Frequently Asked Questions about Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine is a complete health care tradition that dates back 3,000 years yet remains effective today. It is a means of strengthening the body, which can be weakened by modern-day stress and environmental hazards. Rather than treating symptoms as western medicine does, Chinese medicine focuses on strengthening your own vital energy (Chi) so that your body can heal itself.

Although traditional Chinese medicine uses many approaches, including diet, exercise, and massage, its cornerstones are acupuncture and herbal medicine. Herbs provide the internal treatment for strengthening the body, while acupuncture is Chinese medicine's most frequently used external treatment. Two associated treatments are moxibustion and cupping, both used to improve circulation.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

According to the classical doctrine of Chinese medicine, there is an unceasing flow of life energy (Chi) throughout the human body. This vital energy originates from the major organs, and flows along the continuous circulatory channels called meridians. When the energy flow is smooth and in balance, a person is healthy; if the balance is disturbed, then a person will feel ill or pain. There are some specific points along the meridians called acupuncture points where the energy flow can be stimulated and the function of related organs can be regulated.

While Chinese concepts of the physical body may, at first, be difficult for a westerner to accept, western researchers have verified specific physiological changes during and following acupuncture. These include a strengthening of the immune system, the release of pain-killing endorphins, and better functioning of the hormonal system.

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What to Expect During Your Treatment

Nancy Rakela LAc OMD taking pulse of patientBefore each treatment, Dr. Rakela will evaluate your health by asking you questions about how you feel. She may ask to feel your pulse, not just to check its speed, but to judge its condition. She may also examine your tongue, which by its color and texture can reveal much about your health. She may perform some orthopedic tests to evaluate your muscular-skeletal condition or injury.

After this exam, you will begin your treatment. Only disposable needles are used. The needles are as thin as human hair and are tapped in through a tiny tube. The needles are left in while you relax under a heat lamp as soft music plays.

Most patients go into a state of deep relaxation and some even fall asleep due to the endorphins which are released during the treatment. In areas where the muscles are especially tight, electrodes may be attached to the needles. The electrical current provides a steady vibration to the tight muscles which feels like a gentle massage.

You may also receive moxibustion (a heat treatment) or cupping to improve circulation. Herbal supplements may be recommended to complement your treatment.

Number and Frequency of Treatments

Each patient is unique. The number and frequency of treatments will vary from patient to patient. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while others may take four to ten treatments. While a specific problem is being worked on, you may visit your acupuncturist once or twice a week, and gradually reduce the frequency to once or twice a month. To simply maintain good health, you may limit your treatments to once every season - four times a year.

How is Chinese Herbal Medicine Used?

Chinese herbal medicine enhances the effect of acupuncture and can also be used alone to alleviate symptoms, to restore balance and promote healing. Chinese herbs are most often used together in a formula rather than single herbs. The herbal formulas are prescribed to fit each patient's individual condition according to their TCM diagnosis. We use the highest quality; FDA approved herbal products at our clinic.

Are Chinese Herbs Safe to Take with Medications?

Many Chinese herbs are safe to take with medications. Some herbs do have interactions with specific medication. You will be evaluated for any drug and herbal medicine interaction before prescribing a formula. Please bring a list of your medications and supplements with you to your appointment.

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