Needles! Does it hurt?
All sorts of sensations have been reported, including aches or prickling feelings that fade quickly – or nothing at all. I personally have felt a "buzzing" or vibration that extend from the acupuncture point to other areas of my body, as well as flashes of heat or little jolts that feel like faint electrical impulses. Some points (and patients) are more sensitive than others. It’s important to note that any sensation that comes from the needle insertion is quite transitory. My patients – even the ones who are afraid of needles – find that acupuncture treatments are overall deeply relaxing and have reported feelings of relaxed heaviness of the body and lightness of the mind.
Why should I choose to see you rather than go to a doctor?
If you are experiencing acute or chronic symptoms that cause you concern, you absolutely should go to a doctor. I would never discourage anyone from seeking medical care or taking prescribed medicine. I am happy to treat people who are already under the care of a physician, and in fact, many doctors refer their patients to acupuncturists as a supplement to their own care. I will also refer any patient to a physician if I have concerns about them that are best addressed by that paradigm.
On the other hand, many patients do not have health insurance or have personal reasons or beliefs that prevent them from seeking Western medical care. Acupuncture is generally a much less expensive and less invasive treatment.
Further, as an acupuncturist and a healer, I don’t focus narrowly on symptoms, but rather assess the whole person and recognize how every aspect of living can contribute to disease, not merely cellular mechanics. Nonetheless, I am able to make sense of symptoms that don’t seem connected to anything and address symptoms that doctors don’t know how to treat because they have not yet progressed to the level of pathology.
I listen deeply and am able to spend enough time with you that you feel truly heard and understood. I am able to help you connect the dots on how your habits directly affect how you feel every day, and I teach you what I know about natural laws to help you make good choices and live well.
Significantly, unlike a doctor, who must usually add something to your body from the outside (via pill or injection) and affect a change in chemistry to address your symptoms, I stimulate your body’s natural ability to heal itself. Acupuncture needles are only as thick as a hair and quite flexible, but they are solid surgical steel. There is nothing "inside" them that gets injected into you, and they are not coated with any medicine. The medicine, rather, is a part of you, and the needles are just helping it get stronger and directing it where it needs to go.
And perhaps most importantly, I don’t dismiss concerns that I don’t understand as being "all in your mind." Yes, because of my foundation in mind-body medicine, I know that issues may indeed spring from that level. However, I also believe that, like the warning lights on a car dashboard, all symptoms, body and mind, show up for a reason – usually as a reminder or teacher of some way of living or wisdom that will ease your suffering and promote full living – and I am willing to make that journey of understanding with you, every step of the way.
What kinds of symptoms can acupuncture treat?
People seek acupuncture to help ease their persistent symptoms of:
- Bodily pain and injuries of all sorts (arthritis, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia)
- Headaches and migraines
- Allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders
- Compromised immunity, viruses, infections
- Depression and anxiety
- Low energy
- Insomnia, nightmares, and other sleep disorders
- Stress management
- Menstrual disorders, infertility, menopause, hot flashes
- Digestive disorders
- Irritable bowels
- Addiction recovery
- And many others
The spiritual aspect of my tradition of acupuncture can also assist with:
- Creating and connecting with a vision for the future
- Anger management
- Issues of self-worth and confidence
- Letting go of old habits, ideas, ways of living
- Taking action, the next step, moving to the next level
- Interpersonal issues
- Creative inspiration
- GLBT issues
And sometimes, people who seek acupuncture are just looking to feel better in general or wish to prevent illness down the line.
Truly, there are very few bodily, mental, or emotional symptoms that can’t benefit from acupuncture treatment because this medicine is based on strengthening the system of the whole person, from the core outward. The origins of acupuncture in ancient Chinese cosmology show how all parts of our lives interrelate and function as a whole. This is why people who come in with one complaint notice that numerous other symptoms are helped in the same treatment.
What specific kinds of pain can you lessen?
Acupuncture can be very effective on many forms of bodily pain, both chronic and acute. I have successfully treated migraines and other headaches, upper and lower backaches, neck and shoulder pain, knee pain, arthritis, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, digestive pains, tendonitis, sinus pain, and others. Acupuncture can also help with faster healing from breaks and other injuries (while also treating their associated pains).
How will acupuncture improve my life?
In addition to addressing the "roots and branches" (that is, the underlying imbalance as well as the symptoms that are showing up), you may also notice that you get sick less often and recover more quickly, and find you have more energy and stamina. You might even end up spending a lot less money on doctors in the long run. It is important to note that all effects of acupuncture (or any modality) are magnified by making the lifestyle changes that may be called for by your specific symptoms.
How does it work?
The ancient Chinese developed acupuncture as a way of manipulating the vital life force, which they called "qi." According to that system, qi moving in the body could become depleted, get stuck, or move where it wasn’t supposed to – much the same way a river can dry up or get blocked or flood – causing disease. They identified points that would cause this qi to move more regularly, and thus the disease was healed.
Today, after having been observed by Western science for a hundred years, there are many different theories for what is going on when we insert our needles. Some researchers believe that what happens is a biomechanical reflex, much like what happens when the doctor taps your knee with a hammer: a point is stimulated, and it has a nonlocal effect. Some describe acupuncture as affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. Still others ascribe the results as an effect of the body’s electrical or nervous systems, or a reaction to the muscle fascia to insertion of the steel. Indeed, I have seen hypotheses that support these explanations and others.
What are your credentials and experience?
I have an Doctor of Acupuncture (D.Ac.) degree from the Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly known as Tai Sophia Institute, where I received my Master of Acupuncture Degree) and am a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) in the state of Maryland. I have also completed a Diplomate of Acupuncture (Dipl.Ac.), a rigorous national board certification, from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
Previously, I owned two retail stores dedicated to healthy living and environmentally friendly homes, and I am a partner in a café called Charmington’s that serves natural foods and beverages. My other degrees are a B.A. from the Johns Hopkins University and an M.A. from the University of Baltimore.
What is an appointment like?
Great care is taken to make an acupuncture appointment as relaxing, comfortable, and effective as possible!
During your first visit, which is two hours long, we will discuss at length at length your symptoms, history, and goals. Because acupuncture is a holistic medicine, this may involve asking about seemingly unrelated aspects of your life. This information is used to craft treatments that are especially appropriate for you personally, addressing the symptoms you are currently concerned about, symptoms it never would have occurred to you to mention, and potential issues that might be prevented in the future. If you fill out your new patient paperwork in advance, this can be a relatively quick process so we have more time for the acupuncture treatment.
You will also be given the opportunity to ask any questions or state any concerns that are on your mind. Always keep in mind that my treatment room is a safe, judgement free zone where you are held in the highest regard. Don't feel embarrassed to bring up anything that you feel is relevant to your comfort or healing. You will always be met with deep listening, appreciation, and respect.
Next is a brief physical exam, including the feeling of pulses and examination of the tongue. These help diagnose the overall state of your body, corroborate any preliminary theories about your symptoms, and provide more guidance about which is the right treatment for you.
Then comes the acupuncture itself. You will be asked to lie comfortably on a treatment table and roll up any sleeves and pant legs (so wear loose clothes). Sometimes I will also need access to your back or torso. Very fine, sterile, single-use needles will be used to stimulate the appropriate points. The insertion can go as slowly as you like to help you feel as comfortable as possible. Often, once the needles are in, I will ask you to test the area of pain or gauge your mood to see if there have been any immediate changes.
Once the needles are inserted, you will lie with them retained for some period of time. The temperature and lighting can be adjusted to aid your relaxation. You may also watch the peaceful aquatic life in the nearby fish tank or listen to the calming music of your choice. I will leave the room to let you rest peacefully, but you will be given a buzzer to call me back if necessary.
After a period of time, the needles will be removed and I will feel the pulses again to gauge if the treatment achieved our goals. We will talk about how to monitor the results until we see each other again so I can gauge how successful it was and adjust future treatment planning accordingly. I will also provide any wellness coaching necessary to optimize your results.
In follow-up visits, which are one hour long, we will check in at the beginning for ten or fifteen minutes before proceeding to the acupuncture treatment. Once again, I will check your pulses and tongue, insert the needles, and let you rest comfortably.
Will I feel better right away?
You very well might. Of course, it depends upon what your symptom is, how long you’ve had it, how much rest and nutrition you get, how old you are, and a number of other factors. Some results are instantaneous, and most take a little longer.
It is important to note that acupuncture is generally a cumulative therapy. Each treatment supplements the last and prepares you for the next. Like most medicine, it is not something you take once and are cured forever; healing is steady natural process over time.
How many times do I need to come?
This is not set in stone. Because the earlier appointments tend to be what we call "clearing treatments," in which we remove existing energetic blocks, I usually suggest a minimum of six to eight weekly treatments before you will start to see lasting changes. (Although there may be some dramatic differences even after your earlier appointments, most conditions take a while to build up and will also take a while to fully clear from your body.)
Usually, after we get ahead of the symptoms with frequent early visits, appointments can be spaced out further in a plan we mutually agree on. Often, it is every two weeks for a while, then once every month, then maybe five or six times a year for maintenance. Very often, a patient will enjoy acupuncture so much that he or she will continue to come once or twice a month.
Is it covered by health insurance?
An increasing number of insurance plans do cover acupuncture. I currently am an in-network provider for BlueCross BlueShield, Cigna, Aetna, and JHU EHP. If your insurance is not one of those plans, I can still process your claims if you have out-of-network coverage for acupuncture.
Note that not all plans cover acupuncture, and some cover it as treatment only for specific conditions. Copay amounts and deductibles vary according to your specific plan.
It is important for you to send your insurance information before your appointment so we can verify your benefits. You are responsible for all payments not covered by your insurance company.
Do you keep my information confidential?
Absolutely. I strictly follow HIPAA privacy protocols and keep your records under lock and key at all times. Outside of private conferences with any healthcare specialists you specifically permit, I am legally and ethically bound never to mention what you tell me to any other person, or even to acknowledge to an outside party without your permission that I am treating you at all. (Only in very rare cases in which I learn about planned harm to self or others may I break these ethical bonds to inform the proper authorities.) Our relationship is therapeutic, fully private, and completely nonjudgemental at all times!
Besides acupuncture, what other techniques do you use?
Part of my acupuncture background involves wellness coaching, which helps me empower you to be your own "primary care provider" by listening to the messages of your body and making informed choices about your habits and lifestyle.
Moxibustion is a centuries-old partner to acupuncture in which the herb mugwort (Artemesia argyi) is safely and painlessly warmed or burned on certain acupuncture points. This is often done to enhance certain effects of acupuncture treatments.
I also employ other Chinese medical techniques when appropriate, such as cupping (the use of strong suction on the body, usually down the back) and gua sha (light scraping of the flesh in strategic locations with a smooth surface) to release tension, break blockages, and stimulate the immune system.
Lastly, to enhance the experience, I may employ modern technology, such as a BioMat.
What is a BioMat?
All patients may request the use of the BioMat, which is a specialized acupuncture table pad, filled with crushed amethysts and tourmaline. Using heat, far infrared technology, and negative ions, this high-tech device can help improve comfort, the circulation of blood and lymph, and feelings of well-being. It is also indicated for temporary relief of body pains and muscle tension. BioMat appears to help potentiate acupuncture treatments so, over time, they are more effective and last longer. Many of my patients swear by its cumulative effects, and even just as a table warmer it provides a more enjoyable experience.