Does acupuncture hurt?
Most of my clients respond to a needle insertion with something like “gee, did you do it already?”  I use extremely thin needles (yes, sterile, single-use needles), insert them superficially, and do not do electro-acupuncture, so, no, it does not hurt.  Any discomfort lasts for no more than a second or two.  There are many different styles of acupuncture and some practitioners use a stronger needle technique or thicker needles.  You may read or hear that acupuncture can feel like a bee sting.  I promise, that is not what my clients would say!
What conditions can acupuncture treat?
I’ve successfully treated clients with a wide variety of ailments — migraines, chronic headaches, back pain, sciatica, infertility, hot flashes, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, IBS, colitis, morning sickness, reflux, hair loss, chronic fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, neck pain, insomnia, stress, amenorrhrea, and many, many other conditions.  Traditionally, acupuncture is a preventative treatment, used to help an individual move smoothly and healthily through life so that illness does not occur.  Many of my clients sought treatment for a particular symptom but continue to come even after it is gone because they feel so much better when they do.
What will it be like when I visit your office?
I schedule two hours for new clients and a full hour for additional visits.  We’ll sit and talk for the first part of your visit.  I’ll find out what brings you for treatment and take a complete health history.  Once that is done you’ll lie on the treatment table while I take your pulses, look at your tongue, and do a few other non-invasive examination techniques.  When I have formulated a treatment plan I’ll insert the needles, usually about six to eight, and then give you time to rest.  Many people fall asleep or feel very relaxed while the needles are in.  After about twenty minutes I’ll remove the needles and take your pulses again.  Often I might need to quickly treat another few points.
How many treatments will I need?
Generally, I recommend that clients plan to come weekly for at least six weeks.  Once we have received a good response I recommend tapering treatments — coming once every two weeks a few times, then going to once a month, and so on.  This is a general guideline and varies from person to person.  An acute, recent condition is likely to need fewer acupuncture treatments to resolve than a chronic illness which has been present for years.  Some conditions can greatly benefit from treatments twice a week for limited periods of time.  Your lifestyle — nutrition, rest, amount of exercise, amount of stress, etc. will also have an impact on how quickly your system returns to and maintains healthy function.  Many clients chose to receive acupuncture every season, even when they are symptom free, to help maintain good health.
How much does it cost?
It is very important to me that acupuncture be available to those who need and want it, and that clients are able to get treatments as frequently as needed.  In order to facilitate that I currently offer a sliding scale.  My scale is $65.00 to $115.00.  (The fee for the initial visit is $175.00.)  Patients determine what they will pay within the fee range.  Please contact me if you have any questions about the sliding scale.  Because I believe that my clients and I should be in control of the treatment plan I am not a preferred provider with any insurance company.  Many of my clients are able to receive some reimbursement for my services, however payment is due at the time of treatment.
What does “Western” Medicine say about acupuncture?
The medical establishment is increasingly interested in and supportive of acupuncture. WebMD reports that acupuncture can be helpful for low back pain, migraines, and the pain of arthritis, among other things. Acupuncture is now offered at many hospitals, including Johns Hopkins and Mount Sinai, and is also available at the Mayo Clinic. You may see articles in which acupuncture is dismissed, often because the mechanism of action is not understood or because research studies do not show efficacy. Acupuncture is an individualized medicine, in which each treatment is tailored to the patient and may change with every visit. This makes formal research difficult. Also, the mechanism of action is not well understood for many western treatments. Many MD’s will admit that their clients have experienced relief from acupuncture treatments, and MD’s are increasingly adding acupuncture to their practices.
How do I find a well-trained practitioner?
As acupuncture becomes more popular a growing number of health care practitioners add this modality to their services. Different jurisdictions have different rules about what sort of training is required to use acupuncture needles. In Virginia, providers can range from Licensed Acupuncturists to MD’s, DC’s, and D.O.’s, to PT’s who use acupuncture needles to release trigger points. LAcs must graduate from accredited schools with programs of 2000 or more hours and pass national board exams. MD’s, DC’s, and DO’s should have at least 200 hours of training in acupuncture, although there is no formal verification process. PT’s can do “dry needling” with 54 hours of training. While all of these providers can be skilled, an LAc has the most rigorous training and certification process and is educated in the full range of acupuncture and Asian medicine modalities. Additionally, “dry needling” involves the deep insertion of needles and strong needle manipulation – this has a higher rate of complications than the typical acupuncture treatment.