How does acupuncture work?
Below are 5 possible biomedical theories to explain this
3,000 year-old medicine.
1. Neurotransmitter Theory: Acupuncture affects brain areas
that stimulate the secretion of endorphins and enkaphalins,
chemicals that help moderate the sensation of pain in the
body. (“Neuro-acupuncture, Scientific evidence of
acupuncture revealed,” 2001 Cho, ZH., et.al., page
128; “Acupuncture-- A Scientific Appraisal,: Ernst,
E., White, A., 1999, page 74; “Acupuncture Energetics--
A Clinical Approach for Physicians,” Helms, Dr. J.,
1997, pages 41-42)
2. Autonomic Nervous System Theory: Acupuncture stimulates
the release of several types of opioids, or pain killers,
which can help regulate an overactive nervous system and
reduce pain. (“Anatomy of Neuro-Anatomical Acupuncture”,
Volume 1, Wong, Dr. J., page 34; Han, J.S. “Acupuncture
Activates Endogenous Systems of Analgesia.” National
Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on Acupuncture,
Program & Abstracts, Bethesda, MD, Nov 3-5, 1997, Office
of Alternative Medicine and Office of Medical Applications
3. Gate Control Theory: Acupuncture activates non-pain
receptors on cells that can inhibit or block the pain signals
sent by the site of injury. (op.cit. Cho, p. 116)
4. Vascular-Interstitial Theory: Acupuncture can affect
the balance of chemicals inside and outside the cells, allowing
for a healthier cellular state to exist and the more toxic
chemicals to flush away and be filtered from the blood and
eliminated from the body. (op.cit., Helms, page 66)
5. Blood Chemistry Theory: Acupuncture affects the concentrations
of various blood components which can in the long-run aid
the body in maintaining homeostasis, or balance. (op. cit.,
Helms, page 41)
Part of the poetry of this medicine is that, though it
is fascinating and valuable for the advancement of this
field to search for and unravel Chinese Medicine in Western
terms, the true beauty of this medicine lies in its simplicity
of logic, its keen understanding of how we are extensions
of nature, and that some things in life are merely meant
to be felt and experienced.
Does acupuncture hurt?
There are a variety of sensations you may feel with the
needles. Upon insertion, you might feel a light prick as
the needle breaks the surface of the skin. Once in, we are
looking for the “Qi” sensation, a dull, heavy,
deep and distending ache. This reflects the desired arrival
of Qi to the acupuncture point. There may be other sensations
like slight tingling, warmth, or occasionally an ache that
refers along the course of the channel.
Are the needles safe?
Yes. In the State of California, acupuncturists may only
use single-use, disposable sterile needles. I have been
well-trained and certified in Clean Needle Technique, which
includes proper disposal. In general, acupuncture is usually
quite benign with very few side effects, though occasionally
there may be slight bruising which dissipates within a few
Are the herbs safe?
The safety of Chinese herbs lies in proper dosing and proper
prescribing. It is easy to go to the local health food store
and do it yourself, but, at the same time, that can be dangerous
or at the very least you may get no results. Herbs are only as effective as they are precise to your needs.
Herbs are medicine
and should be taken under the supervision of a well-trained
acupuncturist and herbalist like myself. I spend a great deal of time examiing your history, making a proper diagnosis and determining the right combination of herbs that will make up you customized herbal prescription. I use pharmaceutical grade extracts of the highest quality Chinese medicinal herbs that are rigorously tested for purity and accuracy by the companies I use based in Southern California. I use no animal or mineral ingredients to even further assure your safety and the cleanliness of the herbs.
Herb-Drug Interactions and Side-Effects
From time to time, patients hear or read about the side
effects of particular herbs. Keep in mind, that when the
Western community talks about herbs, they are talking about
a single herb when used by itself-- a rare occurrence in
Chinese medicine. A well-balanced herbal formula takes into
account your needs, including any adverse reactions they
may have with medications you may be taking, and is made
up of herbs that balance each other by helping to ameliorate
any potential side effects that may be felt when taking
an herb by itself. Though side effects can occur, their
occurrence suggests that the formula needs to be adjusted.
Contrary to Western pharmaceuticals, side effects are not
an acceptable result and can be avoided. The more precise
the formula is to your pattern of imbalance, the fewer the
side effects, if any.
How many sessions will I need?
· Acute or recent conditions can take 5-8 visits
of at least one visit a week, though we can often see improvement
within the first few treatments.
· Chronic or long-standing conditions can take anywhere
from 10-15 visits of at least one visit a week. Much depends
on the duration of your condition, the severity, and your
willingness to be active in your own healthcare. I encourage
my patients to see me sooner rather than later and to commit
to a course of treatment through consistent and regular
visits, adhering to the reasonable and attainable lifestyle,
dietary and herbal recommendations that I offer, and even
by allowing me to work with any other physician you may
be seeing in order to better coordinate your care.
· Maintenance: As you become increasingly sensitive
to your own internal rhythms, you will be better able to
make your own adjustments in your diet or lifestyle so as
to make visits less frequent. Here, you may simply want
to come in for a preventative tune-up once a month or even
I am under the care of my physician. Can I also
see you at the same time?
By all means, yes. That is something I strongly encourage,
which is why I prefer to use the term Complementary Medicine
rather than Alternative Medicine. Little is gained by denying
that fact that the future of healthcare in this country
is in Integrative Care. In choosing to specialize in Internal
Medicine, I want to lead my field in working more closely
with physicians in order to optimize care for my patients.
I am on Western medications. Should I be concerned
about any combining them with acupuncture or herbs?
With acupuncture? No. With herbs? Yes. I go to great lengths
to educate myself about all medications you may be taking
so that the herbs I may prescribe can be taken safely. If
you are still concerned, I am more than happy to consult
with your prescribing physician. But by and large, with
the tremendous increase in prescription drug use, it is
far more likely that patients come in presenting with signs
and symptoms that are side effects of the multiple medications
they are taking, than it is from side effects of herb-drug
interactions. If what you are experiencing is due to their
prescriptions then I encourage my patients to consult with
their prescribing physician.