Frequently Asked Questions About Acupuncture and Chinese Herbalism

Read answers to the most frequently asked questions about acupuncture and Chinese herbalism from patients of the Yi Guan Clinic. If the answer to your question is not below, please contact us so we can provide additional answers.

How does acupuncture work?

The body communicates with itself in two main ways, with electrical signals through the nerves or with endocrine or immunological factors circulating in the blood. Acupuncture, by inserting a metallic implement into tissue, works by utilizing both of those pathways. Through astute observation and experimentation, ancient Chinese physicians worked out a reliable map and method to use these miniscule needles to send and receive messages directly to their patients’ physiology. See the Acupuncture section on the Services page for more information.

Does acupuncture hurt?
The discomfort is brief and depends on the sensitivity of the patient, the location of the needle, and the underlying condition. This discomfort only occurs during insertion as the pain sensing nerve endings are only in the superficial tissue. Some patients describe no pain at all. After insertion one might experience different sensations such as a warm fullness, a cool spreading, or an electric moving, but pain should not be among them.
How does herbalism work?

Over the numerous generations stretching from ancient times to the modern era, Chinese herbalists have been honing the perfect blend of herbal substances to approach a full spectrum of ailments with undeniably favorable outcomes, and in some instances in alleviating issues modern therapies have yet to adequately tackle. See the Herbalism section of our Services page for more information.

When will you use needles versus herbal remedies?

Most cases will utilize a balanced mixture of needles, herbs, and mind-body practices linked together into one tailor-made protocol. After a comprehensive consultation, the clinician determines which approach is most effective and suitable for the patient.

How do I take the herbal remedies?

The common ways in which Chinese herbs are dispensed today are as:

  • decoctions made from bulk (fresh) herbs
  • powder of ground up bulk herbs ingested directly or dissolved in hot water
  • powder granules encapsulated or formed as pills or dissolved in hot water
  • alcohol-based tinctures.

There are other methods to prepare topical remedies such as ointments, liniments, and pastes. Many formulas are available in several formats. Our theory is that the most effective format is the one the patient will most likely take as prescribed.

What can I expect at my first treatment?

Your first appointment will take 90 minutes and consists of the initial 30-minute consultation and 60-minute treatment. After the medical interview and focused physical assessment, including an examination of your pulse and tongue, your acupuncture treatment will begin. These will occur on either a massage table or a zero-gravity chair. The most frequently used acupuncture points are on the forearms and lower legs, followed by the back and abdomen. Any mind-body practices prescribed will be demonstrated at the end of the treatment. Please remember to wear lose fitting clothes. Gowns are also available.

What is a decoction?

To prepare a decoction, herbs from the prescribed bag are soaked in water and then simmered for a period of time depending on the protocol. This water is separated, and the herbs are again simmered in additional water. After that, both volumes of water are added and this volume is divided into separate doses. One bag typically makes 2-3 days worth of fluid doses.

What are powder granules?
This is a factory-based process where large quantities of single herbs are decocted in a large vat. The fluid made from the decoctions are then sprayed on inert (usually potato starch) granules, which are then tested to assure the proper amount of the active herbal components are present on the granules. The granules for different single herbs are then proportionally mixed to form formula granules. This format aids in ease of shipping, delivery, and ease of use and unlike other factory produced herbal products, can be customized.
How soon will I see benefits?

Most commonly patients report a change in symptoms at the time of needling, or do not perceive the difference until after the treatment when they stand up and move around. Sometimes it takes a few hours of them going about their day before they gradually notice things are better. And sometimes people do not notice it until the next morning, after a night’s sleep.

The expectation for results with herbal treatments can range from within minutes after ingesting the first dose to several weeks of continued use depending on the condition and the formula used (sometimes a slow response is what is needed). The average reported length of time before something is noticed is 3-4 days

How long will the benefits last?
Acupuncture treatments are not typically “one and done” treatments. Any positive effect acupuncture has in setting your flow back in order is expected to fade as long as the underlying disease is still present. Patients most commonly report a return of symptoms within 3-4 days. It is also typical for each time symptoms return that they are less severe or different in quality. And after each treatment the length of time before the effect fades lasts longer and longer until, as is the hopeful goal, the effect lasts indefinitely.
How frequently do I need to come for treatment?

Once the benefit of the acupuncture treatment begins to wane, the patient should return for additional treatments. Studies have shown that it may take up to 10-12 treatments before a long-sustained positive effect on symptoms is noted. The most common time frame reported by patients is that positive effect is noted within 2-3 treatments.

Herbal prescriptions are generally dispensed for two weeks, at which time the patient should be reassessed.

What are the rules and restrictions of mini treatments?
Mini treatments are same day/short notice single symptom treatments available to established patients. Treatments last up to 15 minutes and are provided in a zero gravity chair. The most common symptoms eligible for mini treatments are migraine headaches and their associated neurological symptoms. Only up to two mini treatments are administered between full sessions. If it takes more than two, then the issue is not being fully addressed with mini treatments and a full session is required. Certain conditions are not suitable for mini treatments and therefore mini treatments are only given at the medical discretion of the provider.
Do need to be a patient to take the Taijiquan/qigong/meditation classes?
No. The group mind-body and taijiquan classes are open to everyone.
Do I need to go to the Taijiquan/qigong/meditation classes if I am a patient?
No. Any mind body practice that is deemed appropriate for your treatment is instructed as part of your regular appointment. No additional time is needed, though the group classes are perfect for when additional time is sought.
What are the most common ailments that Eastern medicine can help with?

As it has been, for all intents and purposes, the sole medical system in use for the entirety of China’s lengthy dynastic era, acupuncture, herbalism, and mind-body exercises can treat a full spectrum of diseases. Our practice philosophy at Yi Guan Acupuncture and Chinese Herbalism is not that one picks East over West, but one uses East and West in proper balance to more optimally manage your issues. Common issues addressed:

  • Acute and chronic pain
  • Headaches
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Endocrine imbalances
  • Poor digestion
  • Stabilizing cravings for weight control, smoking cessation, or substance abuse cessation

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