1. Does acupuncture hurt?
No, it doesn't. The needles used are extremely thin, some as thin as 0.14 millimeters, so most people will not feel anything. Some patients report feeling sensations of heaviness, tingling or heat at the insertion site. All these are desired effects because they indicate that the qi of the body has responded to the needle.
2. I don't like needles. Is acupuncture still an option for me?
Absolutely. Make sure to let your acupuncturist know that you have a fear of needles. Depending on how you feel during the visit, your practitioner will either choose very few points and the thinnest needles, or they may get you started with acupressure, which is the process of stimulating acupuncture points by applying pressure to the areas. Also, most conditions can be successfully treated with cupping, herbs and nutritional adjustments if needles really are not an option.
3. Is acupuncture safe?
Yes. If performed by a licensed acupuncturist, acupuncture is very safe and carries minimal risk of injury. The most common side effects of acupuncture include slight bruising or short-term tenderness at the needling site. Acupuncturist in California spend close to 1000 hours in a clinical setting treating patients under the supervision of licensed practitioners, and spend a total of 4 years full-time in school, learning everything from Western medical principles and treatments to TCM principles and correct needling techniques and point indications. Compliant with state law, we use only sterile disposable needles that are disposed after each treatment.
4. My regular doctor offers acupuncture. What is the difference between an MD performing medical acupuncture and a licensed acupuncturist doing acupuncture?
In California, the licensing board for acupuncture requires that "the total number of hours of all theoretical training shall consist of a minimum of 1,548 hours, and the total number of hours of clinical instruction shall consist of a minimum of 800 hours" for an acupuncturist to be licensed in this state. At Yo San University, students spend 120 hours practicing correct needling techniques in class, 120 hours observing practitioners and interns treating patients in a clinical setting, and another 840 hours treating patients under the supervision of licensed acupuncturists in the university clinic and various externships. In contrast, MDs performing medical acupuncture are only required to complete a minimum of 300 hours in acupuncture-specific instructions. Whereas Western MDs use a certain set of points to mainly control the symptoms, which allows little consideration for the constitutional differences in patients, an acupuncturist who is trained in the theories and principles of Eastern medicine will be able to take into account these differences. The licensed acupuncturist will hence be able to provide a treatment that is completely tailored to each individual patient and address root causes of disease as well as the symptomatic branches that are presented.