What can it treat?
Acupuncture is effective for treating many kinds of musculoskeletal pain. Many common chronic issues can be corrected and the pain of some more serious conditions can be mitigated. Conditions treated include orthopedic conditions causing headaches, migraines, eye strain, upper and lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder & hip problems, knee pain, joint and limb pain. Acupuncture can treat or help with many inflammatory pain conditions as well, such as arthritis and nerve inflammation. Some types of neurological conditions can also be helped.
Acupuncture can also treat some common internal and inflammatory ailments and mitigate symptoms for others. Acupuncture is often helpful for digestive problems, menstrual issues, and other conditions caused by irregular inflammation. Acupuncture can be complementary care (alongside Western medicine) for support in some conditions of the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and endocrine system. Often times herbal medicine is also prescribed for internal and inflammatory conditions.
Healthy people may also find acupuncture supportive of their vitality, mood, and resilience to the wide range of life's physical, biological, and mental stressors.
How does it work?
Acupuncture is ancient and so there are both traditional and modern ways of describing its effects. In simple terms, acupuncture at specific points triggers specific types of homestatic response from the body. Broadly it has musculoskeletal (myofascial) and neurological effects. The word for ‘acupuncture channel’ in Chinese really describes a sort of ‘woven network’ like the connective tissue matrix (fascia), which is known to be a very vital and stress responsive tissue that connects every large and small structure in the body from muscles, bones, nerves, and organs to the insides of cells. Most acupuncture points are at important junctions of the fascial network and have effects on it as well as muscles, nerves, and the brain. In simple terms it treats a wide range of physical, biological, and neurological stressors so the body can function normally. Another way to think of it is as a 'stress vaccination.'
Traditional doctors of acupuncture were essentially describing the ways in which the central nervous system (brain and spine reflex systems) and peripheral nervous systems (sensorimotor and proprioceptive) affect each other as a network or web of interconnected vital points. This network is involved in normal health maintenance (homeostasis response). When dysfunction occurs, it helps distribute physical, biological, and neurological stress. Stimulating points on this network triggers a healthy homeostatic response and can help alleviate this stress to normalize bodily function.
The physical and neurological effects of acupuncture are related. Some acupuncture points have more physical effects, such as those in major muscles (also called trigger points) or dense connective tissue areas, and some have more neurological effects. It therefore can be used to treat musculoskeletal pain as well as certain internal, inflammatory, and neurological issues. The connective tissues, which are known as the fascial network and are important for storing physical and neurological pressure and supporting movement, also play an important part in acupuncture’s effects and acupuncture ‘channels’ tend to follow fascial planes.
In more specific modern terms, acupuncture is known to affect the thalamus via the peripheral nervous system, and then has descending effects on the autonomic nervous system through the hypothalamus. It affects neurological systems such as the endorphin system, the endocannabinoid system, the serotonin system, the vagus nerve, several inflammatory pathways, and other pathways associated with pain and dysfunction.
Is acupuncture the same as dry needling?
Dry needling is a very simplified version of acupuncture that focuses exclusively on major muscle trigger points. When needed, acupuncturists can perform the exact same technique, but we usually call it trigger point needling and support it with other types of acupuncture points. When performed by a doctor of acupuncture, the technique is less painful and more effective, since we focus on very precise and vital points as well as use supportive distal points that have a deeper effect on the myofascial and nervous systems.
Can acupuncture help me?
Acupuncture can be helpful for a wide range of issues, including medical issues as well as helping people combat the many types of physical, biological, and mental stress we face in life. It’s important to check with your Western doctor as well as a doctor of acupuncture and East Asian medicine to discuss whether acupuncture will be helpful for you. At the first consultation, we will discuss your condition in depth and set expectations and treatment goals. It’s important to be proactive in your care, and that means not abandoning Western medicine, but also committing to healthy exercise, diet, lifestyle, and following through with herbs if we decide together that they seem appropriate. If you have questions, you can email me..
What is Chinese herbal medicine and what can it treat?
Chinese herbal medicine is a complex traditional system of herbology that treats many conditions. It is very different from Western herbal medicine, much greater in its scope and complexity, but we do incorporate some Western herbs from time to time as well as modern nutritional supplements. Chinese herbal medicine has its own system of diagnosis and unique ways of combining herbs to achieve better results with very few side effects. It can be corrective or supportive for a variety of conditions including pain, digestive problems, menstrual issues, blood pressure, and inflammatory conditions.
Most people who get Chinese herbal medicine also get acupuncture, but we can also set up a consultation specifically for herbal medicine. Herbs are usually taken as pills or as a granular tea. They are prescribed through a 3rd party pharmacy that specializes in high quality traditional Chinese herbal extracts. Herbs come from a reputable company in Taiwan and are tested for purity and potency.
At herbal medicine consults, we also may advise on certain matters related to diet, supplements, exercise, and lifestyle. East Asian medicine also includes a complex and thorough system of diet therapy which is important for many health issues, as well as advice for healthy living habits and self-care.
What can I expect?
You will be greeted by a relaxed environment and we will conduct an assessment of your health based on interview and examination of such things as the pulse, tongue, abdomen, and acupuncture channels, in order to arrive at an understanding of your issue. Your first session will emphasize understanding and diagnosing your issue according to East Asian medicine, and in most cases will also involve your first acupuncture treatment. Depending on the issue, we may also use heat, cupping, guasha, or apply herbal liniments. While it sometimes goes quicker depending on the complexity of your issue, please set aside 90 minutes for your first session, while return visits are typically completed in around an hour.
If you are coming for herbal medicine, we will get a little more in depth review of your diet, supplements, and lifestyle as well. If your problem is more serious, we may need to set up a seperate session to do a full herbal medical diagnosis and intake. The fee for that session also covers me researching and writing a custom formula for your individual condition.
What about follow-up visits?
The length of a course of treatment varies depending on the severity and chronicity of the problem. A typical schedule of treatment is usually once per week in the beginning. This usually lasts for a month or two. Occasionally twice a week may be advisable if you are in a lot of pain and want quicker relief or if the problem is more serious. (If this is necessary, there is a discounted rate for the second session and we'll focus less on talking and just get to treatment.) As you see improvement, less frequent treatment may be necessary. Depending on your response, we may recommend biweekly or monthly treatments for follow-up. After a few treatments, people often get a sense for themselves of how frequently they need to come in.
If your condition is less serious or more related to general health & vitality, less frequent treatment may be necessary. We'll usually start with weekly treatments for 5-7 sessions and then start spreading them out more. Some people prefer to biweekly and some prefer monthly. Acupuncture is usually very relaxing and pleasant for most people, and definitely helps promote resilience in face of life's stressors.
We will work out a course of treatment that is most reasonable and effective for you starting with your first session, and make adjustments in accordance with your responsiveness to treatment and overall progress. Patients who commit to following a routine of self-care will make the fastest progress! We also encourage healthy individuals to come in from time to time as they like for stress relief, general tune-ups and preventative medicine.
When is acupuncture or herbal medicine inappropriate?
Acupuncture and herbal medicine may not be helpful for all conditions. It’s important to check with your Western medicine doctor as well as a doctor of acupuncture and East Asian medicine to determine whether acupuncture and herbal medicine may help you. Some conditions under which treatment may be inappropriate include, but are not limited to, emergency and acute care, serious and advanced conditions, serious obesity, late stage cancer, serious psychiatric conditions, and some other conditions. Acupuncture may also be inappropriate for people taking blood thinners or certain other medications. Please consult your physician if you have questions as to whether acupuncture or herbal medicine may be inappropriate for your specific condition. We will also advise you if we believe acupuncture or herbal medicine is inappropriate for your situation.
What are qigong exercises?
Qigong exercises are like a form of Chinese yoga where specific movements can be prescribed for specific issues. They are usually performed standing up and may involve light bending, stretching, and rotating. Due to the fact that they incorporate breathing techniques and movements that affect the acupuncture channels (myofascial and nervous system), they can be helpful for many pain conditions as well as some internal, neurological, and inflammatory conditions. There are also some ‘internal’ qigong exercises that focus on breathing, subtle myofascial movements, and internal focus or visualization.
Qigong exercises are based on a deep understanding of the interconnection between posture, movement, breath, mindset, and directed awareness. They help prevent injuries and maintain normal movement, posture, and alignment of the muscles, bones, connective tissue and nerves. They can also help us connect with a deep sense of relaxation, vitality, and peace, and they can promote longevity.
We will discuss if qigong exercises are relevant to treating or supporting your condition. Certain simple movements can sometimes be taught along with acupuncture, but because some exercises may be more subtle and precise to properly execute, it may be necessary to set up a seperate session to learn them properly and achieve best results. These can be helpful for medical conditions, injury prevention as well as for promoting general health, vitality, and resilience.
From time to time, I also host group classes in which we will focus on a more complex form that can be very deeply healing and invigorating for body, mind, and spirit. Qigong is not a religious practice and is open to all people, but many people do find it brings inner peace and awareness, enhances love and empathy, and supports their spiritual or contemplative life.
***Please note: you should always consult your primary care doctor before starting any regimen of treatment, diet, or exercise.