Frequently Asked Questions
Provided below are brief answers to some common questions regarding acupuncture, herbal formulas, and traditional Chinese medicine in general, as well as regarding my practice specifically. If you have additional questions, please contact me at (503) 577-1092 or via email. Thank you very much!
Acupuncture stimulates specific points along specific channels, also called meridians, on the body with extremely fine needles. These channels where mapped out by ancient practitioners over millenia of research. Traditional texts map out several hundred points along twelve primary meridians, i.e. channels, though only about a hundred of these points are commonly used. Among its many purposes, this technique restores and promotes the flow of Qi, alleviating illness by dispelling stagnation, clearing obstructions, and increasing flow to organs suffering from deficiencies. When appropriate, mild electrical stimulation may be applied through the needles to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.
Acupuncture is one of the safest therapeutic practices available. All needles are manufactured sterile and disposed of after a single use. With appropriate technique, acupuncture causes little or no pain due to the needle's fineness, which is generally the same thickness as a strand of hair. Instead, tingling sensations may be expected in the vicinity of the needle, which is the desired response especially with manual stimulation of the needle, as it indicates a rise in the local flow of Qi.
Chinese herbal medicines tap the inherent capability of documented herbs to address specific imbalances within your body. While traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has historically included the use of animal, plant, and mineral products, I currently only use plant-based herbal medicines in accord with my patients' preference. My herbal formulas are custom-made for each of my patients, because the effects of every herb are unique, and each formula combines the herbs that are most appropriate for your condition on assessment or reassessment. While the active ingredients of these herbs have yet to be fully chemically characterized due to their complexity, the therapeutic value inherent in countless herbs has been well documented in both traditional and contemporary literature.
Chinese and Western medicine differ fundamentally in their interpretation of illness. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) interprets health as a multi-faceted balancing feat of the body both within itself and against external factors. TCM traces illness to one or more such imbalances, which manifest in such a way that may be diagnosed through history-taking, observation of the tongue, and palpation of the pulse. By treating and correcting the imbalances present using acupuncture, herbal medicines, and lifestyle changes, you may steadily return to good health. The language of TCM also differs from that of Western medicine in that some terms shared by both, such as in reference to the internal organs, are not equivalent. Rather, the terminology of organ systems in TCM has evolved into more abstract concepts, in contrast to the empiric terminology of organ systems in Western medicine.
Many of the concepts of TCM, however, have analogs within the understanding of Western medicine, such as imbalances corresponding to over- or under-activity of different organ systems, and external invading factors corresponding to foreign pathogens such as viruses or bacteria. While modern Western medicine has achieved, of course, a more thorough scientific understanding of many disease processes and treats them accordingly, in this age there are many diseases for which Western medicine has no cure, but rather only chronic, symptomatic treatments that vary widely in efficacy.
In this respect, especially, TCM can have great therapeutic potential in such cases, as it still has the capacity to treat disease by diagnosing dysfunction at the root of the disease and treat accordingly by correcting those imbalances with acupuncture and herbal medicines, with the key difference being that its treatments aim for a definable endpoint, in contrast to many prescription medications in Western medicine.
Together, acupuncture and herbal medicines have the potential to treat an endless range of non-emergent and non-surgical conditions. The versatility of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) stems from its evaluation of the body's imbalances as a whole, regardless of where the presenting illness localizes to. This interpretion of disease as a holistic collection of imbalances that may be treated with acupuncture and herbal medicine always aims for the goal of eliminating the root of disease to produce long-term relief. Browse my list of clinical conditions that I have experience treating with positive results.
A healthy diet and lifestyle are crucial components in the holistic viewpoint of Chinese medicine. Without appropriate diet and lifestyle habits, acupuncture and herbal medicine cannot restore your health in the long-term, because many types of food, some of which you may not have ever thought of as unhealthy, create and maintain the imbalances that lead to illness or diminish your body’s own defenses to good health. Treatment for an illness without correction of you diet, therefore, is analogous to trying to douse a fire while adding fuel to it at the same time.
In addition, during your treatment, I may utilize other practices such as moxibustion, cupping, and/or electro-acupuncture, too, as I judge to be appropriate for your condition, in order to achieve the greatest benefit that I can for you. These services are all covered within your visitation fee at no extra expense. More information on them are available below.
On your first visit, I will ask you about your symptoms, medical history, current medications, and your general lifestyle, including exercise and eating habits. In addition, I will your pulse and, if appropriate, inspect your tongue to better diagnose your current condition and determine the imbalances that need to be addressed. Following this assessment, unless you requested no acupuncture, I will begin your acupuncture treatment by placing needles at appropriate points, and I will check back regularly to stimulate the needles. As appropriate, I will as position heating lamps near you for indirect moxibustion, perform cupping over certain areas of skin, and/or use an additional instrument for electro-acupuncture. These service are covered within your visitation fee at no extra expense.
I will then leave you to rest, returning intermittently to check on or stimulate your needles, while I write and fill your herbal prescrition, which will usually be finished by the end of your treatment. Your first session will typical last about 60 minutes, while your follow-up sessions will typical last around 30 minues, and will focus more on assessing changes in your condition and adjusting your formula as necessary.
Moxibustion involves the application of heat over an area of skin either above an acupuncture point or a region of dysfunctional tissue. The heat helps to stimulate the flow of Qi, much like acupunture does, as well as to relax or promote healing in a region of dysfunctional tissue. Moxibustion has traditionally been practiced by lighting one end of a Moxa stick, which resembles a large cigar containing Chinese herbs, and holding it near the skin as the herb-infused heat emitted from its smoldering tip treats the local area of tissue; this is called direct moxibustion. Alternatively, the practice of indirect moxibustion developed through the use of an electrical heating lamp that stands in for Moxa sticks as the heat source, eliminating the smoke byproduct of released by burning Moxa sticks.
When I perform moxibustion, I no longer use Moxa sticks due to patient complaints about the disagreeable amount of smoke that the procedure produces. Instead, I use specialized heating lamps, which I have found to achieve similar results for my patients without the smoke byproduct. This service is covered within your visitation fee at no extra expense.
Cupping involves placing glass cups on certain areas of your skin, and generating a vacuum within the cup that gently draws your skin and tissues upwards into the cup. I create this vacuum by lighting a small alcohol-infused cotton ball placed against the inner side of the glass cup before placing the cup onto your skin. The flame then dies quickly after burning out the oxygen within the cup, while remaining stuck on the glass due to the adhesion created by the leftover alcohol. In addition, the pulling of your skin and tissues upwards into the cup helps to not only loosen tight areas of skin and muscle, but also to increase blood flow to all the tissues in the treated areas, promoting better flow of Qi as well as improved healing through increase Qi and Blood flow. This service is covered within your visitation fee at no extra expense.
Electro-acupuncture involves attaching small clamps from a small instrument to your acupuncture needles to deliver a gentle stream of electricity into some of your needles. This steady current of electricity functions similarly to manual stimulation of your needles, to the end of promoting the stimulation of Qi at the area of needle placement, but can do so constantly. The degree of electrical charge I dial the instrument to depends entirely on your immediate feedback, which I will ask for with every adjustment I make, until you feel that I have reached the most comfortable state of electrical stimulation to your needles. This service is covered within your visitation fee at no extra expense.
The number of treatments necessary for recovery varies significantly due to the wide range in both the types of imbalances recognized in Chinese medicine as well as the severity of these imbalances. Different patients, furthermore, respond to treatment at different rates, thus making prognoses difficult to predict without some period of observing your early response to treatment. Similarly, the frequency of visits varies from patient to patient, but recommendation typically range between twice-per-week visits and biweekly visits.