Frequently asked questions
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture, as practiced in contemporary times, involves the insertion of very thin, single use, sterile needles at various points on the body in order to effect a therapeutic change in a person’s health status. It is one technique within a family of therapeutic approaches based on the philosophy, observations and experiences of practitioners in ancient China. Although variations of clinical practice have evolved with the spread of acupuncture-based therapeutics across Asia, into Japan, Europe, and more recently, the Americas, all acupuncture practice styles are grounded in the principles set forth in the surviving Classical Chinese Medical texts.
What are other techniques do you use besides acupuncture needling?
In addition to needle insertion, healing techniques include non-insertive contact needling, the application of heat (moxibustion) to specific acupoints and regions of the body, application of essential oils, metal beads or magnets to acupoints, use of low level laser to stimulate acupoints. Rarely we will recommend electrical stimulation of inserted needles, or cupping (application of suction to the skin surface). Recommendations may also be made concerning nutrition, exercise, other lifestyle considerations, meditation or spiritual practices.
How many needles are inserted during a treatment, and does it have to be needles?
The diagnostic impression, physical examination and patient response all help determine which acupuncture points and the number of points to be treated. The number of points selected for treatment will therefore vary. Typically at Hyde Park Medical Acupuncture, you would be treated on 2 to 20 points over the course of a several-step, 40-50 minute treatment that often includes an opportunity for quiet rest or meditation.
Our preference is to use the fewest possible points (10 or less), but sometimes there are special indications that require more.
It is not necessary to insert needles through the skin in order to effect a therapeutic change. Other techniques to work with an acupuncture point and channel include massaging the point or body area, placing a specialized contact needle on the skin but not through it, warming the point or area (moxibustion), applying essential oils, metal beads or magnets, electricity, and/or using a low level (aka cold) laser to painlessly but effectively stimulate a point.
What is your needle insertion technique? Does it hurt?
The preferred diagnostic and treatment style at Hyde Park Medical Acupuncture is predominantly in the Japanese acupuncture tradition. Based on a patient’s story and physical examination, acupoints are selected and very thin sterile needles are inserted with a gentle and mindful technique.
Only very gentle stimulation, if any at all, is done on the needle once inserted. We do not manipulate the needle to obtain a de Qi response, as is the technique for some styles.
Most people don't feel the needles at all. Infrequently a patient may feel a transient mild pinch at the insertion site upon needling. This would not last more than a few seconds. If the sensation persists, the needle is immediately removed.
Importantly, for some people, any needle insertion through the skin is too strong a stimulus, resulting in immediate local pain and a flare in their presenting symptoms. A trial treating a minimal number of points with non-insertion techniques (e.g. using laser light, essential oils, magnets or metal beads, contact needle, moxibustion) can be tried. On rare occasions, even non-insertion techniques are too strong and ultimately not helpful. In these situations, it is best to try non-acupuncture therapies, with referral to other healing arts practitioners.
What should I do to ensure an optimal response to acupuncture treatment on the day of treatment?
To enhance the value of a treatment, the following guidelines are important:
Do not eat an unusually large meal immediately before or after your treatment. It is good however to have had a light meal and be well hydrated.
Do not physically over exert, or consume alcoholic beverages within 6 hours before or after the treatment.
Plan your activities so that after the treatment you can get some rest, or at least not have to be working at top performance. This is especially important for the first few visits.
Continue to take any prescription medicines as directed by your primary care and specialist physicians. Substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) especially in the week prior to treatment, may interfere with the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments.
Remember to keep good mental or written notes of what your response is to the treatment. This is important for your physician acupuncturist to know so that the follow-up treatments can be designed to best help you.
How many treatments will I need?
Treatment response varies from person to person. Additionally any individual patient will respond differently to the various styles of acupuncture as well as to different acupuncturists. This is similar to what happens in choosing other healthcare providers and treatment modalities.
If you are interested in acupuncture and have never tried it before, we suggest that you give a trial of 3-5 treatments within one month to assess how your system responds.
The number of treatments needed also differs from person to person.
Healing takes time and commitment—conditions that are congenital, chronic, or with a long duration naturally require a longer course of treatment than recent, acute conditions.
The number and frequency of treatment depends on the individual, too. Treatments can be affected by lifestyle choices or prior medical therapies that may have interfered with the body’s ability to heal and function optimally.
What should I expect to feel after an acupuncture treatment?
As energy or qi is redirected in the body, you may notice changes, especially if you have developed body awareness with other practices such as meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi, Feldenkrais or Alexander technique.
Patients may report one of a few patterns of healing:
1. immediate improvement of symptom(s)
2. delayed improvement of symptom(s), by one to three days
3. occasionally the original symptoms may worsen for a few days, and then either be resolved or be improved compared to your state prior to treatment
4. no change in symptom(s); this may indicate, among other things, more significant qi imbalances or nutritional imbalances, or an anatomic issue not addressable alone by acupuncture
Often, patients may note unexpected changes unrelated to their symptoms, such as changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns, or emotional state. These should not cause concern, as they are simply indications that the acupuncture is starting to work and are frequently good health changes. It is important to note these and report them at your next scheduled visit.
It is quite common to have a sensation of deep relaxation or even mild disorientation immediately following the treatment. We recommend that you try to rest and not over exert yourself in the 24 hours following your treatment.
What are potential complications of acupuncture needling?
The acupuncture needle is a fine, disposable (one-time use), sterile, FDA-approved medical device. At Hyde Park Medical Acupuncture, we use the finer acupuncture needles (0.12-0.25 mm caliber sterile stainless steel, about the size of a human hair). We practice a gentle insertion technique that is often more shallow and involves minimal stimulation. This is typical of the Japanese style of acupuncture.
While acupuncture is a highly safe form of physical medicine, there are a few risks. These include bruising, fainting, muscle spasms, bleeding, nerve damage (extremely rare) and punctured organs (extremely rare).
Relatively few complications from using acupuncture have been reported. Still, complications have resulted from use of nonsterile needles and improper delivery of treatments.
When not delivered properly, acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections, punctured organs, collapsed lungs, and injury to the central nervous system.
Do you prescribe medications?
No. It is a condition of treatment at Hyde Park Medical Acupuncture, that you receive ongoing conventional medical care from a primary care physician and specialists (as required by your condition). All your prescription medications should be managed by them. We can coordinate with them on your behalf (with your written permission) upon your request. Please inform them that you are receiving acupuncture treatments; it is important for them to monitor your condition(s) as your medication requirements may change during the course of acupuncture.
Do you prescribe herbs?
No. It is not within the scope of our practice at Hyde Park Medical Acupuncture, to prescribe herbs.
Are there specific medical conditions you should be sure to inform your physician acupuncturist?
Yes. Please inform us of all of your medical conditions as this will help us to tailor your treatments accordingly and provide you with the best possible care.
It is especially important for you to let us know if you currently have one of the following conditions:
1. have an implanted pacemaker
2. have a bleeding disorder
3. for women, if you are currently pregnant
4. have an immunodeficiency, either primary or secondary (such as due to medications or splenectomy)
5. have an infection such as HIV, hepatitis
What type of conditions does acupuncture treat?
It is difficult to compare conventional western medicine with acupuncture. While both are treatment modalities, they represent two completely different paradigms.
In classical Chinese medicine, "qi" or "energy" or "life force" flows throughout the body in a system of channels. There are areas of the the body where this "qi" is more accessible for treatment. These are the acupuncture points.
When there are blockages or imbalances to the flow of qi, either as a result of innate constitution or environmental influences or a combination of the two, illness (either clinical or subclinical) results.
The same pattern of blockages or imbalance of qi is manifested by different symptoms from person to person. For example one particular qi imbalance can manifest as chronic headache in one person, chronic neck pain in another, chronic back pain in another, anxiety in another, and etc.
This is why acupuncture treatments at Hyde Park Medical Acupuncture are individualized based on a patient's history and acupuncture physical exam. Often, acupuncture points are selected based on how they affect the patient's exam in real time. Thus more one-on-one time is required for this technique.
That said, acupuncture is most often applied to pain syndromes (acute and chronic) such as migraine headaches, chronic or acute musculoskeletal pain, sports injuries; post operative nausea; dental pain; digestive issues; menopausal symptoms; cancer support therapy; stress related symptoms such as insomnia; addiction; dysmenorrhea, etc.
The WHO (World Health Organization) has a list of conditions treated by acupuncture. This is accessible on the internet through a search engine.
What should I expect at my treatment appointment?
New patients are scheduled for 2 appointment visits withing one week. The first new patient visit lasts 75-90 minutes and entails obtaining your reasons for seeking acupuncture, treatment goals, medical history, acupuncture physical exam and initial acupuncture treatment. The second new patient visit is withing 1 week of the first, lasts 30-60 minutes, and consists of a review of the effects of the first treatment and a follow up treatment. Afterwards we work together to formulate your individualized treatment plan.
Subsequent visits take approximately 45-60 minutes. We will continue to make adjustments in your treatments as necessary to optimize your well being.
After scheduling your appointment, we will send you two emails with the necessary patient forms to complete. It is important for you to complete the new patient health questionnaire prior to your appointment. This allows us to review it before you arrive.
Please dress in loose clothing such as a short sleeve t-shirt (or tank top) and loose pants (that can be rolled up to mid thigh) or shorts. A changing room is available for your convenience.