, or give us a shot.  Eek!  Nobody likes those!  Acupuncture needles are in a whole different league!  They are extremely fine, about the size of a hair, literally! 

Acupuncture itself can be full of sensations that we are not accustomed to.  Some people report feeling a warmth around the points, buzzing, fullness, distention, or general movements throughout their bodies.  Some don't feel much at all, some feel strong sensations.  Some feel more emotionally, some more physically.  People feel different things on different days.  Acupuncture should not hurt, although you may feel a small sensation at the insertion of some needles.  Communication with your practitioner is key:  if you are uncomfortable at any time during your treatment, tell your practitioner immediately and she will make adjustments to make your experience a positive one.  Overall, most people find that acupuncture treatments are a relaxing experience: this is one of the few times in our busy lives when you are allowed to just stop, and be still. 

What should I expect at my first treatment?

For your first treatment, you should expect to be at the clinic for about an hour.  Wear warm, comfortable, loose clothing (ie. no skinny jeans!).  The practitioner will probably need access to your hands and feet, as well as points on your shins, forearms, and possibly your torso, so loose pants work well.  Most of your first treatment will be spent getting to know you and your medical history in depth.  Chinese medical practitioners ask a lot of questions in a lot of detail because our medicine is based on really getting to know a person's underlying constitution as well as their symptoms in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis.  This is why you may come in to our office for back pain and your practitioner will ask you about your digestion.  In this medicine, everything is interrelated, and no detail is too much detail!  The more in tune with your body you are, the more effective your treatments will be.  Chinese medical diagnosis relies heavily on observation.  Your practitioner will look at your complexion, take your pulse, and look at your tongue.  All of these observations help your practitioner make an accurate diagnosis for your individual situation.  After your intake, the practitioner will perform a simple acupuncture treatment.  She will also discuss your treatment plan with you and prescribe herbs, if necessary.          

What is Chinese herbal medicine?

When most people think of Chinese Medicine, they often think of acupuncture.  The fact is, Chinese herbal medicine is an important discipline in itself.  Rather than using one herb to treat a symptom, chinese herbs are formulated in combinations of herbs that act synergistically with one another to treat not only your symptoms, but your underlying constitution.  Think of one violin playing versus a whole orchestra.  The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.  Herbs tend to have very few side effects, but if they do, they are usually digestive in nature.  If you do experience any side effects, stop taking your herbs and call your practitioner so she can adjust your formula.    

How does acupuncture work?

In the western world, the jury is still out on this question.  There have been several studies into this question, and researchers have found that acupuncture influences endorphins & neurotransmitters, as well as bioelectrical fields on and around the body.  It makes sense that we as westerners would try to figure out how acupuncture works from a scientific point of view.  However, it is far more interesting and mind-expanding to try on a new perspective for size.  According to Chinese medical scholars, acupuncture works by affecting the movement and amount of qi in the body.  Theory holds that the body is made up of qi, a vital life force, that flows throughout the entire body in meridians.  Sometimes these meridians get blocked and the qi doesn't flow properly; sometimes there is too little qi to begin with and there is a deficiency that needs to be nourished.  Ultimately, your body knows how to be well.  It is through asking detailed questions and prescribing acupuncture & herbal medicine that your practitioner detects the root of the imbalance and begins the process of reminding your body back into a state of wellness.   

What is Qi?

Qi is rather hard to define, yet it is one of the most important concepts guiding your Chinese medical treatment.  Simply put, qi is our life force.  What does that mean, exactly?  In a meditation class of Chinese medical scholars, the students were asked to write a paper defining qi.  30 papers were written with 30 different definitions.  Does this mean that some were right and some were wrong?  No, it just means that Chinese medicine is comfortable with contradiction, and that there is more than one answer to a problem.  Any way around it, qi is considered the basic substance of life.  Some people say it's our "life force," others call it "matter-energy".  Some students' papers defined it as "that which connects all things", or "inner power".  It seems that qi can be both material and immaterial, perceptible and imperceptible.  In the body itself, qi plays an important role.  It defends the body from external pathogens, keeps us warm, and regulates the flow of vital substances throughout our bodies.  The more you receive acupuncture, the more you will learn about your qi!               

Is every treatment the same?

The beauty of Chinese medicine is its ability to provide a completely individualized treatment for a patient in a particular moment.  At each visit, your practitioner will go over a complete review of your system to see what changes have occurred and come to a diagnosis for that day.  In the case of menstrual or fertility issues, your practitioner will often create a treatment based on where you are in your menstrual cycle.   

How many treatments will I need?

This question has no exact answer, because everyone's bodies are so different.  As a rule of thumb, though, acute conditions tend to resolve more quickly than a chronic or degenerative condition that has been evolving over many years.  If this imbalance has taken 20 years to get where it is today, then most likely, it will take some time to get your body back to a state of wellness.  Chinese medicine may not represent a "quick fix", but you may be surprised to find that it can provide you with simple tools with which you can make lasting changes for a long and healthy life.  Generally, even if your condition does not simply go away after the first treatment, you will still see some changes over the course of 6-8 weeks.  These changes may be a decrease of symptoms, or you may find that you notice changes in your energy level, quality of sleep, or amount of pain.  Acupuncture has a cumulative effect:  this means that the more regularly you receive acupuncture, the longer the effects of each treatment tend to last. 

Can I receive acupuncture & herbs if I am taking medication?

Yes.  It is not at all uncommon for many patients to be taking western medications prescribed by their doctor, as well as a chinese herb formula.  There are few circumstances where this would be a problem at all, and your practitioner has had training in drug-herb interactions as well as in the pharmacology of western pharmaceuticals.  However, it is important that you provide your Chinese herbalist with a complete, updated list of your western medications, their doses, and how often you take them.  Be sure to include vitamins and supplements, including weight management supplements, on this list.  The more your practitioner knows about your medication routine, the better she can help you to avoid any unwanted side effects.   

Can acupuncture help me get pregnant?

Acupuncture, in combination with herbs, is very helpful in preparing the body to have a child.  Many of us face major challenges on the road to pregnancy, and the philosophy inherent in Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of nourishing yourself in body, mind and spirit in order to get pregnant and stay pregnant.  Treatments to nourish fertility will often be a series of several appointments that coincide with the phases of your menstrual cycle and will often include herbal medicine in conjunction with acupuncture.  Lindsey will also be happy to work with you and your doctor to schedule treatments at the optimal time if you are undergoing IUI or IVF.  At BCA, it is our mission to take the word "infertility" out of our vocabulary and focus on wellness and nourishment of our bodies.  When we focus on nourishing ourselves, we find that a pregnancy often happens as a wonderful "side effect" of choosing to cultivate your own, personal wellbeing.         

Can acupuncture help me lose weight?

Again, Chinese medicine does not represent a quick fix.  That said, there are many ways your practitioner will be glad to help support your weight loss in a healthy, safe manner.  Acupuncture and herbs can help strengthen your digestion, but dietary and lifestyle recommendations are extremely important.  Change does not come overnight, but small changes do make a big difference.  We can support you on your mission towards wellness!  

Can acupuncture help me stop smoking?

One of the more modern uses of acupuncture has been its use in detox/addiction recovery programs across the United States.  Patients in these recovery programs report that daily acupuncture makes a significant difference in their treatment and recovery.  When used in conjunction with a recovery program, acupuncture has been shown to calm nerves, improve sleep, and reduce cravings.  Acupuncture can be used to help a person recover from a variety of substances, including smoking, but it is very important to note that acupuncture should never be used as a substitute for an addiction recovery program.  It is when both are utilized simultaneously that patients report lasting recovery outcomes.  For more information, ask Lindsey about BCA's smoking cessation program. 



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