Acupuncture FAQ

What is Acupuncture?

“Originating in China more than 5,000 years ago, acupuncture is the main treatment type in traditional Chinese medicine. It is based on the principle of "qi", a vital energy that circulates through the body in twelve invisible energy lines known as meridians. An imbalance in the flow of qi throughout a meridian manifests disease. Acupuncturists insert solid thin needles into specified points along meridian lines to restore balance and influence the flow of qi. There are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body." From About.com

What happens during an average acupuncture treatment?

The acupuncturist interviews the patients, observes the patient's physical condition, and formulates a diagnosis and treatment plan based on what they have observed. The acupuncturist will choose acupuncture points and after treating the patient, will usually let the patient relax with the needles in for 20 – 30 minutes, and sometimes longer in special cases. The acupuncturist may also employ moxabustion, massage, or electroacupuncture during or after the treatment. The acupuncturist will then take the needles out and may prescribe herbs for the patient to go home with.

Is it painful?

Most people associate needles with pain and discomfort because of their experiences receiving vaccinations and shots with hypodermic needles. Hypodermic needles are hollow in the center and are much larger than the kinds of needles used in acupuncture. Acupuncture uses thin solid filiform needles that are often the width of a few human hairs and are flexible. This type of needle often causes either no discomfort or a mild discomfort when entering the skin. Patients often do not even know when a needle has been placed immediately. We are very sensitive to the comfort level of our patients, and use a very gentle technique to ensure that the experience of acupuncture is not an uncomfortable one!

How does acupuncture work?

In Chinese Medicine the mechanism of acupuncture is described as the movement and manipulation of "qi" (vital energy) to restore harmonious flow of energy throughout the body. Much research has been done up to the present day to find scientifically proven mechanisms of action that explain how acupuncture is able to affect pain and alter body functions. While we can see clearly the pain-relief and other effects of acupuncture in our patients and research studies, we are still learning about the many ways it works from a western biomedical viewpoint. Please see the page on Scientific Theories on Acupuncture for more detailed information on proposed theories on how acupuncture functions.

How will I feel after getting acupuncture?

Many patients feel one or more of the following after receiving acupuncture; pain relief, relaxation, drowsiness, "spacey", elevated mood, sleepiness, energized, tingly, or sometimes nothing at all. How a patient responds is often related to the chief concern they are getting treated for and their underlying constitution at the time of treatment.

After your appointment, we recommend patients take a few minutes to regroup after treatment, have a sip of tea or water, and make sure they are feeling alert enough to drive safely. Please contact us day or night if you have symptoms after a treatment that concern you. Holly can be reached at 415-533-7023 by call or text message. You can also get in touch via email: HGoguen@gmail.com

Does Acupuncture have any side-effects?

Usually patients experience no side-effects when receiving acupuncture. The most common minor side-effect of acupuncture is an occasional slight bruising at the place the needle was placed. Moderate side-effects can be light-headedness, fainting or hematoma (large bruise). Positive side-effects often experienced are elevated mood, stress-relief, and muscle relaxation, even when patients are being treated for an unrelated condition. Rarely adverse events such as puncture of an internal organ have been reported, but these are only observed when the acupuncturist or doctor has incorrectly applied treatment.

Do you use disposable needles?

We ONLY use single-use disposable needles, as is called for by California state law.

What kinds of conditions can acupuncture treat?

Please visit our Common Conditions  page.

How long does it take to work?

The seriousness and acute or chronic status of a concern influences the amount of time that patients can expect to see some improvement. Acute diseases are often effectively treated with a small number of treatments over a short period of time, while chronic conditions are usually given a longer treatment plan. Chronic conditions are often more complex and while improvement is generally seen within a few treatments, it may take 5 – 6 treatments for more consistent changes and a few months before real progress is made.

What kinds of herbs are used in Chinese Medicine?

The Chinese Medicinal Pharmacopeia contains thousands of different medicinal ingredients. Many ingredients come from different parts of the plants, such as roots, stems, leaves, twigs, flowers, fruit, and bark. Other ingredients are made from mineral or animal matter. While many of the names of Chinese herbs may sound unfamiliar, you would be surprised at how many you can recognize. Ginger, Chinese Dates, Cinnamon, Ginseng, Green Onion, and Mint are all commonly used in Chinese Medicine.

Are the herbs you use safe? I've heard products from China can be dangerous?

We purchase our herbs from companies which guarantee their products are manufactured in accord with the highest standards. Many problems with herbs are found in products that are copycats and are imitating a well-known product, but do not contain the ingredients they are supposed to, or contain things that are not listed. This is why it is important to purchase herbs from a licensed professional who can be sure of the company their products are purchased from.

How are herbs taken?

Our clinic prescribes Chinese herbs in capsule, granule, or patent form. Granules are dehydrated teas that have been previously cooked by the manufacturer and are turned into powders that can be consumed in a capsule or dissolved in hot water. We also stock Chinese Herbs in patent tablets, which are small tablets or coated pills that consist of common formulations of herbs used in practice. While pills provide the easiest convenience, many practitioners prefer powders or raw herbs which can be formulated best to meet the specific needs of the patient. 

Can I go buy my own herbs?

Due to the presence of counterfeit products in the market, that may be unsafe for consumption or insufficiently tested, we recommend you ONLY purchase your herbs from a licensed professional.

Are there side-effects when taking herbal medicine?

Most patients do not experience any side-effects from their herbal medications. Occasionally patients report mild gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, or constipation. In these cases, the herbs or the time of day they are taken are adjusted and the symptoms usually do not return. With the ingestion of any new herbs, patients should be alert for signs of an allergic reaction and patients should notify their acupuncturist of any known allergies. Signs of an allergic reaction may include swelling, itching, hives, numbness of the tongue or lips and rashes. If any of these symptoms are present, alert your acupuncturist, discontinue use of the product, and call 911 if symptoms get worse, are severe or involve breathing difficulties.