Q: What is qi?
A: Qi (pronounced “chee”) is based on the
ancient Chinese theory of the flow of energy. Qi and blood (xue) flow through distinct meridians or pathways
that cover and fill the body, somewhat like the nerves and blood vessels. Open meridians are essential for
Q: How does acupuncture work?
A: Acupuncture treatment is
rendered based on an Oriental medical diagnosis that includes an assessment of pulse quality, shape and color
of the tongue, medical history and whole body evaluation. Following the diagnosis, acupuncture points are
chosen on the body along acupuncture meridians, or pathways. Needle stimulation of these points increases the
body’s healing energy or qi. The body has approximately one thousand acupuncture points.
circulates throughout the body within the meridians, which also are related to the internal organs. Qi
surfaces to the skin level at specific points. Good health depends on the smooth flow of qi. When the flow of
qi is blocked due to trauma, poor diet, medications, stress, hereditary conditions, environmental factors, or
excessive emotional issues, the system is disrupted. Illness is then generated. In accordance with ancient
theory, acupuncture allows qi to flow to areas where it is deficient and away from areas where it is in
excess. In this way, acupuncture regulates and restores a harmonious energetic balance in the body. There is
a Chinese saying, “There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow.”
Q: How deeply are the needles inserted and what health benefits can I
expect to be achieved?
A: Needle size and insertion depth depend upon the nature of the
problem. Depths can be from 0.2 to 3 inches. Also taken into consideration are: the patient’s size, age, and
constitution. Scientific research has discovered that acupuncture points show a variety of unique bioelectric
properties. Stimulation of acupuncture points cause definite physiological reactions affecting brain
activity, such as releasing pain-killing endorphins, influencing blood pressure, enhancing the immune system,
balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and enhancing the endocrine system. Most of
all, acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal itself, regain homeostasis, and maintain its
relationship with nature.
Q: Is there medicine on the needle?
A: No. It is the
needle itself that initiates physiological changes and stimulates the movement of qi to cause a corrective
change in the body.
Q: Is acupuncture painful and what will I feel during a treatment?
A: At the time the needle is inserted, some may feel soreness or slight pain. Others may feel
nothing. Common qi sensations around the needle include: tingling, electrical sensations that may travel
above or below the needle, or a sense of swelling at the insertion site. Stimulation of needles can be done
manually, or by attaching electrodes that transmit a weak current. Some people are energized by treatment,
while others feel relaxed.
It is important to seek
treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner to ensure proper needle placement and stimulation. In any
case, if you experience discomfort during or after the treatment, it is usually mild and short term. Because
the purpose of acupuncture is to balance your body, there are no long-term negative side effects. On the
contrary, relaxation and a sense of well-being often occur during and after treatment. Often patients become
so relaxed that they sleep during treatment.
Q: Are the needles sterile?
A: Almost all acupuncturists
use needles that are pre-sterilized, non-toxic and disposable. Communication of disease through acupuncture
has not been an issue in the U.S., a record few other health care professions can claim.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996.
The FDA requires manufacturers of acupuncture needles to label them for single use only.
Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the FDA when
considering the millions of people treated each year and the number of acupuncture needles used.
Q: What is involved in herbal treatment/therapy?
Beyond understanding acupuncture, the public is quite curious about the Chinese herbal aspect of
Oriental medicine. Chinese herbal medicine consists mainly of vegetable sources, leaves, flowers, twigs,
stems, roots, tubers, rhizomes, and bark. In addition, there are animal and mineral products used on occasion
when necessary. Most acupuncturists use herbal medicine in raw, powder, and pill form. Raw herbs take some
cooking and may taste strong or undesirable. There is a saying in Chinese, “bitter mouth, good medicine.”
Herbal pills may be prescribed instead of raw herbs for less severe conditions. Likewise, herbal medicines
are rapidly increasing in economic importance, with the U.S. claiming over $60 million in world market herbal
sales, including raw materials.
In China, herbal
medicine has traditionally been the most fundamental method of treatment. Medicinal herbal formulas are
dispensed to each patient based upon the patient’s individual constitution and current medical condition.
Unlike western herbs, Chinese herbs are used in very specific combinations, as opposed to singular herbs. An
herbal formula may be comprised of as many as 15 herbs, all having specific purposes within the formula.
These herbal formulas, like acupuncture, work to unlock the qi, to nourish, and to repair the organs.
Q: How is diagnosis and treatment ascertained through Oriental medicine?
A: Before providing acupuncture treatment or prescribing herbs, an Oriental medical doctor
must take an assessment of your body by using diagnostic methods such as: asking you questions about your
medical history, reviewing western medical findings, looking at your tongue, feeling your pulse at your
wrists, palpating your abdomen and meridians along the body, checking the appearance, texture, color and
temperature of your skin, assessing how your voice sounds, evaluating your gait, facial diagnosis, and also
several other diagnostic techniques particular to the style of the doctor’s practice. Soon after, he or she
will come up with an Oriental medical diagnosis, which is quite different than a western medical diagnosis.
Then, they will treat you accordingly based upon their assessment. Because of the fluid and ever changing
nature of the human body, an Oriental medical diagnosis and treatment protocol can change as well.
Q: What is yin-yang and its relationship to acupuncture?
All aspects of our existence can be explained and understood in terms of yin-yang as it represents
the two most general categories into which everything is divided. As it relates to acupuncture, it is used as
a means of observing the way energy moves and manifests in the body.
Symbolically viewed as polar
opposites, yin is dark, and yang is bright; yin is cold, and yang is hot; yin is passive, and yang is active;
yin is female, and yang is male; yin is rest and yang is activity. The changes to yin-yang always move in
relationship to each other. The ideal is for each to exist in harmony with the other. Thus, acupuncture seeks
to create a balance of yin and yang that is essential to health. A deficiency of either principle can
manifest as disease, and in extreme cases of imbalance, death.
Q: What is the length of an acupuncture treatment?
Individual treatments will vary in length from 20 minutes to one hour.
Q: How many treatments will I require?
A: Each patient
is unique and responds to acupuncture differently, so the number and frequency of treatments will vary from
patient to patient.
The number of treatments needed to address a specific health concern depends
upon the duration, severity, and nature of your complaint. You may need only a single treatment for an acute
condition or a series of five to fifteen treatments may resolve many chronic problems. Your body
constitution, severity of problem, and the length of time that you have been sick, will all play a part in
this. Since acupuncture addresses the health of the whole body, there are many people that seek regular
acupuncture treatment to maintain good health and as a preventative measure.
Q: What is the cornerstone of Oriental medicine?
one of the oldest medical books in the world, the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal
Medicine), it explains that acupuncture should be used to treat disease before you get sick. In fact, the Nei
Jing was one of the first medical texts to introduce the concept of prevention. Everyone has a tendency
toward weakness somewhere in his or her body. With regular acupuncture treatments, the weakened systems are
strengthened, so problems occur less frequently. When they do occur, recovery is much quicker. Thus, the
prevention of disease is the cornerstone of Oriental medicine.
Q: What types of illness does acupuncture treat?
partial list includes:
- Musculoskeletal: Neck Pain, Shoulder Pain, Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel, Back Pain,
Knee Pain, Sciatica Foot Pain, Sports Injuries
- Neurological/Nervous System: Headache, Insomnia, Stroke, Stress Disorders, Bell’s
Palsy, Hyperthyroidism, High Blood Pressure, Neuralgia Epilepsy
- Gynecological: Fertility (Male/Female), Menstrual Pain, PMS, Menopause, Pregnancy,
- Respiratory: Asthma, Cough, Sore Throat, Common Cold, Hay Fever, Other Diverse
- Gastrointestinal: Constipation, Diarrhea, Acid Reflux, Nausea, Stomach Pain, Poor
- Others: Heart Disorders, High/Low Blood Pressure, Chronic Fatigue, Impact Cancer
Treatment, Men’s Health Issues, Addiction, Accident Related Injuries, Anxiety & Depression, Skin Disorders.
Q: What is the educational level of acupuncturists?
To qualify for licensure in California, a practitioner must qualify for and pass the California
Acupuncture Board (CAB) licensure examination. To qualify to sit for the CAB exam, a student must complete a
3000-hour master degree level program at a CAB-approved school or demonstrate equivalent training.
A listing of the CAB approved schools, along with contact information can be found on the CAB website.
Q: How are acupuncturists licensed in California?
State of California leads the nation in the field of acupuncture. In 1978, we became the first state to
license qualified practitioners as primary care providers. Following graduation from a CAB approved school,
qualifying candidates must pass a comprehensive state-licensing exam.
The acupuncturist is
required to post a current valid license in a conspicuous location in their office. The status of an
acupuncturist’s license can be obtained from the California Acupuncture Board website at: www.acupuncture.ca.gov. As of 2004, California has licensed more
than 9,000 acupuncturists (L.Ac.’s). Our state constitutes nearly half of the licensed acupuncturists in the
country, and exceeds by more than four times the number of licensed acupuncturists in the state of New York.
(As of July of 2003, New York had 2089 licensed acupuncturists, representing the second largest state in
their number of licensed acupuncturists.) As of the date of
this report, the total of all licensees from other states (excluding California) was 12,828. 10 States accept
California reciprocity, and 11 states do not yet regulate acupuncture.
Q: Do medical doctors practice acupuncture?
A: The term
used for the practice of acupuncture by medical doctors is “medical acupuncture”. The consumer should be
aware that unless medical acupuncturists carry the designation of L.Ac., they are not licensed through the
California Acupuncture Board. As such, their training in Oriental medicine and acupuncture may most likely be
Q: What is the difference in training between L.Ac.’s (acupuncturist’s
licensed by the California Acupuncture Board) and medical acupuncturists?
A: A California
L.Ac. is required to take at least 805 hours of didactic training in acupuncture and Oriental medicine
theory, 450 hours of herbal medicine, and have 950 hours of clinical experience out of the total of 3,000
hours of graduate study. In contrast, MDs certified
in “medical acupuncture” by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture are required to take only 200 hours of
didactic training in acupuncture and 100 hours of clinical training.
Do not rely on an Oriental
medical diagnosis of disease by an acupuncture practitioner who does not have substantial Oriental medical
training. Because an individual is a medical doctor, it does not automatically mean that he or she has also
had Oriental medical training.
If you have received a diagnosis from a doctor and have had little
or no success using conventional medicine, you may wish to ask your doctor whether acupuncture might
Q: Is there an increasing trend toward integrative medicine? Can
patients address health issues collaboratively with their acupuncturist and MD?
Increasingly, acupuncture is complementing conventional therapies. For example, doctors may combine
acupuncture and drugs to control surgery- related pain in their patients. By providing both acupuncture and certain conventional anesthetic drugs, some
doctors have found it possible to achieve a state of complete pain relief for some patients. They also have found that using acupuncture lowers the need for
conventional pain-killing drugs and thus reduces the risk of side effects for patients who take the
Your right to ask. Your right to know. Your right to choose: As a consumer, it is your right to
ask your acupuncturist regarding their level of training in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Based upon the
knowledge you gain, it is your right to choose the level of qualifications you prefer for the type of
treatment you are seeking.
Q: Is the use of acupuncture and alternative medicine increasing in the
A: In November 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a panel of 12
distinguished physicians and scientists to review the history, licensing, practice and current status of
clinical research on the effectiveness of acupuncture. The result was the first formal endorsement of
acupuncture by the NIH, 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.” The panel urged
health professionals to consider acupuncture, particularly integrating its use with conventional medicine
after a thorough medical workup.
determined that evidence for relief of post-operative pain and nausea associated with pregnancy or
chemotherapy is clear-cut. Other conditions, including stroke, headache and chronic low back pain, were
listed as benefiting from acupuncture. The panel also noted that acupuncture appears to be effective in
relieving common disorders such as menstrual cramps, muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, addiction and
asthma. They also recognized that acupuncture treatment can result in a reduction in the amount of pain
medication or anesthesia that might otherwise be required.
Acupuncture has been cited by the
World Health Organization (WHO) to treat over 43 conditions.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Mass reported: visits to practitioners and
the use of alternative therapies increased 47% between 1990 and 1997. The research was conducted via
telephone interviews in 1990 (1,539 adults) and 1997 (2,055).
- A 47% increase in alternative medicine represented an estimated 427 million visits to practitioners
in 1990, increasing to 629 million in 1997 – exceeding total visits to all primary care physicians in the U.
S. (396 million in 1997).
- An estimated 83 million American adults (more than 4 out of 10) used some form of alternative medical
treatment last year.
- An estimated $27 billion, most of it not reimbursed by insurance, was spent on alternative treatment
- Types of Treatment: 42% comprised of treatment of existing illnesses and 58% for prevention and
health maintenance. These are two areas that traditional western medicine doesn’t adequately address. “It is the beginning of acceptance of some forms of alternative
medicine into mainstream medicine in the US,” said George Lundberg. “Acceptance the good old fashioned way –
by merit.” According to an August 2001 study published in
the Annals of Internal Medicine which investigated the use of acupuncture, herbal medicines, yoga, massage
and other complementary medicines:
- Americans, regardless of age, are relying on at least one of 20 different therapies studied.
- Across all age groups studied, of those that tried alternative therapy, 50% continued to use it 20
- The study authors write: “These responses imply that alternative therapies are perceived to be a
force to be reckoned with for some time to come.”
Researchers at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, with the support of the Office of Alternative
Medicine (OAM), [OAM is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) predecessor],
conducted a randomized controlled clinical trial and found that patients treated with acupuncture after
dental surgery had less intense pain than patients who received a placebo.
Scientists at the university also found that older people with osteoarthritis
experienced significantly more pain relief after using conventional drugs and acupuncture together than those
using conventional therapy alone.
OAM also funded several preliminary studies on acupuncture that
have shown promising results in such diverse conditions as: decreases in depressive episodes, improvement in
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and reduced rate of breech births. Researchers reporting in the
November 11, 1998, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association conducted a randomized controlled
clinical trial using moxibustion for breech births. They found that moxibustion applied to 130 pregnant women
presenting breech significantly increased the number of normal headfirst births. top