Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture

What should I expect during my first visit?

During your initial visit, you will be asked to complete a health history questionnaire. Your acupuncturist will also complete a detailed intake, focusing on your main complaint as well as a head-to-toe systems check. Questions may vary but usually they include areas associated with the head (eyes, ears, nose, and throat), respiration, chest, gastrointestinal system, urination, gynecology, body temperature, energy, sleep, and emotions. An aspect of the intake may also include assessment of your tongue, abdomen and pulse. After gathering adequate information, your acupuncturist will formulate an initial diagnosis and treatment strategy. You will then relax on a comfortable treatment table and your acupuncture treatment will begin with the strategic insertion of thin, sterile, disposable needles. On your first visit, you can expect to receive a 20 to 40 minute acupuncture treatment during your hour and a half long visit.

Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is completely safe when conducted by a licensed practitioner. In Maine, acupuncturists are required to attend a rigorous four-year Masters Degree program and pass state and national board exams prior to practicing. Although there are typically no side effects to acupuncture, a patient should be forthcoming in disclosing any medical conditions. Acupuncturists at Whole Health promote the highest standards of safety by complying with OSHA regulations, practicing universal precautions, and using only stainless steel, sterile, disposable needles.

Are acupuncture needles safe?

Here at Whole Health, all of our acupuncture practitioners use needles that are pre-sterilized, pre-packaged, and disposable. Each needle is used only one time and deposited in a hard plastic bio-hazard container, to ensure safe disposal.

Why does my acupuncturist look at my tongue or palpate my abdomen?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the inspection of the tongue and palpation of the abdomen are very important in helping your acupuncturist to properly diagnose your condition. In tongue diagnosis, different areas of the tongue relate to various organ systems in the body. The color, coating, shape and texture of these areas of the tongue yield information about the state of your health. The tongue shows the depth and nature of an imbalance. For example, a yellow coating indicates internal heat, so appropriate points would be chosen to clear the heat. Practitioners also use the tongue as a measurement tool to gauge the progress of a disorder. Like the tongue, different parts of the abdomen pertain to different internal body functions. Detecting tension in different areas of the abdomen allow a practitioner to correctly choose the appropriate treatment points. Prior to an acupuncture appointment, it is important not to eat or drink anything that will discolor the tongue and give a misleading impression to the practitioner.

How does acupuncture work?

According to Chinese medicine theory, acupuncture works primarily by promoting the free movement of energy, which acts to balance and harmonize the body. Western scientific research has shown that acupuncture causes the production of the morphine-like pain suppressing molecules in the body called endorphins. However, acupuncture is used for many other conditions besides pain. More recent research has provided explanations for how this works. These studies have shown that when an acupuncture needle is inserted into the body, specific regions of the brain are activated. This brain activation then allows regulation of other systems in the body primarily through the modulation of molecules such as neurotransmitters and hormones. Collectively scientific research has shown that acupuncture can modulate all the primary systems in the body including the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. Current research is aimed at understanding exactly how this happens, and the nature and specific usage of the various acupuncture points for different medical conditions.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Acupuncture needles are much thinner than the regular needles used to inject substances like vaccines or insulin. The needles are so fine, that when an acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin many patients feel only a mild sensation – or nothing at all! The amount of sensation varies between different point locations on the body and different people’s sensitivity level. It is essentially a painless experience, and is not stressful, even for people who dislike needles.

How many acupuncture treatments will I need?

The number of treatments required is determined by the nature of the complaint, the underlying health of the patient and how the patient responds to treatment. For many complaints, especially acute conditions, several treatments per week for the first 2-4 weeks are usually recommended. This allows the treatments to have additive and cumulative effects and speeds up the healing process. After this intensive treatment period, treatments are usually taken on a weekly basis. Treatment duration can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to 6 months or more. Some folks continue treatment on a monthly basis to prevent illness. This is in keeping with one of the basic philosophies of Chinese medicine, which is that prevention is better than cure.