What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Chinese medicine is a comprehensive medical system that has evolved over 4,000 years. Over the last 30 years, Western research has repeatedly shown the effectiveness of Chinese medicine. Consequently, medical hospitals and clinics in the U.S. are starting to integrate Chinese medical therapies. Instead of treating symptoms, Chinese medicine fortifies physiology by rectifying imbalances, blockages, and deficiencies within the whole body. By treating the underlying root causes, symptoms are alleviated and resiliency is elevated. Chinese medicine recognizes that our bodies have an amazing, innate capacity to overcome illness and disease. Through proper nutrition, physical activity, herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping or other treatment procedures, Chinese medicine empowers you to heal and to maintain good health.
What kind of training does an acupuncturist have?
Like medical doctors, acupuncturists have to go to medical school. Acupuncturists, however, study Traditional Chinese Medicine instead of conventional western medicine. Nationally, the minimum requirement is a 2-year program to obtain a master’s degree.
Acupuncturists in California exceed national standards. In California, the minimum requirement is a 3-year program which consists of 3,000 hours of theoretical and clinical training to obtain a master’s degree. Additionally, acupuncturists must pass the California Acupuncture Board exam to obtain a license to practice. Nationwide, California has the highest standards for acupuncture practitioners because acupuncturists are considered primary care providers. It is within an acupuncturist’s scope of practice to request and interpret laboratory tests to make a diagnosis for patients.
Graduates from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) further exceed California standards. The master’s program is 3 years and 8 months (full-time) and includes extensive study of both Chinese medical theory and western medical theory; acupuncture techniques and herbal medicine; and clinical rotations in treating patients from diverse populations like pediatric oncology or hospice care.
What can I expect during my first visit?
An initial visit that includes a consultation and treatment takes about two hours. During the consultation, I spend a great deal of time discussing your health history as well as all your health concerns in order to properly diagnose and create a treatment plan suitable to your preferences and needs. I also assess your lifestyle and eating habits and spend time answering your questions. If you are new to Chinese medicine, I will explain the different treatment procedures and what you can expect to feel during and after your treatment. Your treatment may include herbs, acupuncture, moxa, cupping, or gua sha depending on your preferences and the complexity of your health needs.
How many treatments will it take before I start noticing changes?
How quickly you respond to treatment depends on several factors: How depleted are you? How severe and complex are your symptoms? How long have you endured your symptoms? Are there complicating factors stemming from your diet and lifestyle? What is the frequency of treatments?
Considering all those variables, it is impossible to provide a concrete number of treatments for significant change. I can say, however, that most patients experience positive changes after the first treatment. Patients with chronic and complex conditions may need between six and twelve treatments for significant change to occur and take root.
What types of procedures are used during a Chinese medicine treatment?
Chinese medicine encompasses a variety of therapies such as herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and gua sha. Which procedure and the degree to which it is used depend on the individual and the nature of the condition being treated. Often multiple procedures are needed to address a chronic or complex condition. For example, both acupuncture and moxibustion may be needed in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Are Chinese herbs safe?
When prescribed by a well-trained herbalist, Chinese herbal medicine is very safe and effective. A good herbalist skillfully selects formulas and pays attention to dosage and drug-herb interactions. I only prescribe Silkie Herbs, which are made using traditional methods to craft honey teapills made here in the USA. Herbal formulas are ground into a powder, mixed with hot honey, rolled into pills, and baked until dry. There are no synthetic chemical binders nor excipients. Using honey as a natural binder aids the absorption of medicinal herbs.
Herbs are typically gentler and have fewer side effects than pharmaceutical drugs because of the inherent buffering system when the whole root or leaf is used rather than extracting and chemically replicating a single chemical compound from a plant. Some patients may have difficulty digesting the herbs and experience gas and bloating. If you experience this or any other side effect, contact me immediately, so that the dosage or formula can be modified.
Is acupuncture safe?
Acupuncture is very safe and has relatively few side effects. Mild side effects may include slight bleeding, soreness or bruising at the acupuncture site. More severe side effects include dizziness or fainting. Those can be prevented by being adequately fed prior to treatment. Do not come to treatment hungry.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), acupuncture is safer than commonly accepted Western medical treatments:
“The incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same condition.” Moreover, the NIH has determined that acupuncture effectively treats chemo-therapy related nausea and vomiting.
Besides the NIH, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for adult cancer pain recommends acupuncture as an integrative intervention. Research studies show that acupuncture in combination with massage therapy is more effective than usual care alone in the treatment of postoperative cancer pain.
What does acupuncture feel like?
You might feel a slight twinge upon insertion, or you may not feel the insertion at all because acupuncture needles are as thin as a single strand of hair. 40 acupuncture needles can fit into the head of a hypodermic needle which is used to draw blood or inject medication. Treatment consists of stimulating 3 to 20 acupuncture points during a single session. After insertion, you may feel a tingling, heavy, or warm sensation. The needles can remain in place for 2 to 20 minutes depending on the condition being treated. Each person experiences acupuncture differently, but most individuals report feeling calmer and more relaxed. Many of my patients actually fall asleep during treatment. At the end of the session, the needles are quickly and painlessly removed and properly disposed. Most patients feel symptom relief immediately after or in a few days following treatment. For chronic, complicated, or severe conditions, a series of treatments are needed.
How does acupuncture work?
Acupuncture treats health conditions by strategically stimulating specific points on the body (acupoints) to regulate the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system has two branches: sympathetic (fight or flight response) and parasympathetic (rest and digest response). When the fight or flight mode is dominant, the immune system is lowered, which makes you more susceptible to illness. The fight or flight mode is triggered by stress, which is the underlying cause of many disorders. Because of the relaxing side-effect of acupuncture, the parasympathetic nervous system is upregulated, and patients are shifted into the rest and digest mode that is optimal for healing. Acupuncture is not the only way to stimulate acupoints to regulate the autonomic nervous system. They can also be stimulated by heat or pressure.
What types of needles do you use?
Hair-thin, sterile, filiform needles made of stainless steel are used once and disposed after each treatment. California has strict safety regulations that require acupuncture practitioners to use sterile, single-use, disposable needles.
What is Moxa?
Moxa is a form of heat therapy that is used in Chinese medicine to boost energy and improve immunity. Clinically, moxa increases both white and red blood cells thereby affecting blood circulation and immunity. Moxa comes from an herb called mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris. Different grades of moxa quality are used for different techniques. Premium gold moxa has all impurities removed so only the wool fibers of the leaf remain. The fibers are then cured in the sun for 12 years to absorb the energy of the sun. That energy permeates the body when moxa is used to stimulate acupoints. Moxa is just as integral to Chinese medicine as acupuncture and can be used for patients who are needle sensitive. Historically, acupuncture and moxa go hand in hand like the two strands of a rope.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is a safe and relaxing form of myofascial release with many therapeutic benefits. Cupping relaxes the muscles, increases blood circulation, reduces pain, treats high blood pressure and respiratory disorders. You might have seen Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps or Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow with circular hickey-like marks on their backs, which are the telltale signs of cupping. These marks are not painful and are conversation starters if you leave them visible. The marks are created from suction that gently lifts the skin, fascia, and muscles. I often apply cupping to specific acupoints and then gently glide the cups across the back to relax the body. I never leave patients alone unattended with cups attached.
What is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is an ancient and powerful technique that can result in immediate pain relief and increased range of motion. Gua means “to rub” or “press-stroke.” Sha has two meanings. It refers to the blood congestion in surface tissue that impairs circulation and causes pain. Sha also refers to the little red dots, petechiae, that appear on the skin when Gua Sha is applied in repeated even strokes. The sha is not painful and usually disappears in 3 days post treatment. Gua Sha, when performed properly, can feel surprisingly pleasant, and pain relief can last for weeks. Clinically, Gua Sha reduces internal inflammation, stimulates the immune system, and has been shown by Laser Doppler Imaging to increase surface microcirculation by 400%.