Some common questions about acupuncture are answered below. Call us if you have other questions or if you are interested in improving your life through acupuncture treatment.
Q & A
What is Acupuncture?
In simplest terms, acupuncture is the insertion of needles into the body, but the Chinese word for acupuncture — 针 灸 (zhen jiu) — also includes moxibustion, or the burning of Artemesia vulgaris (mugwort) at acupuncture points. While we can trace the roots of acupuncture over 2000 years ago in China, acupuncture (and Chinese Medicine in general) spread throughout the world, adopted and adapted to suit the adopting culture, resulting in many acupuncture traditions and styles.
Acupuncture is an effective form of health care that has evolved into a complete and holistic medical system. Practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have used this noninvasive medical system to diagnose and help millions of people get well and stay healthy.
An acupuncturist will place fine, sterile needles at specific acupuncture points on the body. This activates the body’s Qi and promotes natural healing by enhancing recuperative power, immunity, and physical and emotional health. It also can improve overall function and well-being. It is a safe, virtually painless, and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical problems.
What will my acupuncturist do?
During the initial visit a full health history will be taken. Questions will be asked regarding symptoms, health, and lifestyle. Your acupuncturist also may check pulses and your tongue and may conduct a physical exam. This information is then organized to create a complete, accurate and comprehensive diagnosis of where Qi has become blocked or imbalanced. After the interview process, you typically receive an acupuncture treatment. The first visit with your acupuncturist usually lasts about ninety minutes on average. Follow-up visits typically last about an hour on average and include brief discussion of any changes since the previous treatment followed by the acupuncture treatment.
Why do they want to feel my pulse?
There are twelve pulse positions on each wrist that your acupuncturist will palpate. Each position corresponds to a specific meridian and organ. Your acupuncturist will be looking for twenty-seven individual qualities that reflect overall health. If there are any problems, they may appear in the pulse.
Why do they want to look at my tongue?
The tongue is a map of the body. It reflects the general health of the organs and acupuncture channels. Your acupuncturist will look at the color, shape, cracks and coating on your tongue. Looking at the tongue is especially important for diagnosing patterns to treat with herbals. Try to avoided items with food dyes, coating the tongue with gentian violet, or other medicinals that stain before your appointment.
Why did my acupuncturist recommend herbs?
Herbs can be a powerful adjunct to acupuncture care. They are used to strengthen, build and support the body or to clear it of excess problems like a cold, fever or acute pain. Your practitioner may suggest starting with herbs and then adding acupuncture to your treatment in the future. This is suggested to build up your internal strength so you can receive the full benefits acupuncture has to offer.
Is acupuncture safe for children?
Yes, acupuncture is safe for people of any age! (In some instances children actually respond more quickly than adults.) If your child has an aversion to needles, there are other options we can try, including massage (acupressure or tuina) the acupuncture points or channels, moxa, and cupping.
Note: The youngest age we accept for new patients is 10 years old.
How many treatments will I need?
The number of treatments will vary from person to person. Some people experience immediate relief and only need a few treatments; others may take months or even years to achieve results. Chronic conditions usually take longer to resolve than acute ones. Plan on a minimum of a month to see significant changes.
Treatment frequency depends on a variety of factors: your constitution, the severity and duration of the problem, and the quality and quantity of your Qi. An acupuncturist may suggest one or two treatments per week, or monthly visits for health maintenance and seasonal “tune ups”.
How much does it cost?
Rates vary and depend upon what procedures are performed. It is best to consult with your acupuncturist about costs.
As a general guide, the cost of most treatments are as follows:
|New Patient Evaluation & Acupuncture Treatment: (1.5hr; includes TCM assessment of presenting complaint, review of health history, and acupuncture treatment)||$120|
|Subsequent Acupuncture Treatments||$60|
|Auriculotherapy (Ear Acupressure)||$35|
|New Patient Evaluation for Herbal Consult (does not include cost of herbs)||$60
|Established Patient Evaluation
|$50 (plus acupuncture treatment or cost of herbals)
Payment is due at the time services are rendered unless prior arrangement is made.
We offer a Time of Service Discount of 10%.
Payment forms accepted: Cash, Personal Check, & major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, & Discover) including chip and contactless (NFC) payment methods (ApplePay, etc.) processed by Square.
FSA/HSA may be used for acupuncture services.
Will my insurance cover acupuncture?
Insurance coverage varies from state to state and plan to plan. Contact your insurance provider to learn what kind of care is covered. Here are a few questions to ask:
- Will my plan cover acupuncture for my health problem? (some plans are very limited on the conditions they will cover)
- How many visits per calendar year? (The will tell you a maximum upper limit. Word of caution — that does not necessarily mean the company will pay for that many visits.)
- Do I need a referral from a physician?
- May I choose my own acupuncturist or is there a provider list I have to choose from?
- Do I have a co-pay or co-insurance?
- Do I have a deductible? If yes, has it been met?
Regarding particular insurance carriers:
Currently we are a Veterans Community Care provider. For more information check out the information on our Acupuncture for Veterans page.
United Healthcare: We are credentialed with United/Optum. Your plan will determine whether this office is in-network.
Humana: We are credentialed with Humana, but are an out-of-network provider at this time.
Cigna: Unfortunately, we will be terminating our contract with Cigna on April 12, 2022. Until that time we will continue billing for any current patients and accepting co-pays at the time of service. After that time, we will no longer be a network provider and payment in full will be due at the time of services.
Anthem/BCBS: Please call to inquire. Some plans are managed by American Specialty Health, which we are terminating our contract with on April 12, 2022. Many plans do not cover acupuncture, or if they do then it is for a very limited set of conditions.
Medicare: The only condition currently covered by Medicare is low back pain. No other health conditions are covered at this time. There is a bill sponsored by California Representative Judy Chu (HR4803: Acupuncture for Our Seniors Act of 2021) that seeks to expand coverage for acupuncture. We encourage you to contact your congressional representative and senators to encourage them to support the bill.
If you would like to know if your insurance will cover acupuncture treatments, we can check with the company using the information on the front and back of your insurance card. We can provide a statement (Superbill) with the relevant information for submitting to your insurance company if we are not a network provider for your plan and are not able to submit a claim to them. Each plan is different, so check with your insurance company first to find out whether your plan covers acupuncture.
How should I prepare for my treatment?
Before your appointment:
- Write down and bring any questions you have. We are here to help you.
- If you are a new patient, we will send you a link to download the paperwork to fill out ahead of time.
- In the 2-3 hours before your appointment:
- Try to be relaxed for your appointment as best as you can — avoid rushing, stressful situations, overexertion, etc.
- Do not eat large meals just before your visit, but also don’t skip meals.
- Stay hydrated.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points. Some patients bring shorts, sweat pants, tank tops, etc. to change into for the treatment.
After your treatment:
- Refrain from overexertion, strenuous activities, working out, drugs or alcohol for up to six hours after the visit.
- You can still take your prescribed medications for any health conditions you have. Follow your provider’s dosing schedule for your medication.
- Avoid stressful situations. Make time to relax, and be sure to get plenty of rest.
- Do not eat large meals just after your visit.
- Stay hydrated — you don’t need to drink a lot of extra water after a treatment, but making sure you stay properly hydrated is always good for your health.
Between visits, take notes of any changes that may have occurred, such as the alleviation of pain, pain moving to other areas, or changes in the frequency and type of problems. Also make note of any changes you notice with other health conditions, bodily functions, and mood.
How safe is acupuncture?
When practiced by a qualified acupuncturist, acupuncture is extremely safe and most adverse events are minor. It is an all-natural, drug-free therapy, generally yielding no side effects just feelings of relaxation and well-being.
Following Clean Needle Technique protocols on handling and inserting needles properly further improves the safety of acupuncture. There is little danger of infection from acupuncture needles because they are sterile, used once, and then discarded. In this practice, only disposable needles sterilized by the manufacturer are used.
You might be interested to know about two very large German studies of acupuncture safety.* The studies reviewed approximately 2 million treatments and found that less than 9% of patients reported any adverse event and the most commonly reported events were bleeding or bruising at the area where the needle was inserted. Other adverse events associated with acupuncture included temporary discomfort at the site of needle insertion and even less common, feeling faint or experiencing fatigue.
*Witt C, Pach D, Brinkhaus B , et al. Safety of Acupuncture: Results of a Prospective Observational Study with 229,230 Patients and Introduction of a Medical Information and Consent Form Forsch Komplementmed. 2009;16:91–97. Melchart D, Weidenhammer W, Streng A, et al. Prospective Investigation of Adverse Effects of Acupuncture in 97 733 Patients. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(1):104-105.
How are acupuncturists educated?
Today, acupuncturists undertake three to four years of extensive and comprehensive graduate training at nationally certified schools. All acupuncturists must pass a national exam for board certification through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM)® and meet strict guidelines to practice in every state.
What can acupuncturists treat?
When most people think about what acupuncture can treat, pain would probably be at the top of their lists. However, acupuncture helps people with many other conditions. Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems. For general information, below are some of the health concerns that acupuncture can effectively treat:
Does acupuncture hurt?
Acupuncture is virtually painless! The majority of our patients say they hardly even feel it. It surprises many people because most people’s experiences with needles consists of getting injections or blood drawn with hypodermic syringes. Acupuncture needles are completely different. Acupuncture needles have a solid, filament-type structure. While there are many gauges of acupuncture needles, they are all very fine — a fraction of a millimeter wide — so almost as narrow as a hair or about the thickness of cat whisker. In addition to being so much narrower, nothing is being injected or drawn.