Most Common Questions About Acupunture

What is Acupuncture and How Does it Work?

Acupuncture is the practice of inserting tiny needles into designated acupuncture points throughout the body to stimulate the flow of Qi (pronounced "chee") and Blood.  Essentially, Chinese medicine looks at disease as disharmonies between the organs and injuries and pain as disruptions in the normal flow of Qi and Blood.  A thorough intake with your practitioner allows the acupuncturist to better understand where the imbalances lie and how the condition should be treated.  There are many, many ways acupuncture can be administered.  Some practitioners chose to use few needles, others conditions may require many.  Sometimes pain can be treated locally (for example, needles are inserted around the knee for knee pain) and other times your practitioner may choose to place needles distally (for example, along your spine) with the intention of healing a different area of concern. 

There are numerous theories as to how acupuncture works.  Some of the ways we'd like to share are that it works by:

  • Addressing neurohormonal pathways, basically, inserting the needle through specific points that stimulate the nerve and boost natural opioid receptors

  • Creating a micro-trauma to a specific area of the body, thus encouraging the body to send white blood cells to the area to initiate healing

  • Increasing the body's level of T-cells, the cells that destroy bacteria and harmful viruses in the body, to safeguard against illness

Is Acupuncture Safe?

Studies conducted by the U.S. National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization have consistently shown that acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment modality.  All needles are sterile, disposable, and used only once.  Minor adverse effects of acupuncture can include bruising, bleeding, dizziness, and fainting.  Practitioners are dutifully trained in Anatomy in relation to the acupuncture points as well as depth of insertion to maximize safety.

What Does It Feel Like?

Many patients report feeling a small pin prick of the needle upon insertion.  Sometimes there may be a dull, achey sensation or an "electrical" sensation for a few seconds immediately following insertion.  After a few seconds, the patient typically feels no sensation of the needle.  If you continue to notice discomfort, please communicate that with your practitioner as she often can manipulate the needle to assuage that sensation.  Sometimes no sensation is felt whatsoever.  Acupuncture points that are located around the hands, feet, and face tend to be more sensitive than those located on the upper legs, abdomen, and back.  This is simply because our bodies have more sensory neurons in those locations.  Acupuncture points associated with specific health concerns may be felt more strongly if the body is imbalanced, overstressed, or being held tight from pain.  After all of the needles have been inserted, most patients find it extremely easy to relax and may even drift off to sleep for the duration of the treatment.

How Many Sessions Will I Need?

Every patient's experience with acupuncture will be different; however, we almost always recommend more than one acupuncture treatment to successfully address a health concern. Many patients will report benefits after just one treatment, but for lasting results, multiple acupuncture treatments a week over a shorter course of time is recommended. The longer the body has been out of balance, a lengthier treatment schedule can be expected.  You can use the (very basic) key of however many years you have had the condition is how many months it may take to treat it. Your practitioner will discuss the treatment program with you during your initial visit. Other factors may play a role- for example, if the condition being treated is more prevalent during one season or another, if you chose to also take herbs during your course of treatment (in which case, we find positive results occur more quickly and tend to hold longer than acupuncture alone treatments), or if we are treating infertility cases in which receiving treatments for a few cycles are commonly needed to regulate and prepare the body.

How Should I Prepare for My First Treatment?

Before arriving for your first treatment, please fill out all intake and consent paperwork online.  This will be emailed to you when you schedule your appointment.  It is a good idea to arrive to your appointment 5-10 minutes early so that you have some time to relax from your drive, especially if coming straight from work.  Please wear loose fitting clothing.  Your practitioner will typically need to access points that lie mostly below your elbows and knees, but sometimes it may be necessary to remove articles of clothing to access other areas, such as the back and abdomen.  

It is a good idea to have a light snack before your session, but try to avoid a heavy meal.  You will be asked to show your tongue and your pulses will be felt before needles are inserted.  Often times you will remove your watch to give your practitioner access to your wrist.  There is no need to "scrape" your tongue before your appointment.  Allowing your practitioner to see the color, texture, and coating on the tongue are all indicative of your health pattern at the time of your appointment and are great diagnostic indicators.  If you have any questions prior to your first appointment, please use the Contact Us form.

We are located in the Market Place building, on the first floor, between Mountain Temp Services and Get Hi Gallery.  If you have any trouble finding the location please give the clinic a call at 970-393-5143.

Are Chinese Herbs safe?

Chinese herbs work on the same principles as pharmaceutical medications in the sense that they all have a number of pharmacological actions.  The herbs prescribed by a licensed practitioner will be specifically chosen based off of your presentation.  Your practitioner has the knowledge to avoid any herbs that may counteract with one another, interact with your Western medications, or contain allergenic or harmful ingredients to your body.  Chinese herbs are very safe, but with any form of medication, a knowledgeable practitioner is absolutely key to work alongside and ensure safety.  There are certain herbs that are only intended for external application, some that require additional cooking times and preparations, and herbs that should be avoided with certain conditions, such as pregnancy.  If you have any concerns about the safety of your customized formula please speak with your practitioner and she will be happy to discuss in further detail the precautions being taken to prepare a safe and effective herbal formula for you.  For more information on Chinese Herbs, please visit our Herbs page.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a modality of Chinese medicine in which glass cups are placed strategically on the body to help remove stagnation.  There are plastic cups that can be used with a small suction device, but more commonly, practitioners chose to use glass cups and fire.  Fire is placed inside of the cup momentarily and that heat creates a vacuum effect inside the cup as it is quickly placed on the skin.  This will yield a strong, suction sensation on the body, some relate this to receiving a deep tissue massage.  Sometimes the cups are then "popped" off and on again along the sides of the spine.  Other times, they stay on the skin and are pushed along specific channels or muscle groups.  

Cupping therapy is typically applicable for reducing pain and inflammation, increasing blood flow, promoting relaxation, and opening the pores to help stimulate immunity.  The suction effect from cupping can micro-separate the fascia under the skin, allowing old, stagnant blood to move out and fresh platelets to move in and encourage healing.  Cupping can cause the skin to temporarily turn red, and in cases of severe pain or stagnation, dark purple.  These spots typically resolve within 1-2 weeks and although they may look painful, they actually are painless!

What is Moxibustion?

Moxibustion, or moxa, is another modality of Chinese medicine that involves the combination of using heat with the herb, Ai Ye, or mugwort.  In Japanese it stems from a word meaning "burning herb".  There are multiple applications of moxa.  Sometimes the herb has been placed into a stick that is lit on fire and burned over the skin, creating a warming effect over a large area, such as the abdomen.  Other times it can be placed on top of an acupuncture needle and burned.  In this case, the warming sensation works its way down through the needle and into the specific acupuncture point.  A third application is applied directly to the skin, on specific acupuncture points.

Research has shown that mona can increase blood circulation in the body.  It has also been commonly used in a protocol to turn a breech baby and has benefits in improving digestion, reducing arthritic pain, and stimulating digestion.  It also feels relaxing and rejuvenating at the same time!  Moxa has been used safely for centuries, but does come with certain precautions.  Any time heat and fire are used in close proximity to the body there is a chance for overheating and burning.  If the area being treated gets too hot, immediately tell your practitioner and they can remove the application.  It also has a strong odor and may not be applicable for those sensitive to smoke.

What is Electrical-Stimulation?

Electrical-Stimulation, or e-stim, is a modality used in Chinese medicine, commonly during Sports Medicine treatments.  It involves attaching electrical probes to the top of acupuncture needles and running a micro- or macro-current through the circuit.  It is often used to treat pain and muscle spasms.  It has also been used successfully to encourage muscle strength for patients recovering from a stroke, Bell's Palsy, or spinal cord injuries.  It elicits a muscle contraction using electrical impulses and can feel a bit like pins and needles.  It is often used for a short period of time and the strength can be adjusted to improve efficacy and comfortability for the patient.  If you have specific questions about E-stim, please speak with your practitioner.


To learn more about specific conditions treated please visit our Conditions Treated page.  The above information offers you a general idea of a typical treatment; if you have further questions you would like answered, please reach out via the Contact page.