What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical techniques, originating in China more than 2,500 years ago. It began with the discovery that stimulating specific areas on the body affects well-being. Acupuncture has evolved into a scientifically studied, world-renowned system of holistic medicine that helps to restore and maintain health, while improving quality of life.
Acupuncture for Modern Health Care
According to a recent survey conducted by HCD Research and The Louis Finkelstein Institute, acupuncture has now become the complementary medicine most widely recommended by physicians in the U.S. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reviewed scientific literature about acupuncture and concluded it to be an effective, minimally invasive, and reasonable treatment for the relief of a wide variety of conditions. The NIH panel concluded, “One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted procedures for the same condition.”
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal. There are a variety of ways in which acupuncture works to achieve health:
- Endorphin release: Acupuncture has been proven to trigger the brain to release chemicals called opiates, similar to pain-relieving medications, but all natural and with no side effects.
- Improved circulation: Acupuncture stimulates the dilation of blood vessels in local areas, improving circulation and speeding recovery.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Pain can often originate in inflamed tissues. Acupuncture decreases inflammation by reducing levels of cortisol, an inflammatory hormone, and by stimulating immune system cells.
- Regulation of Brain / Body Relationship: Studies show that acupuncture regulates areas of the brain linked to heart rate, breath, hormone output, emotion and relaxation response, safely balancing these functions through the nervous system.
- Acupuncture’s Effects On Brain Activity Noted: One of the main stumbling blocks to greater acceptance for acupuncture in the West was the lack of understanding of how it works. This began to change with the publication of a seminal report by researchers at the Harvard Medical School. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate how acupuncture affects brain activity in normal subjects. Thirteen healthy volunteers (ages 27 to 52) were involved in the study. They were seated in the MRI scanner and after relaxing had a single acupuncture point needle inserted (LI 4 or Hegu – located on the hand between the thumb and forefinger). Needle manipulation caused a pronounced calming of activity in the deep structures of the brain (e.g., amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, etc.) accompanied by increased signal intensity in a key sensory region of the brains cortex. Researchers concluded, “Modulation of this neural network could constitute the initiating steps by which acupuncture regulates multiple physiological systems and achieves diverse therapeutic effect.’ Source: Human Brain Mapping, 2000.
What Timetable Should I Expect Before I Feel Better?
The initial visit consists of a comprehensive health history intake and evaluation followed by acupuncture. A course of acupuncture is typically 4-12 sessions, once or twice a week depending on the severity and the condition being treated. Benefits are often felt immediately after the first treatment. Treatment is continued until the symptoms begin to go away for longer periods of time. Then treatment is spread out until you no longer need to come back. This is the typical timetable for natural healing and which demonstrates how acupuncture helps the body to heal itself, not simply cover up symptoms.
About Acupuncture Needles:
Acupuncture needles are FDA approved, as thin as a human hair, sterile and disposable. Most insertions are found to be completely painless. Sometimes there is a very mild sensation that only lasts a brief moment. Many patients are surprised to find treatments to be very pleasurable, often inducing sleep or a deep state of relaxation, unique to the experience of acupuncture.
Many insurers do provide acupuncture coverage. What conditions they cover may varies and it depends on your plan. Our office checks every clients insurance coverage and will be happy to assist you in this process. We ask for payment at time of service as are considered an Out of Network Provider if there is coverage and will will file for you electronically to get you reimbursed or to go towards your deductible if it is not met yet.
The most important questions to ask:
- Are there acupuncture benefits (for both ‘In’ and ‘Out’ of network providers)?
- How many treatments do they cover (amount or number per year)?
- Is there a deductible that needs to be met first?
- What conditions are covered?
- Are there any limitations (who can perform, referral needed, previous treatments, etc)?
If your insurance company does not cover acupuncture, or does not for your specific condition, check to see if acupuncture is an optional treatment. Sometimes you can add on acupuncture to a basic policy for an additional premium.
It is also helpful to remember that we accept most Flex Accounts and Health Savings Accounts (HAS). Most of these accounts cover acupuncture and are tax-free. It is also very important to realize that paying for acupuncture treatment is a way of saving money on your health in the long run. A few weeks of acupuncture to reduce a health problem may save you a double-digit thousand dollar surgery and a lifetime of expensive medication.
What is training of a Nationally Certified / Licensed Acupuncturist?
There are 3 categories of health care professional that can perform acupuncture. The specialist are called Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac), who attend accredited graduate level US colleges studying Traditional Chinese Medicine and earning Master of Science degrees. They then pass National Certification exams (NCCAOM). Their training includes over 3000 hours of in-class and clinical training specializing in acupuncture. State medical boards grant licensure. MD’s and Chiropractors may also practice acupuncture but typically from introductory courses offering only 200 hours of training or less. Therefore it is our recommendation that NCCAOM certified (National Certification Committee for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) practitioners be utilized whenever possible due to their extensive training and specialization in acupuncture technique and knowledge. Seeing a specialist in any health field makes sense and is a wise philosophy in the field of medicine.