Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is generally a very safe procedure with minimal side effects. Occasionally there may be bruising at the site of needle insertion. Mild soreness may be felt after treatment but this will usually dissipate within a few hours. We only use sterilized, single-use, disposable needles.

What is treatment like?

At your initial visit we will thoroughly discuss your health history and other pertinent information. As part of the examination, your practitioner may feel your radial pulse, look at your tongue and palpate other parts of your body. All of these examinations help the practitioner to gather important diagnostic information, which is used to determine the appropriate treatment. Together, the patient and practitioner will also set goals and priorities for treatment.

Most people tolerate acupuncture treatments with no problem and in fact, find them quite relaxing. The treatment itself involves the insertion of very thin needles into specific points on the body.There may be mild discomfort with the insertion of certain needles, but any uncomfortable sensations will usually disappear in less than a minute and often, there is no discomfort at all. Sensations such as heaviness, warmth or mild tingling around the needle are all a normal part of treatment and generally signal that we are properly stimulating the point. After the needles are in, you will be left to relax on the treatment table for approximately 20 minutes.

Adjunctive treatments such as heat, cupping, massage or stretching may be used as needed. Your practitioner will explain these modalities before using them. The initial consultation and treatment will usually take 90 minutes. Follow-up treatments typically last 45-60 minutes.

What does acupuncture treat?

While acupuncture can be used to treat many conditions, it is excellent at treating pain of all types. Musculoskeletal issues such as low back, neck, knee and shoulder pain all respond very well to acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture is even effective for acute injuries like sprained ankles and knees. Other types of pain including headaches, abdominal, pelvic and even cancer-related pain also respond very well to treatment. Besides pain, acupuncture can be used to help with a wide variety of conditions including: gynecological/fertility issues, respiratory diseases, digestive dysfunction, insomnia, fatigue, stress-related issues and emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.

How does acupuncture work?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, most symptoms or diseases arise because of a disharmony of the body’s “qi”. Qi is a Chinese word that we loosely translate as “energy”, but more accurately it describes the dynamic physiologic and metabolic processes that occur in normal daily functioning of the body. Acupuncture treatment helps to adjust the flow and function of the body’s qi, which may be blocked or disrupted for a variety of reasons. But don’t get too hung up on the language of qi; it is just a way to tell the story of how the body works. Western medicine uses a different language and different words to tell that same story. In fact, there has been a huge amount of scientific research over the last 30 years into the mechanisms of how acupuncture works. A common theme that has emerged from this research is that acupuncture works largely through its effects on the peripheral and central nervous systems. Research has shown that acupuncture affects such things as: blood circulation, anti-inflammatory effects, brain activity, immune response and the release of biochemicals within the body. Acupuncture also has profound effects on the local tissue, including the fascia, where needle stimulation can signal for changes at the cellular level. It's all pretty fascinating!

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments needed depends on a variety of factors including the duration, severity and nature of your condition. Brand new, acute conditions may only require one or two treatments. Chronic or long-standing conditions may require a series of six to ten treatments, or ongoing treatment. Additionally, people respond differently to acupuncture; some respond quickly and others more gradually. After 3 or 4 treatments, we often have a good idea of how much more treatment you will need. To help increase the effectiveness of the acupuncture treatments, your practitioner may suggest dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, specific exercise regimens, relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, and/or Chinese herbal medicine. One of our main goals is to educate our patients so they can learn self-care techniques to keep themselves healthy.

Do you offer cupping?

Cupping and scraping (“gua sha”) are adjunctive techniques that are an important part of acupuncture practice and we use them regularly within our treatments. We do not offer stand-alone cupping or scraping appointments. If indicated, they are always utilized within the larger acupuncture treatment protocol.

What is dry needling?

The term "dry needling" has become very popular over the last several years as non-acupuncturist providers have begun to learn and promote it. While many physical therapists, chiropractors and even athletic trainers make a big deal about saying that dry needling is different than acupuncture, it surely is not. It is actually a type and style of acupuncture, which some call trigger point release or sports medicine acupuncture or orthopedic acupuncture, that has been around for many years. If you look at the history of dry needling, when it was first created it was strongly influenced by acupuncture practice and it was performed with a hypodermic needle with no liquid in it (hence the name “dry”). Nowadays, physical therapists are using acupuncture needles and yes, they are performing acupuncture. Many physical therapists take a short weekend class in dry needling, with no prior training in any kind of needle insertion, and begin practicing on patients immediately. In our opinion this lack of training is dangerous, as improper needling can (and has) definitely caused serious injury. Jason and Adam, two of our acupuncturists, have extensive training spanning hundreds of hours in trigger point and orthopedic styles of acupuncture (this is in addition to their 3,000 hour acupuncture degree program). So yes, we do perform dry needling, and quite frankly we are the dry needling experts! It is also important to note that while laws vary by state, dry needling is NOT in the scope of practice for physical therapists in Pennsylvania. Only licensed acupuncturists or medical acupuncturists (MDs with acupuncture training) can perform dry needling in PA.

What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

The use of Chinese herbs as medicine has the same long history as acupuncture does. Chinese “herbs” are actually comprised of plant, animal and mineral substances. Today in China there are literally thousands of substances used for medicinal purposes, while most herbalists in this country utilize several hundred different substances. Chinese herbs are classified according to their taste, their energetic qualities, their effects on specific organ systems, their affinities for certain areas of the body and their overall functions in the body. No other system of herbal medicine has as complete and comprehensive a classification scheme as Chinese herbal medicine.

What is an herbal consultation like?

Your initial consultation for Chinese herbs will involve a thorough discussion of your health history and other pertinent information. We will feel your radial pulses and ask to look at your tongue. These examinations are used to gather important diagnostic information that will then be used, along with your presenting symptoms, to create a customized prescription. Herb formulas contain roughly 10 to 20 different herbs. Follow-up visits will consist of a short conversation about how you are doing, along with re-checking tongue and pulse. All of this helps the practitioner decide if/how the formula needs to be modified.

How are the herbs administered?

There are several options in terms of administering the herbs. The traditional method of preparing herbs is to boil the raw herbs themselves in water according to specific directions and then drink the tea. This tried and true method is still used today and it is the most potent form of preparing herbs. There are other effective options such as: pills, powdered herbs, liquid extracts, capsules and various methods of external application of herbs. Together we will determine which method is best for you and your health concerns.

Are there side effects? What about contamination of the herbs?

Chinese herbs are generally safe when used as prescribed. They can be taken in conjunction with most prescription medications, but it is imperative that you inform your practitioner about all medications and supplements so that they can consider possible interactions. Side effects are rare and typically mild if they occur at all. The most common side effect is mild digestive upset but this can usually be minimized by the addition or subtraction of herbs from a formula. Be sure to discuss any side effects with your practitioner.

The herbs that we use are grown in China but the suppliers that we use are American companies who practice strict quality control and testing procedures. The herbs are screened for correct species identification and also for contamination by heavy metals, pesticides and other chemicals. We stock organic herbs when possible. We feel 100% confident in the quality of the products we use. We take the herbs ourselves and use them for our families.

What are your fees and do you accept my insurance?

The fee for the initial acupuncture visit is $150 and the fee for follow-up visits is $90. The fee for an initial herbal consultation is $90 and $50 for follow-up visits. The cost of the herbs is additional and ranges from $15-$35/week. Health insurance coverage for acupuncture varies greatly from policy to policy. Chinese herbal medicine is not covered by insurance. We can help you check if your policy has acupuncture benefits (Check if your policy has coverage). If your policy has coverage, we can bill and submit the claims. We are in-network with several insurance companies including Health Partners, CIGNA, United, Independence Blue Cross and Blue Cross Federal Employees Policy. If we are out-of-network with your insurer, your policy may still offer some level of coverage. If you have a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA), you generally can use these to pay for acupuncture services and we can provide the necessary itemized receipt. We have been billing insurance for acupuncture services for many years so if you have any questions, please let us know.