Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
Oriental medicine has existed as a health care profession for thousands of years with an emphasis on enhancing health and vitality while reducing the unpleasant symptoms of disease. In our office we focus on helping patients to achieve their health and life goals first, by providing the information needed to make an informed choice about a treatment plan. We look at medical history, recommendations from physicians and chiropractors, Chinese medicine diagnosis, drug and supplements options, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, laboratory diagnostic testing, massage, exercise, diet, and lifestyle choices. Then we ask the patient what his or her goals are. For some this may be a reduction in chronic pain, enhanced fertility, or the energy to make it through a workweek. For others, it could be taking 5 minutes off of their marathon time. In any case, we look at reducing discomfort (the obstacle to feeling healthy) and then enhancing vital energy. The most important question for the patient at every treatment is: what do you want to accomplish through this treatment? Our goal is a state of optimal vitality, but it is up to each patient to determine what that means to him or her at this time.
The California State Acupuncture Board provides the following information as a consumers guide to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine:
What Is Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine has been used as healing arts for over 2,500 years. The general theory is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow called Qi (pronounced chee) throughout the body which are related to the organs and tendino-muscular system. When the energy flow is disrupted due to trauma, poor diet, medications, stress, or other conditions, pain or illness result. Acupuncture focuses on correcting these imbalances of energy flow by inserting ultra-thin needles under the skin to stimulate specific points in the body. Stimulation unblocks the channels and encourages an even flow of Qi, restoring the body's balance and relieving pain and other symptoms.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is one of the newest primary health care professions in the United States. The benefits of acupuncture have become widely recognized and integrated with mainstream health care. Acupuncture's complex system of diagnostic methods take into consideration the person as a whole, not just isolated symptoms. Acupuncture practiced is based upon discerning the body's "pattern of disharmony" and treating accordingly.
Acupuncture and Oriental medicine treats and strengthens the physical condition, normalizes physiological functions, and controls pain. The aim is not just to eliminate or alleviate symptoms, but rather to treat the underlying cause, increase the ability to function, and improve the quality of life.
Since the 1970s when Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine first became available in the United States, over 15 million Americans have tried it. Almost everyone knows someone who has had positive results. The risk is low and potential benefits are high. Knowing what to expect from acupuncture treatments can make a difference in the experience. The purpose of this brochure is to provide information to help consumers approach acupuncture treatment from an informed perspective.
Endorsement by the National Institutes of Health
In November 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) convened a panel of 12 distinguished physicians and scientists to review the history, licensing, practice and current status of clinical research on the effectiveness of acupuncture. The result was the first formal endorsement of acupuncture by the NIH, stating "There is sufficient evidence of acupuncture's value to expand its use into conventional medicine and to encourage further studies of its physiology and clinical value." The panel urged health professionals to consider acupuncture, particularly integrating its use with conventional medicine after a thorough medical workup.
The panel determined that evidence for relief of post-operative pain and nausea associated with pregnancy or chemotherapy is clear-cut. Other conditions, including stroke, headache and chronic low back pain, were listed as benefiting from acupuncture. The panel also noted that acupuncture appears to be effective in relieving common disorders such as menstrual cramps, muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, addiction, and asthma. They also recognized that acupuncture treatment can result in a reduction in the amount of pain medication or anesthesia that might other-wise be required.
Licensed Acupuncturists in California
California has led the nation in the field of acupuncture, becoming the first to license qualified practitioners as primary health care professionals in 1978. To qualify for licensure in California, a student must attend a California Board-approved school to receive theoretical and practical training, and then graduate with a Master's level degree. Upon graduation, qualifying candidates must pass a comprehensive state licensing exam. A current valid license issued by the Board must be posted in a conspicuous location in their office.
What To Expect From Acupuncture Treatment
Being informed and understanding what to expect from acupuncture treatment from the beginning will make your experience more comfortable and reduce apprehension.
Determine Your Goals
Are vou looking for a Primary Health Care Professional, or someone to work with your current physician? Are you seeking short-term treatment for a specific complaint or do you want a prevention-oriented, holistic approach to the health of mind, body and spirit that Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can profide? Do you have a work-related injury that is covered by Workers' Compensation?
An acupuncturist's diagnosis is determined in part using methods similar to other health care practitioners: asking patients for a thorough history of their health and chief complaints, performing a physical exam, and ordering laboratory tests, X-rays and MRIs if necessary. However, the acupuncturist also has unique diagnostic techniques, such as taking the patient's pulse on both wrists and observing the tongue, complexion and other signs. The three pulses felt on each wrist correspond to the major body organs and functions. The practitioner should explain the nature of your problem and the recommended treatment.
Modern acupuncture needles are from one to three inches long, ultra-fine and quite flexible stainless steel. They are pre-sterilized, non-toxic and disposable. When the needles are tapped into the skin, there may or may not be any sensation. Much depends on the location (hands and feet tend to be more sensitive), the condition being treated and the acupuncturist's technique. Ten to twenty needles are typically placed in several acupoints and are usually left in about 20-40 minutes. The goal is to normalize the circulation of Qi and blood by stimulating the energy point, which encourages the body's natural healing process. Stimulation can be done by rotating the needles manually or attaching electrodes to send a weak electric current through the needles.
The number of treatments depends upon the duration, severity and nature of your complaint. Two or three treatments may be sufficient for an acute condition, while a series of 5 to 15 treatments may be needed to resolve chronic conditions. Some degenerative conditions may require ongoing treatments over a long period of time.
The following techniques may be included with your treatment: moxibustion (burning herbs), cupping (suction), auricular therapy (ear acupuncture), tui na (manipulation) and acupressure.
Patients should evaluate their progress after each session. Some relief should be apparent in two or three sessions, or six to eight sessions for more pervasive conditions. If you see encouraging signs, stick with it. Ask your practitioner questions about your treatment and improvement. If your response to treatment is not satisfactory, the practitioner may consider further diagnostic exams, modify the treatment plan, or refer to an appropriate practitioner, if necessary.
Herbal Therapy In the course of your treatment, you may be prescribed herbal supplements. Chinese herbs consist of a variety of naturally found products that promote health. The herbs may be dispensed in pills, capsules, tinctures, or in raw form, which requires boiling as a tea. Most herb formulas consist of four to eight herbs and treat a wide variety of symptoms while stimulating the body's natural healing process.
In California licensed acupuncturists are the only licensed health care professionals who are required to be trained and tested for competency in the prescription of herbal medicine. California-approved acupuncture schools offer a minimum of 300 classroom hours of instruction in traditional Oriental herbology, in addition to clinical training.
In recent years, herbs have become very popular. They're available in health food stores, supermarkets, and on the Internet. While herbs are promoted as safe, gentle, inexpensive, "natural" alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, many health care professionals have concerns about safety, effectiveness, and potential misuse of herbal products, especially when self-prescribed. There are also questions of purity, strength, and standardization of herbs, and considerations of side effects when taken in combination with other drugs. Chinese herbal medicine has been practiced safely and effectively for centuries and has the greatest potential for beneficial results when prescribed by a trained professional who recognizes the benefits and risks. Be sure to inform your acupuncturist if you notice any side effects from the herbs or any other treatment.
Who Can Benefit?
Patients of acupuncture range from infants to senior citizens. They may be seeking an alternative to western medicine or it may be their last hope for relief, having exhausted all western methods for treating a chronic condition. Acupuncture offers a low risk form of treatment with few side effects, and is usually worth a try.
What About Insurance Coverage?
More and more insurance companies are including acupuncture treatment in their policies. Ask your insurer about coverage or reimbursement. Some plans that don't normally cover acupuncture will pay for treatments if a physician recommends them. Acupuncture is covered under California State MediCal and Workers' Compensation.
Acupuncture works with the body, harmonizing and balancing energy. It improves circulation, releases endorphins to control pain, and allows the body to heal itself more quickly and more completely.
Commonly treated conditions include: